Eight inches of rain fell on the Santa Clarita Valley in January, double the monthly amount of precipitation the valley normally receives.
And, although this month’s rainfall has replenished SCV groundwater to some degree, local water officials caution residents against thinking the drought is over.
“We have seen some moderate increases in groundwater elevations,” Dirk Marks, water resource manager for SCV’s water wholesaler, the Castaic Lake Water Agency, told The Signal.
“We are running a little ahead of average but it’s not a drought-buster yet,” he said.
Marks pointed to statistics maintained by the National Drought Mitigation Center based in Lincoln, Nebraska, to explain how the current figures “still show Southern California in a drought.”
Now that the rain has stopped, with sunny skies prevailing over SCV Wednesday, and snowy peaks seen in the Angeles National Forest, local parks and lawns that were not ripped out during stringent conservation measures are green again.
Even the contaminated hills of Whittaker-Bermite south of Soledad Canyon Road and west of Golden Valley Road look a little like Ireland this week – and it’s all because of the rain.
Late last week, three back-to-back storms moved into the Santa Clarita Valley, dumping more rain since Thursday than all the rain received this month.
About seven-tenths of an inch fell Thursday, followed by two inches Friday. The storm that followed brought more than three inches of rain Sunday and a quarter of an inch Monday, according to statistics Marks shared with The Signal.
By Tuesday, SCV rain totals for January measured 7.99 inches compared to the average monthly amount of 3.74 inches.
The SCV has been getting wetter every month since October and began exceeding normal precipitation levels last month with 3.75 inches of rain reported, compared to the average amount of rain received in December just shy of three inches.
For those keeping score, the wettest year for SCV happened in the winter of 2004/2005 which preceded the driest year on record in 2006/2007.
When it rains, the rain “re-charges” the groundwater – a resource recognized during the drought by Governor Jerry Brown as an extremely valuable resource which demands special attention.
To that end, the governor signed a piece of legislation in 2014 – at the height of the state’s prolonged drought – demanding that each of the state’s 127 groundwater basins have an agency to manage groundwater.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act puts the onus of managing groundwater on the backs of local agencies.
State officials expect the new groundwater agencies to be up and running by the end of 2017.
Once established, each new agency is expected to come up with a plan for its own groundwater sustainability by 2022 that will achieve sustainability by 2042.
On Tuesday, roughly 200 people looking for better ways to manage the water underneath Santa Clarita Valley took their first collective step in that direction when they met to form a groundwater sustainability agency.
Steve Cole, general manager of the Newhall County Water District, one of SCV’s three main water retailers, told the groundwater workshop group about the perils of over-pumping groundwater.
“This is the result of the drought,” he said, referring to Tuesday’s meeting as the first step in creating a brand new water agency that would, specifically, deal with groundwater.
“Specifically, this is the result of over-pumping in the central valley,” he said. “We (water agencies) have been working on some major issues with regards to over-pumping.”
About 27,000 acre-feet of water was pumped out of the ground in SCV last year, according to documents prepared by Dirk Marks to be presented Wednesday night to members of the Castaic Lake Water Agency Board.
An acre-foot of water is enough to fill at least 4,356 bath tubs or enough water to cover a football field with a foot of water.
The amount of groundwater produced last year was matched almost gallon-for-gallon by the amount of imported water purchased by the agency through the State Water Project.
Documents to be presented to the CLWA board Wednesday show 31,880 acre-feet of water was imported from Northern California in 2016.
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