Recent letters have raised some timely questions about water supply in the Santa Clarita Valley. A major drought and several large development projects and annexations are in the news lately. So do we have enough water?
We do. And here’s how.
Our water portfolio is a diverse mix of groundwater, State Water Project water, a firm long-term San Joaquin Valley water purchase, and years’ worth of banked water – supplies that are stored in groundwater basins within a few hundred miles of Santa Clarita and are available to us, independent of how little rain or snowpack is provided by Mother Nature. In fact, we have several years’ worth of water stored in these banks.
Nearer to home, we actively manage the local groundwater basin. We track groundwater levels and pumping quantities to assure our basin is not over-drafted. When pollutants have been discovered, we actively pursue the legally responsible parties and make sure that appropriate treatment is provided before any supplies are delivered to customers.
As we look toward future growth in the SCV, we coordinate with the city and county and use growth projections incorporated into their One Valley, One Vision General Plan. We consider wet and dry periods in our state-mandated Urban Water Management Plan, which we update every five years, to assure planned water supplies meet anticipated needs. This includes two areas under consideration for annexation into the SCV Water service area.
We are guided by the principles that an annexation must not increase the cost to our existing customers, nor result in a reduction of water supply or reliability for those already in our service area. Therefore, a proposed development must bring its own water supply or buy into a supply that SCV Water has acquired for the purpose of future annexations. Even if they bring in their own water supply, they still pay connection fees along with a proportional share of the infrastructure serving the new development.
When good planning and prudent investments in water supplies have been made, it isn’t an either/or proposition. Serving a new project does not mean reducing the amount of water being served elsewhere. It can be confusing though when, in recent years, we had very strict, state-mandated conservation measures due to the drought. It’s important to note that at no time were we in overdraft, nor were we running out of water. If we had not conserved and provided the water from our banking programs, our community would have been hit with significant fines.
While we embrace conservation as a way of life for California, particularly in our arid environment, we are hopeful that any further state-mandated conservation efforts will take into account the actual availability of a local agency’s water supplies.
Managing water supplies can get complex but we fully engage to assure that our mission — “Providing responsible water stewardship to ensure the Santa Clarita Valley has reliable supplies of high-quality water at a reasonable cost” — is met.
We take that charge seriously, consistently making decisions in the best interests of the community we serve.
Bill Cooper is president of the SCV Water board of directors.