TAC talks of imported water costs

Long-term importation could cost valley tens of millions annually

By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

While water conservation is at the forefront of discussion at nearly all water meetings, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has always alluded to importation, and its hefty price tag, as inevitable to meet Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requirements.

The Technical Advisory Committee of the IWVGA met last week and discussed potential strategies to address the declining IWV groundwater basin.

According to California’s SGMA, all groundwater basins with declining water tables must halt or reverse decline by locating alternate water sources. Despite an estimated several decades worth of water in storage, the IWV is tasked to implement a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2020 in order to halt decline by 2040.

Current numbers from the U.S. Geological Survey show the IWV’s recharge rate to be anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 acre-feet per year, while pumpers draw nearly 25,000 acre-feet annually. And with an estimated net gain of 300 jobs this summer to bolster the mission at China Lake, elected officials are looking for answers anywhere they can.

Jeff Helsley of Stetson Engineers presented several importation solutions in addition to possibilities of reusing recycled water.

Helsley prefaced the presentation by saying that the costs were from “varying points in time.”

“They’re not 20 years old, but they’re not completely up to date. Just so we start to look at what some of the costs are.”

According to Helsley, permanent transfer of water rights can cost from $2,500 to $6,000 per acre-foot. Alternatively, short-term water can be purchased through the Cadiz Water Project for $775 per acre-foot or $250-700 per acre-foot from the State Water Project.

“That’s just for the water rights,” added Helsley, specifying that transportation and infrastructure costs would be separate.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to figure out how to get a few acre-feet if it’s going to cost you thousands per acre-foot,” said Committeemember Don Decker. He added that addressing the 3- to 5-percent water loss in the IWV Water Districts system would be more cost effective.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but 3 to 5 percent of 8,000 or so acre feet is a fair amount of water,” he said.

Pursuing recycled wastewater more aggressively could also help mitigate water use. While the local plant would provide less than 2,000 acre-feet annually for nonpotable reuse, committeemembers agreed that any and all possibilities should be pursued.

The presentation included some other, more “creative,” solutions such as helping fund coastal water projects in exchange for Owens Valley water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

The IWVGA will hear the committee report during its regular meeting on Thursday, March 15, 10 a.m. at City Hall. For information visit www.iwvga.org.

Story First Published: 2018-03-09