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Water Talk With Steve Knell At Riverbank Rotary Meeting
Steve Knell
Oakdale Irrigation District General Manager Steve Knell was a guest speaker at the Riverbank Rotary meeting recently discussing groundwater. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

The Riverbank Rotary Club that has been in existence since 1979 gathered recently for a regular weekly meeting and invited Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) General Manager Steve Knell to be the guest speaker. Knell provided the club with a presentation on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and OID groundwater conditions.

He began the presentation with a water quiz asking where all the water in the world is and then explained that oceans have the most with 97 percent of the water, polar ice caps account for 2.25 percent and freshwater with 0.6 percent. There is 3 percent freshwater in lakes and streams and 97 percent freshwater in groundwater.

There was a graph showing the water use in California that showed 66.6 percent of surface water is being used and 33.3 percent of groundwater. Also stated was that the total daily water use in California is enough to drain Lake Shasta every 40 days.

“This is very complicated,” stated Knell. “It is very significant that we are making the right decisions as a community on our future and we are not trying to solve somebody else’s problem.”

Knell explained that SGMA (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act) pronounced “sigma” was passed by the California Legislature in 2014. SGMA created the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) that are made up of agency representatives from OID, MID, cities of Modesto, Oakdale, Riverbank, and Waterford and the County of Stanislaus. The GSA is to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

“We have to develop a plan,” added Knell. “That plan has to be in place by 2022 and here it is 2017 (and a half) and that planning document is going to tell you how you are going to make your groundwater sustainable.

“Groundwater is just an underground reservoir. You want your reservoir to be sustainable.”

The presentation contained information on the sustainability goals and sustainable yield as well as a map, and where some of the problems are.

“Right now groundwater in our area is 100 feet down,” said Knell. “In 1940 it was 40 feet. It has fallen 60 feet.

“Sustainability is I want to be able to use that reservoir in a drought and pull it down but when there is no drought I have to have mechanism to fill it back up.”

In an analogy Knell shared with the club that “it is always easy to pull money out of the bank. It is very difficult to put money in the bank.”

When it comes to water, he added, just like banking, you have to make the deposits, not just the withdrawals.

The Riverbank Rotary welcomes new members and they meet every Thursday morning at Perko’s Café in Riverbank.