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Officials plan to ease water pressure

Posted: August 1, 2009 9:43 p.m.
Updated: August 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.
As San Joaquin Valley farmers struggle with water shortages, and the city of Los Angeles has imposed mandatory water conservation, the Santa Clarita Valley's five water suppliers have launched an ambitious water recycling plan.

"There are essentially three sources for water: the State Water Project, groundwater and recycled water," said Paul Novak, planning deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich.

"Gradually, we will move to more recycled water."

Currently, the Santa Clarita Valley's four local water retailers deliver to customers a mix of about 50-percent groundwater and 50-percent State Water Project water.

The State Water Project water is provided by wholesaler Castaic Lake Water Agency and comes from northern California through the Sacramento Delta.

A mix of environmental concerns about over-pumping the Delta, as well as lawsuits restricting water use, have put the squeeze on water supplies to Southern California, said Dan Masnada, Castaic Lake Water general manager.

Novak seconded Masnada's concerns.

"There are obviously questions with water availability because of the issues with the Sacramento Delta, the drought and environmental concerns," he said.

On July 28, on a motion by Antonovich, county supervisors agreed to request a study on beefing up recycled water use. Supervisors expect a report within the next few weeks, Novak said.

Back in 2003, Castaic Lake Water and the valley's four retailers embarked on a 30-year, $100 million recycled water capital improvement project.

Phase I of the project, which will deliver up to 3,000 acre feet of water to the SCV, is set to be finished by 2013, said Dan Masnada, Castaic Lake Water general manager.

Currently the Tournament Players' Club golf course receives 400 acre feet of recycled water and is the only place in the Santa Clarita Valley using recycled water, Masnada said.

The county's role in providing the SCV with domestic drinking water is currently limited to Los Angeles County Waterworks District 36, the valley's smallest water provider, but that will change as recycled water becomes more common, Novak said.

"We have a direct involvement through the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District," he said.

The Sanitation District operates the Valencia and Saugus treatment plants, Novak said. Any plans to use recycled water starts at the plant.

"The treatment plant is the hub of the system," said Steve Cole, general manager of Newhall County Water District. "The pipes are the spoke."

Under the water districts' recycled water plan, Newhall County Water, Valencia Water Company, Castaic Lake Water and County Water Works will build a parallel system along the east end of the SCV to deliver recycled water for outdoor use.

"The water is for HOAs (homeowners' associations), city- and county-maintained open spaces," Cole said.

There are no plans to use recycled water for residential use.

The parallel water system, commonly referred to as "purple pipe" due to the color of the pipes, will eventually provide the Santa Clarita Valley with 22,700 acre feet of recycled water by 2030, Masnada said. Even with its $100 million price tag, recycled water makes sense, he said.

Of the 22,700 acre feet of recycled water planned for use in the Santa Clarita Valley, more than 7,000 acre feet of recycled water will be used in the Newhall Ranch development, Masnada said.

The 22,000-home development wedged between Highway 126 and Interstate 5 is still in the permitting process. "With the demand on the Delta, buying water will become more difficult and more expensive than developing our own local source," he said.

Castaic Lake will burn most of its reserves paying for its share of the purple pipe program, Masnada said. However, the water agency is looking for help from state and federal government.

"We haven't received any help from the state, but we aren't giving up on that," he said. "We've gotten some help from the (Environmental Protection Agency) in the past and we will continue to look for federal money to help pay for the project."

Castaic Lake Water applied for money in the federal stimulus package to help pay for the purple pipe project, but it was denied, Masnada said.

That won't stop Castaic Lake Water from looking for federal money if another stimulus package comes down the pipe, he said.

Don't rule out state money, Novak said. Proposition 50 allocates money for projects that improve water supply.

Even with the state in financial ruins, state grants for water projects are still available, he said.


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