My Turn: New EDWPA water rights are a mirage
All of us who have driven across the desert or the Great Plains on a hot summer day often have experienced certainty that we have seen water on the highway ahead only to see that water magically disappear when driving closer.
Well, at $11 million of taxpayer expense, the El Dorado Water and Power Authority is chasing 40,000 acre-feet of new water rights that are as real as that mirage on the highway.
At the El Dorado Irrigation District’s June 27 board meeting EID staff presented a 30-year water demand forecast through the year 2045 that demonstrates that even in the third year of a drought, EID already has more than enough water rights to: a) serve its existing 40,000 customers even if they use 48 percent more water, b) serve 17,000 new residential customers, and c) triple agricultural use.
Even if the State Water Resources Control Board inexplicably was to have a brain meltdown and somehow award EDWPA more water rights when water rights statewide already are substantially over-subscribed and not backed by real water, there is no plausible way for EID or El Dorad County to put more water rights to legally required, beneficial consumptive use until well after the year 2045.
So, who in their right mind thinks that future residents of El Dorado County will ever gain any real water by current county taxpayers and current EID ratepayers spending $11 million to pursue a new water rights mirage?
The next problem is that for El Dorado County to put the additional water rights to legally required beneficial use would require $200 million of new transmission and other capital infrastructure to bring that 40,000 acre-feet of new water to South County and the Divide. But would new water users in South County and the Divide pay $200,000 or more up front to hook up to the new water supply? By Article 13d of the California Constitution, neither existing EID ratepayers nor developers can be forced to pay for $200 million of new water infrastructure that is of absolutely no benefit to their property.
EDWPA’s 10-member board is comprised of five county supervisors and five EID directors. At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, July 13, at the El Dorado County Water Agency, 4110 Business Drive in Shingle Springs, these 10 elected officials will vote on EDWPA’s 2016-17 budget, which includes continuing to spend millions of dollars on this water rights mirage.
Greg Prada is a member of the El Dorado Irrigation District Board of Directors, serving Division 2.