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Tom Campbell: Your water agency facing many challenges in the new year

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Posted: January 15, 2011 9:32 p.m.
Updated: January 16, 2011 4:55 a.m.
 

Editor’s note: Second in two parts of a look at the past and future of Castaic Lake Water Agency.

As we discussed in part one of this commentary, 2010 is going to be a tough act to follow when it comes to water issues in the Santa Clarita Valley, as the past year was filled with milestones and accomplishments, not to mention the apparent end of a three-year drought.

But even as rain and, yes, snow have chilled and soaked our valley in the early days of 2011, we are looking ahead to a year of great promise for the Castaic Lake Water Agency and the communities we serve. Here are a few things we’re focusing on as we  strive to provide a safe, reliable supply of water to meet the valley’s growing needs:

* Water recycling: Recycled water is the “next big thing” for CLWA, as water recycling infrastructure is expected to be our largest capital improvement effort over the next 40 years. Whatever the outcome of water supply challenges in years ahead — whether it’s future droughts or ongoing issues in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — it’s clear that responsible water supply management will continue to be of the utmost importance.

In the interest of stretching every drop of supply, it makes sense to recycle water just as we recycle other resources, like aluminum, paper and plastic.

It will be used for high-volume water uses, such as irrigation of large landscaped areas. (Think golf courses, parks, landscaped medians and so on).

Recycled water will have a “trickle up” effect because its use will increase availability of the rest of the SCV’s water supply portfolio for potable purposes.

Ultimately, CLWA believes the SCV will utilize more than 22,000 acre-feet of recycled water per year. (An acre-foot is enough to cover an acre of land one foot deep).

In 2011, we expect to see significant progress on the next phase of our recycled water program, planning and design for the “South End Project.”

This project will provide recycled water for irrigation by large users on the southwest portion of our valley including College of the Canyons, California Institute for the Arts and Hart High School.

* Urban water management plan: CLWA and local water retailers are working together to develop and adopt the new Urban Water Management Plan, a state-mandated document looking ahead at projected water supply and demands for the next two decades.

Water agencies like CLWA must adopt a plan every five years, and it’s a useful planning tool that helps us prepare to meet future demands and explain how we’ll absorb fluctuations in supply related to weather and other external circumstances.

We are especially proud of how effective our water supply planning has been, enabling us to weather the recent drought without mandatory restrictions on water use.

The plan helps us continue planning ahead, and make sure we have sufficient supplies and reserves of stored water to ensure that we can meet the valley’s needs even when circumstances become challenging.

In the first half of this year we will continue public workshops to gain input on the plan. We expect to adopt the plan by June.

* Education: We believe it’s vital to educate younger generations about the importance of using our precious water resources wisely, and those efforts continue in 2011.

In addition to our established educational programs and field trips for elementary school students, we have revamped our junior high school program and are expanding our outreach to high school students.

Among those efforts are the completion of our third annual Water Challenge scholarship competition, as well as a new program called APES, an Advanced Placement Environmental Science pilot program that offers high school students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience at CLWA headquarters.

Also, we are developing a program for high school biology classes called, “Smeltdown,” which will educate students about the importance of balancing agricultural, environmental and urban issues in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

* Following through on the delta: Speaking of the delta, in 2011, we plan to continue our support of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which seeks to achieve the co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration and restoring water supply reliability in the troubled Delta.

A working draft of the conservation plan has been released, and we expect in the coming months to see an assessment on whether the BDplan can produce an ultimate solution for the Delta’s issues.

* The chloride question: The coming year should bring major developments on a brewing issue that is one of our valley’s most vexing.

The Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts and other agencies are attempting to address the issue of the chloride content in the wastewater discharged from SCV sewage treatment plants and its impact on certain crops in Ventura County.
Chloride sources vary.

The water we receive from the State Water Project and our local groundwater contains some (though not in levels that are harmful to humans and most crops) and, as water is used, additional chlorides are added through factors such as human salt consumption and the use of salt-based automatic water softeners, which the city of Santa Clarita outlawed in 2008.

At CLWA, we are working together with the Sanitation Districts, the city and other stakeholders in an effort to arrive at the most cost-effective and efficient solution. 

In addition, 2011 will see continued progress on some initiatives we mentioned in part one, including completion of CLWA’s Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant expansion and the pursuit of new solar power generation facilities on CLWA properties.

From long-range planning to conservation, recycling and tackling state and regional issues, 2011 will be a busy year.

More information on CLWA is available at www.clwa.org.


Tom Campbell is the president of the Castaic Lake Water Agency board of directors.  His column reflects the agency’s views, and not necessarily those of The Signal

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