Less imported water, less groundwater means using banked supplies likely

The Castaic Lake spillway. Katharine Lotze/Signal


While fire officials tell SCV residents they’re not out of the woods when it comes to brush fires, water officials are saying the SCV isn’t out of the woods when it comes to drought, either.

Castaic Lake Water Agency board members are expected to receive an update on the status of Santa Clarita Valley’s water resources when they meet Wednesday night.

The bottom line is that water is still scarce despite a considerable amount of rain that fell on the SCV a year ago.

Agency board members are being advised that they might have to use some of the water they’ve banked for times when water is particularly scarce.

In terms of water SCV receives from the state from Northern California as part of the State Water Project, the CLWA was told to expected just 15 percent of their normally allotted amount of water.

In terms of local groundwater buried under the SCV, local wells hit hard by a four-year drought are still seeing just a “modest increase” in water filling those wells.

“Regarding local supplies, groundwater production is estimated to be similar to that in 2016,”   Dirk Marks, CLWA’s water resources manager told The Signal Tuesday.

“The 2017 precipitation was very close to average, so it didn’t mitigate several years of very low precipitation,” he said. “So we still have some way to go before local groundwater fully recovers.”

Marks wrote in a Dec. 5 memo to the agency’s Water Resources and Outreach Committee, he advises: “If the SWP allocation remains low, the Agency will likely have to access water stored in Its banking programs.”

“A moderate increase in groundwater supplies is anticipated in 2018 with the recovery of groundwater levels along Castaic Creek,” Marks wrote in his memo.

Agency staffers are putting together a plan that looks at a “rebounding water demand,”  the “availability of availability of local groundwater and “a variety of imported water supply scenarios.”

State officials who made the decision to reduce the amount of Northern California water sold to SCV’s water wholesaler – the CLWA – have other problems to worry about.

Specifically, they have to repair the Lake Oroville spillways after record-breaking rainfall amounts caused “significant damage.”

The goal of officials with the Department of Water Resources was to complete partial repairs to the spillway considered necessary to safely allow flows of 100,000 cubic – feet per second during the 2017/2018 flood season.

Complete reconstruction of the spillway is anticipated by the end of 2018. In October 2017, DWR released an operations plan for the 2017-2018 flood season.

The plan calls for maintaining a lower-than-average lake level during the winter months.

About the state’s decision to reduce water sent south to SCV to 15 percent of norm, Marks said: “This is a conservative estimate that DWR makes early during the water year.

“The changes are 9 out of 10 that the allocation will increase beyond that.

“This relatively low allocations is due in part to DWR keeping storage levels low at Oroville Reservoir due to repairs being made to the spillway,” Marks told The Signal Tuesday,” he said.

“While it is still early in the year there is a good chance that we will need to call on some of our water banking programs in the Kern County,” Marks said.

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