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By Tina Fisher Cunningham
Fisher Forde Media 

Water district to capture Brite marshland water

The Forde Files – No. 210


May 8, 2021

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The Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District (TCCWD) has made two agreements with Grimmway Enterprises to store water pumped off marshy land north of Jacobsen Reservoir in Brite Valley.

The farmers who are party to the agreement will be able to use the stored water in lieu of imported surface water. One agreement is for the surface water from the swampy area; the other agreement is to pump two existing wells and store the extracted groundwater in the reservoir (also known as Brite Lake).

"The two agreements take advantage of a water supply that is not being utilized and decreases the demand on the imported water supply," District Manager Tom Neisler said.

The water district board of directors approved the agreements at its April 21 meeting. Board President Robert W. Schultz, the owner of some of the leased land, recused himself from the discussion and vote.

A clay layer north of the reservoir prevents water from percolating into Brite basin, creating a wet environment. An owner has reported that several cows actually have drowned after getting stuck in the mud, Neisler said.

"We are helping the farmers by capturing the water supply to be utilized and the farmers are helping all of our customers by lessening demand on the surface water supply."

At their expense, Grimmway will collect the excess water in a pond and pump it up into Jacobsen Reservoir. The district will receive a fee for each acre foot of water stored in the reservoir, Neisler said.

Neisler reported that the State Water Project (SWP) allocation from the State Department of Water Resources remains at 5 percent. Only once before, in 2014, has allocation been so low. The allocation in 2020 was 20 percent. The district needs 53 percent of its contracted allocation to meet all water demands.

San Luis Reservoir, which holds water for Tehachapi, is only half full. Even with the diminished supplies over two consecutive drought years, Neisler said, "The district has met all M&I (Municipal & Industrial) current year customer demands. This year we are meeting almost all agriculture demands. Grimmway has cut back in a couple of areas and has been able to make other arrangements."


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