Support for Disadvantaged Communities & Water Users
The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority (SJRECWA) has a legacy of ensuring water security not just for its members but for a broad spectrum of Central Valley users. Leveraging long-standing water rights, the Exchange Contractors play an indispensable role in supporting disadvantaged communities, wildlife refuges, and myriad other water users. This underscores the expansive reach and importance of the Exchange Contractors in maintaining the equilibrium and well-being of the Central Valley’s water ecosystem.
Support for Disadvantaged Communities
Many disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged Central Valley communities rely on groundwater pumping as their main source of water. The Exchange Contractors play a central role in managing groundwater levels in the region, implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requirements for the basin, and recharging groundwater supplies.
The communities of Newman, Gustine, Los Banos, Firebaugh, Mendota, and Crows Landing in the surrounding region rely on groundwater that is almost entirely resupplied from Exchange Contractor sources, and the town of Dos Palos is reliant on surface water from the Exchange Contractors.
Technical Expertise and Infrastructure Management
In addition to water supplies, the Exchange Contractors provide technical and engineering expertise, working in close coordination with surrounding municipalities that often lack the resources for this type of management.
During times of heavy rains, the Exchange Contractors manage flood flows, repair canals and reservoirs, and work directly with local communities to avoid dangerous flooding.
They additionally provide funding and technical expertise required to submit Groundwater Sustainability Plans for the region under SGMA and implement the required measures in those plans.
Major Project Development
The Exchange Contractors are leading multiple major infrastructure projects that will further benefit these communities and their water supplies, as well as addressing long-term flooding challenges.
These projects include the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir Project, an 800-acre reservoir will store up to 82,000 acre-feet of water. Over a half dozen surrounding communities rely on groundwater, many of which are disadvantaged communities with limited resources. The new capacity from the Reservoir Project will help to sustainably manage the groundwater for these communities, which will help stabilize the groundwater supply in the area. Furthermore, the project will solve the reoccurring issue of flooding on Del Puerto Creek, which occurs during times of heavy rainfall, and negatively impacts surrounding farms, residential areas, and commercial activity.
Additional projects on Los Banos Creek would allow for 8,000 additional acre-feet of water to be made available, increasing natural flows of Los Banos Creek to support the ecological health of the region, increase groundwater recharge in the area to refill underground aquifers, and most importantly to provide a more reliable water source to Los Banos downstream.
Support for Wildfire Refuges
The Central San Joaquin Valley contains the 240,000 acre Grassland Ecological Area (GEA), home to the largest remaining wetland complex in California. The GEA is comprised of private, State and Federal Wildlife Refuges and rangeland under habitat conservation easements. The Exchange Contractors play a central role in ensuring the sustainability and vitality of these habitats. These wetlands, recognized as a Wetland of International Importance under the RAMSAR Convention, are intensively managed and rely significantly on water from the Exchange Contract.
The Grasslands is home to more than 550 species of birds, animals, and plants, including more than 40 species that are federally listed as sensitive, threatened, or endangered. It is a critical stopping point for waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway, a wildlife corridor that extends from Patagonia to the Alaskan Peninsula. Millions of waterfowl rely on the GEA annually and it is designated as one of the most important shorebird reserves in the world.
While 95% of wetlands in California have already been lost, the Grasslands remain a healthy habitat for the species that rely on it. The overwhelming majority of the water that supports these habitats is delivered through the Exchange Contractor member agencies. The Exchange Contractor water transfer program has also long been a vital source to the Central Valley Project’s Refuge Water Supply Program.
The imported surface water delivered to the wetland complex and the surrounding Exchange Contractor farms provides critical groundwater recharge to communities in Stanislaus, Merced and Fresno Counties. In other words, the water received by the Contractors is not only used to grow crops, but also recharges the groundwater supply, supports the wildlife habitat, and many small and rural communities.