Calif. water board accuses member of stealing water to irrigate almond orchard
Merced Irrigation District says board director stole $200k worth of water.
MERCED, CA, AUG 16, 2017 -- The Merced, Calif., Irrigation District is accusing one of its board members of stealing more than $200,000 worth of water to irrigate his almond orchard.
The Merced Sun Star reports that the Merced Irrigation District sent board director Kevin Gonzalves a cease and desist letter last month after finding that he was pumping water from Canal Creek to his own orchards.
During a meeting this week, the board voted to allow district staff to pursue legal action if necessary.
At the end of June, the district learned of the possible diversion, and MID staff visited Gonzalves' property. There, they found a diesel pump and pipe system was being used to water his almond orchard, according to MID documents. Further investigations found no active billing records for Gonzalves since 2015.
Gonzalves maintains the pond he was pumping from was privately owned and he had riparian water rights the source of the pond water.
The district argued the water that runs down Canal Creek, which supplies the pond water, comes from district deliveries. The district estimated that Gonzalves diverted 530 acre-feet of water, which translated to more than $200,000, in the time between 2014 and 2017.
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