Peter Rietkerk understands the importance of creating a win-win situation between the environment, farming and urban water needs.
During his five year-plus tenure as the general manager of the Patterson Irrigation District, he played a key role in putting in place the district’s cutting edge and award-winning fish screen intake project.
“The board understood the importance of protecting fish in order to keep water deliveries from the river,” Rietkerk said.
His understanding of how critical it is to address environmental issues head-on and for irrigation districts to be strong stewards of the watersheds they use will serve him well in his new role as South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s general manger.
Two major initiatives that the SSJID has just initiated will rely on Reitkerk and the governing board to use forward thinking to address environmental issues in order to protect the water rights and service the needs of the district’s 52,000 acres of farmland and 110,000 residents plus the nearly 100,000 residents of Tracy and Lathrop that secure part of their drinking water from the SSJID.
The state had mandated that groundwater basin management plans be put in place and enforced. At the same time there is a push for sustainable flows on the Stanislaus River. Both had long term implications for the South County’s water supply.
Rietkerk said he is looking forward to the challenges of overseeing a versatile district such as SSJID that has irrigation and urban water delivery systems, wholesale power generation, plans to move into retail power to reduce rates for district residents as well as farmers and businessmen, state-of-the-art water conservation plans and projects, solar power generation, and conveying urban storm water to the river, and other initiatives.
Rietkerk says working with the SSJID board and staff to protect the district’s senior water rights is “first and foremost” among his priorities.
His strong sense of stewardship of the watershed comes from his background.
His family farms near Corcoran 17 miles southeast of Hanford in Kings County.
“Farmers have to be good stewards of the land in order to make money and feed their families,” Rietkerk noted.
Sustainability means striking the right balance with soil amendments and pesticides, making sure soil is fertile for generations to come, and using water in the most efficient manner possible. He noted farmers are also driven to use the minimal amount of everything from water to fertilizer to save money.
Reitkerk also is committed to working with the board and staff to turn the district’s retail initiative into reality to start savings residents, farmers and businesses in the SSJID territory a collective $12 million year through lower power rates.
He has a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Bio Resource and Agricultural Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He also has a Masters of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Davis.
Rietkerk, his wife, and four children live in Ripon.