Groundwater Authority gets imported water update

Groundwater Authority gets imported water updateTodd Tatum and Jeff Simonetti address the IWV Groundwater Authority on imported water options — Photo by Laura Austin

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By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

When the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority met in August, presenters gave an update on the climate of importing water in California. Todd Tatum of Tatum Companies and Capital Core Group’s Jeff Simonetti were there to answer questions about the methods, challenges and costs of importing water.

Steve Johnson of Stetson Engineers – water resource manager for the authority – introduced the duo, prefacing the discussion by saying imported water was going to be a “no brainer” for the IWV as part of its Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

The two most prominent methods of supplying water to the state are the Department of the Interior’s Central Valley Project and California’s State Water Project.

Partners of these water projects can pay a fixed cost for a desired percentage of available water. But Simonetti pointed out that the project hasn’t delivered its “expected” capacity in more than 10 years.

“If you are entitled to 10,000 acre-feet of water on the State Water Project, you may end up with only 5,600 acre-feet per year,” he said.

Permanent entitlements are also very costly according to the presentation. Examples of Mojave Water Agency, Tejon Ranch and city of Hesperia transactions through the State Water Project all resulted in costs of more than $5,000 per acre-foot of water.

Current reporting from the IWVGA says the IWV is pumping roughly 25,000 acre-feet of water annually with a natural recharge of somewhere between five and nine thousand acre-feet.

But the point may be moot as neither of the aforementioned projects is easily accessible by the IWV said Simonetti.

“Your basin does touch the [Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] aqueduct, so there are ways to get you imported water,” he added.

Accessing water through the LADWP pipeline has not been an option in the past as Tatum pointed out, but “there is a completely different climate today in the state.”

Presenters suggested that a more feasible option would be water banking — a practice used in Kern County and the central valley. During plentiful years agencies can purchase water that goes to “recharge basins” where the water percolates back into the aquifer. Extraction wells then pull the water out during dry years, at a loss of about 10 percent.

There’s still the matter of cost. According to the presentation, water rights have increased five times over the last 10 years in some places. And the IWV currently has no infrastructure to import the water from a recharge facility.

“State Water Project contractors are in talks to develop a market annually for water they’re not using – do you know where that is?” asked Bob Page, San Bernardino County’s representative to the IWVGA.

“Depends on who you ask,” said Simonetti. He added that “13 people might give you 17 different answers” and suggested that getting an answer would be a lengthy political process.

Cmdr. Brian Longbottom, the authority’s Navy representative, asked if it was possible for our valley to build its own water bank.

“Other folks come here, store their water, we give them back 90 percent of it,” Longbottom proposed.

Simonetti said it depended not only on costs, but also on the hydrogeology of the basin.

“We do have a challenge in our hydrogeology,” added Johnson. “We don’t have an unconfined aquifer of sand and gravel that you see in other areas that make it a desirable site for banking.”

At any rate, Tatum reported that finding water and developing any sort of contract would be likely to take more than a year.

The authority took no action on the presentation, and the public was not given the opportunity to provide comment.

Information is available online at iwvga.org/iwvga-meetings.

The next?GSA meeting will be on Sept. 20, 10 a.m. at City Hall.

Story First Published: 2018-08-31