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Agency angles to reset chloride standards

Castaic Lake Water Agency board considers analyzing how much salt is in the water when it arrives

Posted: February 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

The cost of removing salty chloride from the Santa Clara River may not be as high as first feared.

Water arriving here from Northern California is not as salty these past couple of years and therefore poses less of a problem to fix, say local water officials, who now want experts to devise a spreadsheet to reflect that change.

Directors with the Castaic Lake Water Agency are expected to OK a contract tonight with water experts Kennedy/Jenks Consultants to perform a detailed analysis of the chloride content in water delivered here via the State Water Project.

The Chloride Mass Balance Analysis would put together a mathematical model that agencies could use to compute the chloride content of state water supplied to users by the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

Removing chloride — a naturally occurring salt — from Santa Clarita Valley’s discharged water became a hotly debated topic last summer, when downstream Ventura County farmers said it was damaging to their crops.

The cost of cleanup could be $500 million, SCV residents were told, and the bill would have to be paid by local water users.

That could skyrocket sewer rates and cripple local businesses, especially those that use lots of water, such as restaurants.

But water watchers say they’ve noticed something peculiar about chloride levels during the past few years of drought.

“What we found was that during the last drought, we saw chloride levels that did not increase in a manner similar to what we’ve seen in previous droughts,” said Dirk Marks, the Castaic Lake Water Agency’s water resource manager.

State Water Project water’s chloride levels are believed to be diluted by large quantities of nearly chloride-free water being added to the mix. That water is coming from places like Kern County, which built water-banking supplies from purer sources than the State Water Project.

Water arriving here with less chloride alleviates some of the urgency to construct two salt-ridding reverse-osmosis plants at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to construct.

The hope is that the Kennedy/Jenks model will convince state water-quality regulators to reset their clocks, so to speak, whenever they demand that facilities meet chloride discharge standards.

The proposed Kennedy/Jenks study would be an essential part of a larger effort to see if the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District, which is charged with getting rid of chloride in discharged water, could meet chloride standards in a more cost-effective way than building the reverse-osmosis plants.

Under tonight’s recommendation, the Sanitation District would reimburse the water agency for as-yet-undetermined cost of the Kennedy/Jenks study.

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