Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District already has some 25 groundwater recharge basins in the greater Kaweah Delta fan and is working hard to design and build five more in the near future, says district engineer Larry Dotson.
Besides the district, others own recharge basins as well and there around 40 in total covering 5,000 acres.
“These basins complement the reason we were founded” says Dotson back in 1925, both “to conserve our water and protect surrounding land from floods.”
Case in point is work planned for February to construct the 34-acre Curtis Basin near Woodlake being designed by KDWCD to both lay off flood water on about a section of land if need be – as well as recharge the groundwater when surplus water is available, he says. The basin should be ready before Spring, he expects.
The new basin is about 2 miles south of Bravo Lake on district land close to one of those irrigation canals that criss-cross this part of Tulare County.
Another new basin being designed is just south of Kaweah Oaks on the 78-acre Paregien parcel. This basin will enhance storm floodwater control for the City of Farmersville that gets flooded in some wet years. This basin will also feature habitat restoration like they do at next door’s Kaweah Oaks.
Another planned site is just west of Mooney Grove. Using these basins to recharge water comes only in some years when contracted districts are able to get Class 2 water from the Friant Kern shipped in and /or when Kaweah flows are heavy.
One of the major importers of water is Tulare Irrigation District(TID) who when they run water toward their district passes through the Kaweah Delta area between Woodlake and Visalia in earthen canals recharging the aquifer below as the water flows.
TID importation of water comes from both the Kaweah off Terminus Dam and its Bureau of Reclamation allotment delivered through the Friant Kern. The total water amount varies widely by year. The year 2010 was wet and TID imported 340,000 acre ft adding both Kaweah water and water originating on the upper San Joaquin River, source for the Friant Kern Canal. The following year – in 2011 – less than 30,000 acre ft flowed in and farmers suffered.
But when it does come in the districts will be ready to use that water beneficially adds Dotson, “banking” the water so farms and cities can tap it in another dry year.
The City of Visalia has several partnerships to build basins as well, just upstream from the city limits.
Only this fall the city announced they would get a grant to build a new basin on the east side of town that will help protect the Downtown.
Another partnership under study would exchange TID water with the City of Visalia for highly treated wastewater from the city sewer farm in coming years. There is a pending Fresno State study of the effect of using such water to grow crops.
All this effort has helped raise the groundwater levels by about 25 ft in the past 2 years in some parts of TID although they “had to spend around $6.5 million in additional funds in the past two years to help make this happen” says a TID report – constructing new banew basins and doing water exchanges
Kaweah Delta’s own figures show in 2010 the district experienced a wet year of 135% of normal and between river and canal water importation – using 30 basins they recharged 159,853 acre ft of water. In addition, the water flowing west in the canal percolated another 148,000 acre ft – all figures estimated. That helped bring the area groundwater level up about 12 ft.