SCV res­i­dents drink­ing melted snow

For the most part, wa­ter in Santa Clarita comes from lo­cal wells, Sierra Ne­vada in equal por­tions

The Signal - - NEWS - By Jim Holt Sig­nal Se­nior Staff Writer

On a nor­mal day in a nor­mal year, a glass of wa­ter poured from any tap in the Santa Clarita Val­ley con­tains equal por­tions of wa­ter pumped from lo­cal wells and wa­ter im­ported from melt­ing snow­packs in the Sierra Ne­vadas.

Wa­ter avail­abil­ity and wa­ter scarcity over the last few years, how­ever, span­ning a fiveyear statewide drought, has thrown the ra­tio of lo­cal wa­ter to im­ported wa­ter out of whack.

On Thurs­day, mem­bers of Fi­nan­cial and Op­er­a­tions Com­mit­tee of the Cas­taic Lake Wa­ter Agency will be pre­sented wa­ter pro­duc­tion charts that show the CLWA is slowly get­ting back to the nor­mal years of half-and­half wa­ter - half im­ported, half pumped lo­cally - but not this year.

A break­down of wa­ter pumped from all the lo­cal wells this year shows an in­creas­ing re­liance on im­ported wa­ter since Jan­uary.

Im­ported wa­ter

July’s fig­ures of im­ported-to-lo­cal wa­ter mark the most pro­nounced im­bal­ance in more than four years.

For ex­am­ple, the same glass of wa­ter poured from any tap in the SCV con­tained less than 10 per­cent of the wa­ter pumped lo­cally com­pared to 91.1 per­cent of it be­ing im­ported from North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Drink­ing that sum­mer glass of wa­ter means you would have been drink­ing al­most 100 per­cent melted snow brought down the Feather River, stored in Orville Dam and con­veyed south by the Cal­i­for­nia aque­duct to Cas­taic Lake as part of the State Wa­ter Project.

By con­trast, look­ing at the amount of wa­ter pumped out of the ground lo­cally mid-sum­mer in 2013, three quar­ters of the wa­ter con­sumed in the SCV was im­ported.

The same was true at mid-sum­mer last year when three quar­ters of our wa­ter orig­i­nated from North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

So, why af­ter a record amount of rain­fall wit­nessed this past win­ter in the SCV do we rely so heav­ily on im­ported wa­ter?

The an­swer, ac­cord­ing to Dirk Marks who serves as the CLWA’s wa­ter re­sources man­ager, isn’t that there’s a scarcity of lo­cal wa­ter, but rather an abun­dance of wa­ter made avail­able this year from through the State Wa­ter Project.

The Oroville Dam, the big­gest dam in Cal­i­for­nia, swelled to ca­pac­ity this past win­ter.

“There was so much wa­ter state side that we urged wa­ter pur­vey­ors to use more of the im­ported wa­ter,” Marks told The Sig­nal Thurs­day.

As well, lo­cal wa­ter of­fi­cials found them­selves com­pelled to use wa­ter al­ready set aside for them by state of­fi­cials.

Ear­marked wa­ter

One of 29 State Wa­ter Project con­trac­tors en­ti­tled to re­ceive wa­ter from the Sierra Ne­vadas in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, the CLWA serves as Santa Clarita Val­ley’s wa­ter whole­saler.

Every year state of­fi­cials with the Department of Wa­ter Re­sources as­sess the Sierra Ne­vada snow­pack, cal­cu­late how much wa­ter the melted snow will pro­duce and al­lo­cate how much each of the 29 agen­cies should get.

The CLWA is en­ti­tled to 95,200 acre-feet of wa­ter. It gets only a per­cent­age of this al­lo­ca­tion, how­ever, de­pend­ing on how dry a given year is.

Emerg­ing from a very wet win­ter, how­ever, state wa­ter of­fi­cials were able this spring to set aside 50,000 acre-feet of wa­ter for the CLWA.

How much wa­ter is that? It’s about 50,000 foot­ball fields each un­der one foot of wa­ter.

This wa­ter ear­marked for CLWA use is called “car­ry­over” wa­ter. And it can be shared.

Shar­ing wa­ter

Un­like man­ag­ing wa­ter in a drought year, when every drop of wa­ter is needed and used, the agency couldn’t use its 50,000 acre-feet of “car­ry­over” wa­ter this cur­rent year which saw more rain­fall than av­er­age.

Con­se­quently, about 35,000 acre-feet of wa­ter ear­marked for the CLWA went un­used.

State of­fi­cials then took that un­used wa­ter – called spilled wa­ter – and poured it back into their “pool of wa­ter” re­sources, mak­ing it avail­able to all agen­cies con­tracted with the state to re­ceive State Wa­ter Project wa­ter.

The un­used wa­ter doesn’t get wasted, it just stops be­ing wa­ter ear­marked specif­i­cally for the CLWA.

“Re­gard­ing the spilled wa­ter, ef­fec­tively 35,000 acre-feet of wa­ter was spilled,” Marks told The Sig­nal in July.

“That doesn’t im­pact our over­all re­li­a­bil­ity as we have more than enough wa­ter to meet this year’s de­mands and still into car­ry­over for pos­si­ble use in 2018,” he said.

Katharine Lotze/The Sig­nal

The Cas­taic Lake spill­way. The Cas­taic Lake Wa­ter Agency serves as SCV’s wa­ter whole­saler.

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