Experts Talk Groundwater at CSU Stanislaus Public Forum

April 17, 2014
Community members interacted with public officials during a forum on groundwater challenges held at CSU Stanislaus.
Community members interacted with public officials during a forum on groundwater challenges held at CSU Stanislaus.

A panel of experts from the university, city, county and state gathered Tuesday at CSU Stanislaus to discuss growing concerns over the region’s groundwater supply.

The university and the Turlock Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored the public forum, entitled “Our Groundwater Challenges: What Do They Mean for the Turlock Area?” The event, moderated by CSU Stanislaus President Joseph F. Sheley, featured presentations by each panelist and questions from a crowd of more than 200 community members, public officials, and university faculty, staff and students.

View video of Tuesday’s forum

CSU Stanislaus geology Professor Horacio Ferriz began the forum with some scientific background on groundwater in general and the Turlock region in particular. Ferriz said the local groundwater situation is not as dire as in other parts of the state, but the water should be used cautiously.

Ferriz likened the groundwater basin to a warehouse, with supply that must be used before it can be replaced.

“Let’s keep our economy going … but let’s be cautious,” Ferriz said. “Because groundwater is a shared resource, it would be good to manage it locally.”

Michael Cooke, municipal services director with the City of Turlock, followed with perspective on the city’s efforts to manage water use and maintain water quality in the face of extreme challenges. He said water use in the city is lower than its peak in 2008, but it has risen in the past few years despite the worsening drought.

“We need to step up our education and enforcement,” Cooke said.

Turlock Irrigation District (TID) board member Michael Frantz said the farmers served by TID are concerned about increased oversight and regulation by the state, but they understand the need to work together to help the region cope with such a critical issue.

“We’re working to make sure we are putting our water to the most beneficial uses possible,” Frantz said.

The panel presentations — which were followed by nearly an hour of questions from the audience — concluded with Wayne Zipser, chair of the Stanislaus County Water Advisory Committee, and State Water Resources Control Board member Dorene D’Adamo.

Both Zipser and D’Adamo stressed the importance of monitoring groundwater use, the implementation of new management practices, and trust and teamwork among agencies and water users alike to help create sustainable practices.

D’Adamo said droughts have always been common in California, but with climate change exacerbating the issue, groundwater challenges are not likely to go away anytime soon.

“Groundwater is a critical part of our water supply,” D’Adamo said. “And it is likely to increase in importance.”