Thursday, January 3, 2013
There’s something quaint about the typewritten 1949 water rights application the Monterey County Water Resources Agency’s predecessor agency made to the State Water Resources Control board, requesting rights to almost 169,000 acre-feet of water per year.
The proposed cost of Salinas River diversion projects then: $2.5 million.
Since then, local water agencies have spent upwards of $94 million on projects – like the purple line that delivers recycled water to North County farms, and the Rubber Dam in North Marina – directing water mostly to irrigation.
But under the state board’s use it or lose it policy, the county might lose its water rights permit, originally granted 55 years ago and extended five times since.
“The philosophy is, all water belongs to the people of the state. You just have a right to use it if you get a permit,” says state board spokesman Tim Moran. “They got a number of extensions, and so the water board’s just kind of saying, ‘OK.’”
In 2008, the board notified county officials of its intent to revoke the water right, and now plans to hold public hearings this spring. The Water Resources Agency board will discuss the matter at its Jan. 28 meeting.
“We’re going to develop a strategy to utilize the water,” agency Assistant General Manager Rob Johnson says. “We’re going to fight to protect it.”
The agency doesn’t use the full amount allocated in the original permit, hence the state’s grounds to revoke the rights.
A 2008 analysis prepared by consultant RMC Water and Environment projects near-doubling of urban water use in and around Salinas by 2030, as part of the county’s basis for arguing the state should again extend the permit.