SUTTER COUNTY (CBS13) — Sutter County residents are concerned their wells will run dry because they say farmers are pumping too much groundwater.
It’s a troubling sight for Christina Ahlers. Her neighbor’s well has pumped water out of the ground 24 hours a day for several weeks now.
“It upsets me to drive by and see it just spewing up into the air,” she said. “This could potentially leave my house dry.”
Ahler’s home also relies on underground well water.
Sutter Extension Water District General Manager Lynn Phillips says some farmers are using groundwater to compensate for surface water lost to the drought.
“He is just exercising his water rights to farm his ground, with groundwater,” she said. “Most of the districts along the feather river in Butte and Sutter counties have been cut generally 50 percent.”
But CBS13 has learned some of the district’s surface water is also being sold to help drought-stricken parts of the state. It’s a practice more common in Northern California after the governor signed an emergency drought declaration last year.
“In order to basically balance the budget we chose to sell a very small amount of water and not raise our rates on our growers who have already taken a big hit,” she said.
This year the water district will sell 1,500 acre feet of surface water to Southern California. At $700 an acre foot, they will make just over $1 million. That money will be used to keep existing customer rates from tripling.
But Ahlers says if her well runs dry, there’s no one to bail her out.
“We’ve tightened our belts; I’d like to see my neighbors do the same,” she said. “Perhaps this farmer should let part of his land lie fallow and lets reserve this water that’s pumping up and out of the ground for all of us to use.”