New wells, old water, for Newhall Ranch

E-15 Water Well in Valencia CA, April 25 2018. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.
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When Newhall Ranch was actually a ranch, and not a 21,000-home development, Henry Newhall dammed a stream and laid down 1,000 feet of pipe to supply his ranch with water.

When Newhall Land and Farming owned and managed the same land years later, the company dug four agricultural wells on the banks of the Santa Clara River, between what is now Six Flags Magic Mountain and the Valencia Travel Village mobile home park.

A century later, with more than 293,000 residents settled into the Santa Clarita Valley, Newhall Ranch developer FivePoint, current owner of the former Newhall Land property, has to supply more 21,000 homes using the same water source, by the same river.

Water pumped from the ground on the eastern side of the Ventura County line, which in 1878 helped Henry Newhall grow barley and wheat, came from the same source earmarked to supply 21,000 new homes.

When Los Angeles County supervisors approved the Newhall Ranch development six years ago, it was on the assurance that the water, which fed four agricultural wells on the property, would provide more than 7,000 acre-feet of water to 21,000 homeowners each year.

That amount of water is about the same as 7,000 football fields under one foot of water.

The quality of water allowed for an agricultural well, however, is not the same as water allotted for a municipal well expected to supply drinking water to new residents.

Well E-15

On Wednesday, Chief Operating Officer for SCV Water Keith Abercrombie, who served as general manager of the Valencia Water Company, unlocked the chain link fence off of Turnberry Lane, near Hancock Parkway, to explain the future of supplying water to Newhall Ranch, specifically the importance of Well E-15.

“These four (agriculture) wells will be replaced with municipal wells,” he said, pointing south of Castaic in the direction of four old abandoned farming wells.

Well E-15 was dug and built in 2005 specifically for Newhall Ranch. As construction of the new homes continues, each of the three new wells, E-14, E-16 and E-17, will be dug, built and operated according to municipal water standards on the same land that once sprouted barley.

“These E wells draw from the same aquifer as the (agriculture) wells,” Abercrombie said, noting guidelines regarding municipal wells dictate where the wells can go.

“You can’t put a municipal well in a flood plain,” he noted.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health doesn’t allow a municipal well within 100 feet of a sewer main, and not within 50 feet of a storm drain.

Municipal wells

The four municipal wells, all of which will be the same basic structure as E-15, are expected to draw water about  200 feet underground. The deepest well owned by SCV Water is a Saugus well, which accesses the Saugus Formation aquifer 2,000 feet deep.

“Well E-15 is one of four wells planned to supply 7,000 acre-feet per year to the Newhall Ranch project,” Mike Alvord, director of operations and maintenance, told The Signal this week.

“All four are drilled and permitted, but only E-15 is currently in service.

“The others will come online as needed to meet the water demand,” he said. “These wells replace four Newhall Land agricultural wells.”

The next new well to go into service is E-17, Abercrombie said, sunk on the south side of the Valencia Travel Village mobile home park.

CEQA findings

Newhall Land assured county supervisors in October 2011 that there was sufficient potable water for Newhall Ranch. That water would be accessed, according to a report prepared for the California Environmental Quality Act, through fresh wells sunk by the Valencia Water Company.

SCV Water’s predecessor, the Castaic Lake Water Agency, bought the former private water retailer in December 2012.

“Water demand would be met by drawing groundwater from the alluvial aquifer from newly constructed replacement wells located within the Valencia Commerce Center that have been approved and permitted by the California Department of Public Health,” the CEQA document reads.

The four wells are expected to feed three reservoirs, two of which can contain 4 million gallons of water each. The third holds 3.3 million gallons.

Transporting water

Newhall Land’s plans call for water to be transported for Newhall Ranch through a pipeline built by SCV Water.

The new Magic Mountain Pipeline would connect existing pipes to a holding tank called the Magic Mountain Reservoir to be built in Newhall Land’s Mission Village, the first phase of construction for Newhall Ranch, now underway.

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