The El Dorado County Water Agency was created in 1959 to ensure that El Dorado County has adequate water to serve its multiple needs now and in the future.
In 1955 northern and central California experienced the “Storm of the Century,” when a 10-day series of rain and snow storms deluged the area during the Christmas season. Massive flooding resulted, most devastatingly in the cities of Yuba City and Marysville at the confluence of the Feather and Yuba rivers.
With that experience fresh in mind, the state legislature passed the Burns-Porter Act in 1959. Burns-Porter authorized construction of the State Water Project, including Oroville Dam. The following year, voters approved a bond to finance construction of the project.
The State Water Project’s main purpose is to store water and distribute it to urban and agricultural water suppliers in northern California, the San Francisco Bay area, the San Joaquin Valley, the central coast and southern California. The State Department of Water Resources maintains and operates the project. Seventy percent of the water goes to urban use and 30 percent to agriculture. The project is also operated to improve water quality in the Delta, control Feather River floodwaters, provide recreation, and enhance fish and wildlife.
The federal Central Valley Project was built earlier. Shasta Dam was completed in 1943 and Folsom Dam in 1955. The Central Valley Project irrigates farmland in the San Joaquin Valley, and provides water for urban and industrial use in Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and Sacramento counties. It is operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
When the Central Valley Project was authorized to transfer waters from the Sierra mountains to valley farms and communities, protection of historic rights to the use of those waters by the counties of origin was included. The Burns-Porter Act reaffirmed County of Origin and Watershed of Origin Acts and applied them to its supply contracts.
Relationship with water purveyors
The El Dorado County Water Agency does not own any water facilities at this time.
There are five public water purveyors in El Dorado County and private water companies. El Dorado Irrigation District owns and operates Jenkinson Lake Reservoir in Pollock Pines and Project 184, which includes Echo, Aloha, Caples, Silver lakes and contracts for water from Folsom Lake. Georgetown Divide Public Utility District owns and operates Stumpy Meadows Reservoir east of Georgetown. Grizzly Flats Community Services District owns and operates its reservoir. South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District serves its customers from wells. And Tahoe City Public Utility District serves its customers from 10 ground water and 2 spring wells.
The service boundaries of the water purveyors do not cover the entire county. Residents, farms and businesses outside service boundaries rely on wells.
The El Dorado County Water Agency works to protect existing use of water rights that purveyors and their customers depend upon, and applies for use of additional water rights as needed for the beneficial use of future customers, or to extend service boundaries to include existing landowners.
An application for use of additional water rights typically takes several years to negotiate. The El Dorado County Water Agency approaches an application with the view of how it can best benefit the county as a whole. The agency can include one or more purveyors in an application, as well as representing those who are outside of service districts.
El Dorado Water & Power Authority
The El Dorado County Water Agency also operates the El Dorado Water & Power Authority. The Water & Power Authority was formed in 2004 pursuant to a joint powers agreement between El Dorado County Water Agency, County of El Dorado and El Dorado Irrigation District.
The general manager of the El Dorado County Water Agency serves as executive director of the Water & Power Authority, and agency staff act as authority staff. On behalf of its member agencies during the relicensing of the utility’s Upper American River Project hydroelectric dams the Water & Power Authority negotiated with Sacramento Municipal Utility District for use of its UARP reservoirs for storage of new El Dorado County supplies. The Water & Power Authority took the next step to secure additional water, which was to apply to the State Water Resources Control Board for water rights to 40,000 acre feet to store in the Upper American River Project. The application is pending before the State Water Board.