Community services district finds buyer for excess water

Samantha P. Hawthorne
Staff Writer

The Indian Valley Community Services District might have found a way out of its financial crisis.

Since 2006 the district has been looking into potential moneymakers, one being the sale of its excess water. After discussing the possibility with California water attorney Michael Jackson, the IVCSD board of directors voted May 14 to solicit the sale of 1,000 acre-feet of its Round Valley Reservoir water.

Jackson said the reservoir, which holds 6,000 acre-feet of unused water, could potentially net the district around half a million dollars.

He said if the excess is not sold before it rains, however, the water will once again flow into the Feather River and with it will go the potential to make any money. He said if that happens, the district will have to wait until the reservoir fills up to desirable levels again before considering a sale.

“We are not looking to sell water rights,” clarified director Jane Braxton Little. “We have a surplus of water that is flowing into the Feather River and we would like to collect money from what we own through something that is already happening.”

Jackson said the best time to negotiate a water transfer is when the reservoir is not filled to the top, but when it is somewhere in the middle. He added that doing so during a drought when water districts are facing shortages is when the district could earn top dollar for its water. “Supply and demand is what drives the whole process.” With both circumstances already being met, he said the district is in “a perfect non-storm.”

Little said the bottom line is, “We have water and other California areas do not.” Jackson added, “There are people out there scrambling; their normal water sources are depleting. If the district doesn’t sell the water soon, then they will lose it.”

General manager Jesse Lawson said selling 1,000 acre-feet is “worth the risk given the current circumstances,” and he would be uncomfortable with selling any more than that. He said the only thing it will cost the district is the equipment to make the transfer, which is around $3,000. Jackson will also get a 5 percent commission after he finds a buyer for the water — which he did.

The Montecito Water District has agreed to make the one-time purchase of 1,000 acre-feet at $500 per acre-foot.

Jackson said the difference would hardly be noticeable at only a 2-foot drop, and because the district holds pre-1914 water rights, there is no potential for state interference. As a member of all environmental groups in California, Jackson said it is also unlikely that there will be environmentalist interference.

Since the meeting, several community members have expressed opposition to the sale; concerned it might affect private water rights. Community member Heather Kingdon said, “The sale of this so-called stored water would set a precedent that would be harmful to all water right holders.” She said she has had discussions with personnel from the Department of Water Resources and has determined the sale is not in compliance with the Indian Creek Decree, which declares who holds rights to the water from Indian Creek.

The district has scheduled time for discussion and action of the potential water transfer during its regularly scheduled meeting June 11 at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend and offer their suggestions or concerns.


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