We not only need to invest in new infrastructure projects to address the ongoing droughts, we also need to make the most of the current infrastructure we have today. The Exchange Contractors and our partner organizations are proposing three new ways of more effectively managing Los Banos Creek to maximize water storage opportunities and water availability in the region.
Currently, the Dam operates at around 20,600 acre-feet of water and is used only as a flood control facility during the late fall and winter months. The Exchange Contractors, along with our partner organizations, are proposing to also use the Dam for water storage and release during the year.
The Los Banos Creek Detention project would allow us to release water from the Dam starting in the late-fall to early winter through March of the following year. During this time, roughly 8,000 acre-feet of water would be released for uses downstream. The Exchange Contractors and our partners would then refill the Dam with 8,000 acre-feet of replacement water from other sources such as groundwater. This allows for more annual water to be stored and released by the Dam, increasing the net capacity of the facility, promoting resilience, and benefitting the surrounding community.
There are multiple benefits to this plan. First, it would increase the natural flows of Los Banos Creek, which plays an important role in the ecological health of the Los Banos community. This additional water flow would help restore the aquifers in and around Los Banos, which are recharged by the flow of the creek, as well as restore groundwater in the area. The annual release of water from the Dam would provide more reliable water to Los Banos downstream, especially in dry years. It would also provide a new water supply source for agricultural use without depleting the water level at the Dam.
The project increases sustainability and resilience while benefiting the nearby community of Los Banos, water users, and the largest contiguous wetlands water supply, all without having to create new infrastructure, by simply improving the management of our existing resources.
Additionally, we’re working on the installation of a diversion structure that would allow water flows between Los Banos Creek into the Delta-Mendota Canal and back again. In wet periods, the facility would allow for water to be delivered from the canal to the creek in order to recharge creek flows. The benefit to this is the ability to better manage flood control and increase water reliability, as well as improve recreational access on the creek.
Finally, we’re proposing a new water storage location that will provide a long-term solution to some existing challenges relating to flooding, drought, and subsidence. The Los Banos Creek Recharge and Recovery Project will receive water from the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers; Los Banos Creek; and surface flows from SJRECWA and our partners to be stored for future use. This will be done by creating a series of storage basins and recharge ponds, as well as accompanying infrastructure to facilitate water flows, with a total capacity of 17,000 acre feet.
The benefits to this project go beyond just being able to capture and deploy more excess water. One of the ongoing challenges we face is managing groundwater levels to ensure they don’t dip too low. These storage facilities will accelerate the recharging of groundwater in the underlying aquifer, reinforcing our efforts to ensure reliable groundwater for the people and organizations in the region who rely on it.