FAIRFIELD — Solano County apparently won’t have to share Lake Berryessa reservoir water with Napa County cities this summer, after all.
“The late rains have improved conditions, not enough to get us out of a critical year, but the Delta won’t go salty, basically,” said David Okita, general manager of the Solano County Water Agency.
Napa County cities say they no longer need Lake Berryessa water assistance due to the statewide drought, Okita said. The Solano County Water Agency has ceased work on a project that involved a short, temporary pipeline.
It looks like the North Bay Aqueduct from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will remain open this summer, said Jason Holley, public works director of the Napa County city of American Canyon. That should allow the city to get carryover state water supplies and water purchased elsewhere in the state water system through the aqueduct, he said.
“It’s a very tenuous situation,” Holley said. “Things and conditions could still change over the summer.”
The prospect arose a couple of months ago that the State Water Project would deliver no water whatsoever with its North Bay Aqueduct if water quality problems arose at the Barker Slough pumps in the Delta. Cities in Solano and Napa counties get Delta water from the aqueduct.
Meanwhile, the Lake Berryessa reservoir owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is almost 70 percent full and will have no water allotment cutbacks. The large reservoir, though in Napa County, almost exclusively serves Solano County farms and cities.
Napa County cities asked for temporary, emergency help. Solano County began looking for ways to get Lake Berryessa water into the North Bay Aqueduct, a challenge given that two separate water delivery systems are involved.
The Solano County Water Agency prepared a plan to run a pipe between the Putah South Canal carrying Lake Berryessa water and the North Bay Aqueduct at a point in eastern Fairfield where they are only about 1,700 feet apart.
Then rains finally came. Okita said the drought has gone from being an emergency and disaster situation to being simply a very dry year.
Late rains mean the North Bay Aqueduct will operate this summer. The state is giving only 5 percent of allocations to cities, with that not starting until September. But Solano County cities will be able to get carryover water from allotments in past years that is stored in the state’s Lake Oroville reservoir in Butte County.
Having the North Bay Aqueduct running this summer gives local cities more flexibility with water supplies, Okita said.
“The cities will still heavily use Berryessa water this year, more than normal,” Okita said.
Meanwhile, if for some reason Napa County cities once again face a water emergency, the Solano County Water Agency will know how Lake Berryessa water can be delivered to them.
“We’ve kind of gone through the exercise,” Okita said. “If we have to do it again sometime in the future, we’ve done some of the groundwork.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.