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Newhall Ranch opts out of water wars

Recycling, pumping, purchases expected to supply the need for new homes, schools and businesses

Posted: June 6, 2009 8:01 p.m.
Updated: June 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
With the statewide political battle over water from the Sacramento Delta raging, Newhall Land and Farming decided to opt of the water fight when it designed its Newhall Ranch project, according to a Newhall Land and Farming official.

"We're building a water reclamation plant capable of recycling 6.8-million gallons per day," said Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land and Farming spokeswoman.

The project will also rely on water purchased from Central Valley suppliers and on water pumped from its own wells.

Not relying on state water takes Newhall Ranch out of the politically charged state water wars, Lauffer said. "The issue of reliability of state water has become a political issue," she said.

"In the sense that the water is there and available for irrigation use, this is a smart move for Newhall Land and Farming," said Jeff Ford, water resources planner for Castaic Lake Water Agency.

When built, the Newhall Ranch project will add 21,000 homes, commercial development and school buildings to a 12,000-acre site southwest of the Interstate 5-Highway and 126 interchange. To meet the water demand posed by new development, Newhall Land and Farming devised a multi-tiered plan to provide water.

Of the 17,000 acre-feet needed for the development, about 7,000 acre-feet will come from agricultural wells on the property. "We will go from ag (agriculture) wells to urban wells," Lauffer said.

In dry years, Newhall Ranch, expects to get 1,600 acre-feet of supplemental water from farmers in Kern County, Lauffer said.

Another 7,000 acre-feet will come from the reclamation plant. More than 3,000 acre-feet will come from the Valencia Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is already online.

Pipes from the Newhall Ranch reclamation plant will deliver water to common areas around the development to water lawns and a golf course, Lauffer said.

The recycled water plant should not be confused with a toilet-to-tap recycling system, Ford said.

"This is a separate water-supply system. The potable (drinking) water system is not connected to the water-treatment plant," he said. "The pipes from the water-treatment plant don't go to homes and the piping is specially marked."

Newhall Land's piecemeal plan to acquire water has two major impacts, Lauffer said.

"There will be no net increase in state water," she said.

The water pumping through the pipes will come from existing supply in the SCV and from effluent pumping from the Valencia Wastewater Treatment Plant. Newhall Ranch won't have to buy additional water from Castaic Lake Water Agency to run the water system.

Castaic Lake's water comes from the State Water Project, which has recently been mired in political and court battles.

Efforts being made to protect the Delta Smelt have resulted in lawsuit, which are limiting the delivery of water from the Sacramento Delta.

Castaic Lake Water Agency is also looking into bolstering in its own recycled water program.

"We're in the second phase of a recycled water project that will deliver water from the Saugus treatment plant to the River Village development," Ford said.

Currently the lone recycled water project in the SCV is the 400 acre feet that water the Tournament Players Club golf course in Valencia.

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