Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Irrigation Water Prices Under SGMA Induce Sticker Shock
SJV-Water
By SJV Water
Published 4 years ago on
January 30, 2020

Share

Reaction was hushed when Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District General Manager Eric Averett asked the small group of farmers Tuesday morning if any were interested in buying irrigation water at the previously unheard of price of $770 an acre-foot.
No papers rustled. Keyboards went silent. And none of the growers raised a hand.

Portrait of SJVWater.org chief executive officer Lois Henry
Lois Henry
SJV Water

A Volatile Water Market

Such is the shock farmers outside irrigation districts, which regularly buy surface supplies, are facing as the state’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act takes hold and groundwater pumping will be severely curtailed in the Central Valley.
“I don’t know if that’s wet year pricing or dry year pricing,” Averett continued. “The market is going to be volatile for the next few years.”
Averett explained that since Rosedale’s groundwater sustainability plan has been submitted to the state, the district is proceeding with its plan to help growers in the so-called “white lands” find water supplies.
White lands are areas in groundwater subbasins not covered by agricultural water districts, which charge their landowners assessments in order to pay for water contracts with the state or federal water systems or to buy water from other sellers. White land growers operate strictly on groundwater, which costs only as much as the energy used to bring it to the surface.

Photo of the Rosedale-Bravo water sustainability plan
Rosedale-Rio Bravo’s groundwater sustainability plan. (SJV Water)

SMGA Creates New Challenges for ‘White Lands’ Growers

Under SGMA, white lands were required to come under the authority of districts or groundwater sustainability agencies in order to track and reduce their pumping.
Several white land growers were at Rosedale’s Tuesday meeting to update landowners about the SGMA process.

“If the choice is to fallow or buy $500 water, you can’t farm carrots on $500 water year in and year out.” — George Cappello of Grimmway Farms
“The role Rosedale-Rio Bravo is taking on for the white lands, is the district can buy blocks of water and it goes into your accounts and you call on it whenever you need it to meet your water requirements,” Averett explained. “What I need from you is feedback that, if we buy this water at $770 an acre-foot, is there any interest in this group to buy water at $750 or $800 an acre-foot?”
“Not for row crops,” said George Cappello, a water specialist with carrot giant Grimmway Farms, which has a chunk of land along Stockdale Highway that’s outside of any water district.
The maximum Grimmway could pay would be $450 to $500 an acre-foot and even that wouldn’t be sustainable for long, he said.
“If the choice is to fallow or buy $500 water, you can’t farm carrots on $500 water year in and year out,” Cappello said.

In 10 Years, $800 an Acre-Foot Will be a ‘Screamin’ Deal’

Averett understood the sticker shock but urged growers in the audience to consider two things: One, their groundwater is essentially free so, when it’s averaged, $700-per-acre-foot or even $800-per-acre-foot water is actually closer to $200 per acre-foot.
“The second thing is — that’s the market.”
He predicted that after 10 years under SGMA, irrigation water at $800 an acre-foot “will be a screamin’ deal.”
Under Rosedale’s groundwater plan, white lands will be allotted water in five-year increments as the district assess and strives to reduce demand. Averett said it makes sense to buy water now and front load each growers’ account then spread it out over time to “maintain your economic footprint.”
He also noted that if water comes available at lower prices, the Rosedale-Rio Bravo board would likely buy that cheaper water for its own district growers who do pay regular assessments.
“I will not be offering water to anyone else for anything less than $400 or $500,” he said. “So, a word of caution, the water market will likely be $700 or $800.”

Big Water Years Bring Lower Prices

Of course, availability and price depend on each year’s hydrology. Big water years equal lower prices.
The $770-per-acre foot water Rosedale mentioned is being offered by Buena Vista Water Storage District. Buena Vista sold water for about $800 an acre-foot last winter, according to board president John Vidovich.

The Department of Water Resources just announced it would only deliver 15% of contracted amounts based on the snowpack.
“We priced the water based on what we thought the hydrology was last year. Then it was very, very wet, so we thought it was fair to give (the buyers) extra water,” he said. “We’re not out to gouge anyone, so we gave them double the water.”
So far this year, Vidovich said, the outlook is a little dry. The Department of Water Resources just announced it would only deliver 15% of contracted amounts based on the snowpack.
Even at $770 an acre-foot, Vidovich said people have been calling daily since Buena Vista put the water up for sale in mid-January.
“We haven’t budged on the price.”

The Water Year Is Still Young

The water year is still young. There could be cheaper water to be had in the future.
“So it’s a gamble,” one grower said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Well, yes,” Averett said. “But it’s your gamble.”
In the end, the growers asked for more details and all the associated costs with getting that $770-per-acre-foot water into their accounts.
Click here to read Rosedale-Rio Bravo’s groundwater sustainability plan.
About the Author
Lois Henry is the CEO and editor of SJV Water. She has 30 years’ experience covering water and other issues in the San Joaquin Valley. Henry lives with her husband, five dogs, one orange cat, and a cranky rescue mustang horse in Bakersfield.

DON'T MISS

RIP, Basketball and Broadcasting Great, Supreme ‘Deadhead’ Bill Walton, 71

DON'T MISS

Bulldogs to Face UC Santa Barbara in NCAAs After Amazing MW Baseball Comeback

DON'T MISS

Newgarden Goes Back-to-Back at Indy 500 for Roger Penske’s Record-Extending 20th Win

DON'T MISS

Netanyahu Acknowledges ‘Tragic Mistake’ After Rafah Strike Kills Dozens of Palestinians

DON'T MISS

This Is the Rare Financial Merger That Will Help Working People and Small Business

DON'T MISS

Amal Clooney Is Among Legal Experts Who Recommended War Crimes Charges in Israel-Hamas War

DON'T MISS

Fresno Nears End of Truck Route Study. Residents & Businesses Aren’t Sure of the Impacts.

DON'T MISS

The Cost to Inform California Voters? $118,000 a Page for Official Guide

DON'T MISS

Top Russian Military Officials Are Being Arrested. Why Is It Happening?

DON'T MISS

Delta Tunnel Water Project May Finally Be Nearing a Historic Decision

UP NEXT

Delta Tunnel Water Project May Finally Be Nearing a Historic Decision

UP NEXT

CA Senate Passes Hospital Seismic Compliance Bill: What’s the Impact on Local Hospitals?

UP NEXT

UC Berkeley Faces a Summer of Discontent as Gaza Protesters Remain Steadfast

UP NEXT

UAW Files Objection to Mercedes Vote, Accuses Company of Intimidating Workers

UP NEXT

Fresno Man Charged with Throwing Meth into Mendota Prison Yard

UP NEXT

American Airlines Retreats After Blaming a 9-Year-Old for Not Seeing a Hidden Camera in a Lavatory

UP NEXT

Portland Nurse Returns Home After Treating Gaza Burn Victims

UP NEXT

Asian American, Pacific Islander Latinos in the US See Exponential Growth, New Analysis Says

UP NEXT

Search and Rescue Ongoing After Iowa Tornado; 1 Dead

UP NEXT

How the Beatles Empowered a Research Genius to Save Millions of Lives

Netanyahu Acknowledges ‘Tragic Mistake’ After Rafah Strike Kills Dozens of Palestinians

7 hours ago

This Is the Rare Financial Merger That Will Help Working People and Small Business

8 hours ago

Amal Clooney Is Among Legal Experts Who Recommended War Crimes Charges in Israel-Hamas War

8 hours ago

Fresno Nears End of Truck Route Study. Residents & Businesses Aren’t Sure of the Impacts.

9 hours ago

The Cost to Inform California Voters? $118,000 a Page for Official Guide

1 day ago

Top Russian Military Officials Are Being Arrested. Why Is It Happening?

1 day ago

Delta Tunnel Water Project May Finally Be Nearing a Historic Decision

1 day ago

CA Senate Passes Hospital Seismic Compliance Bill: What’s the Impact on Local Hospitals?

2 days ago

Take This Memorial Day Quiz Before Warming up the Grill

2 days ago

Hate Wasting Money? Use These 7 Hacks to Feed Your Family for Less

3 days ago

RIP, Basketball and Broadcasting Great, Supreme ‘Deadhead’ Bill Walton, 71

Bill Walton, who starred for John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins before becoming a Hall of Famer for his NBA career and one of the biggest stars...

5 hours ago

5 hours ago

RIP, Basketball and Broadcasting Great, Supreme ‘Deadhead’ Bill Walton, 71

6 hours ago

Bulldogs to Face UC Santa Barbara in NCAAs After Amazing MW Baseball Comeback

7 hours ago

Newgarden Goes Back-to-Back at Indy 500 for Roger Penske’s Record-Extending 20th Win

7 hours ago

Netanyahu Acknowledges ‘Tragic Mistake’ After Rafah Strike Kills Dozens of Palestinians

Photo of person standing in front of a Capitol One building in San Francisco
8 hours ago

This Is the Rare Financial Merger That Will Help Working People and Small Business

8 hours ago

Amal Clooney Is Among Legal Experts Who Recommended War Crimes Charges in Israel-Hamas War

9 hours ago

Fresno Nears End of Truck Route Study. Residents & Businesses Aren’t Sure of the Impacts.

1 day ago

The Cost to Inform California Voters? $118,000 a Page for Official Guide

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend