California water districts forced to reverse canal flow

Delta-Mendota Canal reverse pumping

Several water districts in the California Central Valley, as usual, stored water in the San Luis Reservoir, assuming they could swap that water for water coming from the Delta-Mendota Canal this summer. However, this year, because of the drought, there is no incoming canal water. The water districts are installing pumps to reverse water flow in the canals and pump the stored reservoir water uphill for 62 miles back to where it came from, lifting it 18 feet along the way. Fuel for the pumps will cost $500,000 a month. It’s either that or orchards and crops die.

In a desperate move to keep six Northern California water districts from going dry, the Delta-Mendota Canal will carry water uphill for the first time in its history.

Nine giant pumps are being installed in three locations to lift canal water a total of 18 feet along a 62-mile stretch from the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County to the city of Tracy in San Joaquin County.

Although the project is expensive, Martin said there was no alternative.

“The situation is so dire that if our districts don’t get this water, they lose their orchards,” Martin said. “If they lose their orchards, it’s a billion dollars worth of loss.

These are real farmers with real families. Whether orchards should even have been planted in the Central Valley is indeed a valid question. However, the orchards are there, and they need water or the trees die. If that happens on a mass scale, the economic impact will be devastating.

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