City of Reedley tries to stay afloat on drying water sources as state requires reports, mandates that overlook certain drought issues
By Danielle Gutierrez
Reedley – Drought conditions continue to run rampant throughout the state, and despite what the reports might say, communities with natural water resources are certainly still feeling the hit.
The city of Reedley is expected by the state to supply a Water Supply and Demand Assessment report, which looks at how much water a city has versus how much they actually need. At first glance, it appears as if the city has more water than it needs, however; according to Reedley’s city manager Nicole Zieba, that is not the case. The city is in the same boat as other cities during this time of drought, and only appears to be doing better because of the way the state mandates the format of the report, which more so benefits cities that get their water from allocated sources.
“Right now, our citizens shouldn’t be concerned that they’re going to run out of water, but they do need to conserve,” Zieba said. “And they do need to be conscious of their water usage.”
Reedley gets its water from an underground stream called an aquifer, which is often used to supply wells or have water extracted through pumps. The aquifer, referred to as an overdrafted basin, has water available and is capable of serving the city as it stands now. It is recharged by snow runoff, stormwater runoff and purposeful recharge, which uses treated water from the wastewater treatment plant and goes into retention ponds so it may recharge the groundwater in the aquifer.
Other cities throughout California, like Orange Cove, supply their water from outside sources, like canals or rivers. For a city like Orange Cove, the report shows how many gallons of water they are able to get versus how many gallons will go towards households. Therefore, there is a better idea of how much water the city will have available.
For a city like Reedley, the report makes it seem like there is a surplus of water to use going forward. However, since the city shares the basin with other cities and agriculture associations, as time goes on, there will ultimately be less water available.
“Unfortunately, this happens a lot from the state,” Zieba said. “It’s kind of like a one size fits all system, when each of our cities are very, very different.”
Zieba said almost two decades ago, the state was discussing a need for new dams and water storage in California. Still, the state refuses to build any new water storage. Although the state cannot create water from nothing, Zieba said if proper attention had been given towards new water storage projects, water could be captured during wet years and stored in preparation for approaching dry years.
The issue of water distribution will also continue to expand in cities following recent housing developments in California, despite current drought conditions. Zieba said the state has called for more housing in various cities, including Reedley, which is meant to supply an additional 1,400 housing units within the next five years. This includes both homes and apartment units, most of which are meant to be low income or very low income.
According to Zieba, this mandate is to address the housing affordability issue across the state. Still, she said the Reedley community is showing concern when it comes to the topic of upcoming housing, with residents questioning how the city is going to supply water services with more housing in a time of drought. Although the city has tried to draw attention to the issue, she said the state is too focused on providing more housing.
“Our public is seeing something that we have seen for a while,” Zieba said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense in California to continue to build housing when there isn’t enough water to serve those houses, but the state is requiring it.”