Tulare County has the highest number of well failures in the state so it is ground zero for concerns over sinking ground water tables.
With tight water supplies around the state this spring it is not a surprise that communities like Woodlake California are suspicious of anyone who appears to be helping ground water leave town.
Several local reports suggests that water tank trucks have pulled up to Woodlake fire hydrants to help themselves bound for somewhere,no doubt, where they also need water.
That’s why there is concern at city hall about reports that a private land owner near Bravo Lake has had his ag pumps running 24 hours a day and is pumping that groundwater into Bravo Lake next to the city.
Bravo lake is is owned by Wutchumna Ditch Co whose stockholders are from all over Tulare County including Lindsay Strathmore Irrigation District in Lindsay Bravo lake is used as irrigation supply for its stockholders.
Woodlake city administrator Ramon Lara confirms the city’s concern that this pumping could be affecting city wells. “We have seen some drop off.”
Lara recently met with representatives of the land owner as well as Wutchumna to see if something could be worked out.
The two sides agreed Tuesday that the pumping would be turned off for 7 days starting Friday April 24 of see if city wells respond, says Lara.
“Our wells are150 to 200 ft deep with two next to Bravo Lake and three by the St Johns” adds Lara.
Wutchumna staffer Dave Hanks plays down any dispute noting the two entities have along history of cooperation and that Bravo Lake impounding of water offers a measurable benefit to the city in terms of percolation into groundwater.
Independent water consultant Dennis Keller says he has heard about the complaints and adds he has no personal involvement.
“Groundwater use always goes with the property and if it goes off that property it is typically subject to challenge if people think their water wells are being affected.”
He says some landowners pump into a canal for use elsewhere but continue to do so because they are not challenged.
Keller says like most other waterways in the county the Kaweh River and St Johns will have a very limited flow this year with Sierra runoff on the Kaweah expected to be as little as 13% of average.
Woodlake was originally incorporated in 1940 according to a history of the community. “After a legal battle with the Wutchumna Water Company over boundaries, the city was un-incorporated and re-incorporated in 1941 with Bravo Lake outside the city boundaries when the town officially became a city in 1941.”