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Water rationing not likely in SCV

Posted: June 6, 2008 1:32 a.m.
Updated: August 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Mandatory water rationing is not "in the cards" for Santa Clarita Valley residents, local water officials said in response to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proclamation Wednesday of a statewide drought.

"We're in a good position and we don't have to draw on any backup water supplies," said Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

"Mandatory rationing is not in the cards, at least for 2008."

On Wednesday, citing two straight years of below-average rainfall, very low snowmelt runoff and the largest court-ordered water transfer restrictions in state history, Schwarzenegger proclaimed a statewide drought and issued an executive order addressing a "dire situation," with many California communities being forced to mandate water conservation or rationing.

Santa Clarita Valley, however, will not be one of those communities, thanks to local water officials banking water as insurance for times of drought.

Masnada and other water officials, who had planned for such a drought, don't plan on 2008 being the year it takes effect.

Despite the governor's executive order, water agency planners believe they won't even have to touch the backup supply.

"My expectations are that we won't even have to take water from the bank," Masnada said when reached by phone Thursday near Sacramento, where he joins other water officials on a survey trip up the San Joaquin Delta.

"I expect that we'll stay the course and continue to aggressively advocate water conservation."

Masnada is expected to meet with local water retailers about the governor's drought-driven executive order when her returns to Santa Clarita this week.

One of those water retailers is represented by Steve Cole, general manager of the Newhall County Water District.

"I don't see, for this year, the need for mandatory reductions locally," Cole told The Signal Thursday. "Because of banking, we have eliminated the need for mandatory rationing next year, and the year after that."

That said, Santa Clarita residents must start using water wisely, he added. "We live in a desert," he said. "The lush lawns, the lush landscaping that we all have - that's not reality. We're going to have to use water a whole lot more wisely."

Other California communities, as cited by the governor Wednesday, are in drier dire straights.

"In Santa Clarita Valley, our reliability planning has been very good," Cole explained. "We still have all our banked water, unlike Metropolitan (Water District), which is already drawing on its reserves.

"Our dry-year planning supply is still in place," Cole said. "It's a tough management job to weather these drought cycles, but all that planning is now going to pay off for us."

What if Los Angeles County officials approach Santa Clarita water officials wanting to buy some of our agency's water?

"Who knows what can happen?" said Masnada. "If they were to approach us it would only be on a contract-to-contract basis."

Masnada said lessons learned from the drought in 1991 convinced water officials to start banking water. During that eight-year drought, state legislators "matched up willing buyers and sellers of water," he said.

Meanwhile, the lack of water has created other problems, such as extreme fire danger due to dry conditions, economic harm to urban and rural communities, loss of crops and the potential to degrade water quality in some regions, according to the governor.

"For the areas in Northern California that supply most of our water, this March, April and May have been the driest ever in our recorded history," Gov. Schwarzenegger said. "As a result, some local governments are rationing water, developments can't proceed and agricultural fields are sitting idle.

"We must recognize the severity of the crisis we face," he said. " So I am signing an executive order proclaiming a statewide drought and directing my Department of Water Resources and other entities to take immediate action to address the situation."

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