Engineering Expert On San Joaquin Valley Water Dispute

Farmers near Kingsburg, CA, say a water bank meant to help with irrigation appears to be drying up their wells instead.  But the Kings County Water District — owner and operator of the Apex Ranch Water Bank — says it does just the opposite, bringing extra water into the area. The three-year drought is more likely the cause of wells going dry, district officials say.

The dispute is not unusual among water-bank projects in the San Joaquin Valley, where underground water is a prized irrigation source.  Water banks are appealing because they avoid the expense and environmental destruction of a reservoir, and the valley is dotted with them. Extra river water is purchased in wet times, allowed to seep into the ground and only a portion of the water is pumped back out in summer.

Kings district manager Mills says his engineering expert has found that the water moves only 1,100 feet per year. The water would have to move much farther to leave the ranch area by summer, he said.
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