As we mark a year since the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic began, I would like to take a moment again to recognize each and every El Dorado Irrigation District worker. Like our sister agencies that provide essential services for public health and safety, I am deeply proud of the work EID employees have undertaken over a year full of challenges.
EID’s employees are dedicated and take pride in the work they do for the communities they serve and live in. I am gratified and proud to work with women and men who, with the utmost safety and care, continue to ensure that our community’s vital water and sewer services remain reliable and safe, 24-hours a day, year round.
As I write this column in late February the water year is off to a slow start. The Central Sierra region’s snowpack that feeds the watersheds we rely on is at 73 percent of normal. While a single dry year is not an emergency, multiple dry years in a row can be cause for concern. We are not there yet. The district undertakes extensive planning to maximize our water supplies and guard against multi-year droughts, like the one that ended in 2016. Key to these efforts is Jenkinson Lake This reservoir is managed to supply two years of water supply for our customers even during drought conditions. Even though we are entering what appears to be a second dry consecutive dry year, we are well positioned to meet our customers’ needs throughout 2021.
A highlight of this long-term planning was the purchase of Sly Park Recreation Area’s Jenkinson Lake. Last year the district celebrated the final payment on the bonds that allowed EID to purchase the lake from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Jenkinson Lake is EID’s primary drinking water reservoir and has the ability to serve most of EID’s customers. In fact, as EID makes necessary upgrades to other treatment facilities, this winter Jenkinson Lake is supplying water to 100 percent of EID customers connected to the main water system from Pollock Pines to El Dorado Hills.
Long-term water supply planning and investment make EID better prepared to meet the ongoing needs of our community, including during times of drought. And because of the investments we have made (like the acquisition of Jenkinson Lake) and continue to make to replace critical components of our infrastructure, EID’s water security continues to increase.
The following projects now under way highlight the need for continued investment in EID’s aging infrastructure. The modest rate adjustments that were approved in December 2020 for 2021-2025 are used for these projects and without these adjustments they would not be possible.
The Folsom Lake intake project, which began construction in 2020, is a costly project that is critical to delivering water to the western portion of our service area. Although the district is capable of meeting district-wide winter demands from Jenkinson Lake, summer demands in the western area must be met by supplies available in Folsom Lake. The intake supplies raw water from the lake to EID’s El Dorado Hills Water Treatment Plant, where it is treated and then delivered to customers in El Dorado Hills. The facility is EID’s sole means of accessing its water supplies from Folsom Lake and provides the only access to a third of the district’s water supply.
Flumes and canals along the 22-mile El Dorado canal system are regularly scheduled for replacement in EID’s capital improvement program and are equally vital as a conduit for raw water that our customers ultimately use, whether it be for drinking water or generating hydroelectric power to offset the cost of provided drinking water supplies. This vital artery, providing another third of EID’s water supply to its customers, runs through mountainous terrain that makes repair and replacement costly. But their role in maintaining our resilient water supply is unmatched: they are the primary means of supplying the northern portion of EID’s service area and also deliver water that can be supplied by gravity to communities all the way to El Dorado Hills.
These projects illustrate just a few examples of how your money is being put to work to increase the reliability and health of the aging infrastructure that our communities rely on every single day.
Our crews work hard, day or night, rain or shine every day of the year to keep your system reliably running. With care, targeted investment, hard work and planning, the infrastructure will serve us for generations to come.
Jim Abercrombie is EID’s general manager.