With enough water to last through the rest of this year, the Napa City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to sell some of its excess to American Canyon — a city whose supply is projected to dry up by the end of 2014.
“The city of American Canyon appreciated the effort that we’re taking, because it gives them an added option,” said Napa City Manager Mike Parness at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “They appreciate our help and see it as their safety net.”
According to Napa Water General Manager Joy Eldredge, Napa has weathered California’s drought with strong reserves. Its 85,000 water customers typically consume about 15,400 acre-feet of water (one-acre foot equals about 326,000 gallons) each year and Eldredge said the city should have about 23,000 acre-feet of water available at the start of 2015 – more than enough to get the city through another dry year.
Meanwhile, American Canyon does not have local surface water supplies, like Napa’s Lake Hennessey or Milliken Reservoir. It relies solely on the state’s water project and a supply agreement with Vallejo.
In a typical year, American Canyon uses about about 3,600 acre-feet of water. While American Canyon has purchased water through the Yuba Accord and other state programs, the city only received 5 percent of its typical state allocation in 2014, and is expected to come up short this year. Eldredge said American Canyon can either manage the deficit by conserving water or buying it from Napa.
“It doesn’t look like they will have to use our water, but it will be there for them if they need it,” she said Tuesday.
At the May 20 Napa City Council meeting, city officials, including Mayor Jill Techel, expressed interest in exploring the possibility of selling some of the city’s water supply to American Canyon. After conferring with American Canyon officials, Eldredge drafted an agreement that she said helps American Canyon, but keeps Napa’s water supply flowing in the process.
“I’m always sitting in the position of asking where we will be if it’s another dry year,” she said. “I always have to make sure that our ratepayers will be covered.”
With that in mind, Eldredge met with Jason Holley, American Canyon’s public works director, and drafted an agreement that says Napa can sell up to 600 acre-feet of water to American Canyon, as long as American Canyon can return the water if 2015 is another year of meager disbursements from the state.
“If it’s a dry year, we would want the water back,” she said. “That clause protects our ratepayers by shifting the risk to American Canyon.”
Eldredge said that if the state released 20 percent or less of typical allocations, then American Canyon would be forced to purchase enough water next year from an outside source to not only cover its residents, but also any water it used from the city of Napa. If it is a rainy year and the state releases more than 20 percent of typical allocations, then American Canyon would be forced to pay Napa for the water it used for $300 per acre-foot.
“At this point, it’s a safety net for them, in case they don’t meet their conservation efforts,” said Eldredge. “They are leaning toward not purchasing the full amount. It works for them, and it works for us.
Though several council members were initially hesitant about forcing American Canyon to repay Napa’s water supply if it’s another dry year, Eldredge stressed that it’s important to help Napa’s neighbors, but not at any cost to local ratepayers. Councilman Peter Mott agreed.
“We’re one valley, and this is an important opportunity to work together,” he said at the meeting. “At the same time, I hope (Napa’s residents) out there appreciate that our department is working hard and smart.”
Mott said that a recent decision by Napa’s water department to purchase 100 acre-feet of water from the Yuba Accord at $125 per acre foot was a prime example of Napa making intelligent decisions. Eldrege said that at that price, Napa couldn’t pass up the Yuba Accord supply.
“We’re basically picking up 100 acre-feet at $125, and selling that much at $300,” added Mott.
The American Canyon City Council also discussed the agreement Tuesday evening. American Canyon officials admitted that the agreement with Napa was a last resort, since they would be forced to give the water back if another year of drought persists.