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Drought shuts down east valley well

Posted: November 10, 2008 8:43 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2008 4:59 a.m.
Sporadic rain this past weekend and the "significant downpour" last weekend came just as plunging drought-critical water levels forced water officials to shut down a sputtering major well in the east end of the valley.

About .25 inches of rain fell on Santa Clarita Valley since the start of the month and less than a week after water officials reported pumping pockets of air out of the Lost Canyon well where Sand Canyon Road meets the Santa Clara River.

"A few weeks ago, air got in the lines and typically when that happens, we shut the well down," said Mauricio E. Guardado, Jr., retail manager of the Santa Clarita Water Division, likening the incident to a straw sucking up the last few drops of a milk shake.

"Fortunately, there was a significant downpour in the east end where these wells are," Guardado said.

He shut the well down, "to prevent an overdraft, because we can't deplete the resource. We want to be able to sustain the appropriate water supply for the future."

Local wells from the Alluvial Aquifer make up about 38 percent of the water division's total supply with the remaining water purchased from the state water project through the Castaic Lake Water Agency which stores it, treats it and distributes it.

The recent rain came just in time, Guardado said.

"We are very encouraged with the rain received," he said. "Especially when most of the water in the aquifer moves from the east end to the west end. The west end wells in our service area are still plentiful. That's the sweet spot."

The west-end wells - the Clark well and the Honby well - show water levels at half the depth measured in the Lost Canyon.

The Santa Clarita Water Division - formerly known as the Santa Clarita Water Company and now the retail arm of the Castaic Lake Water Agency - is one of four local water retailers that purchase water from the agency.

Agency officials, worried that a statewide drought might be drying up local wells, asked Guardado for a detailed picture of water supplies in the east end of Santa Clarita Valley, where groundwater aquifer water levels are at their most critical.

"The (Retail Operations) Committee asked us to give them a indication of water levels at both ends of the aquifer," Guardado said.

The request comes on the heels of one of the driest summers on record in Santa Clarita Valley. Less than a quarter inch of rain fell on Santa Clarita Valley over June, July and August.

Figures presented to committee members at a public water meeting Monday night showed that the water level at the Lost Canyon well continues to mimic the plunge in levels seen at the height of the 1991 drought.

At its driest point in the last two decades, water officials had to dip almost 120 feet into the 155-foot well to find water.

At its optimal level, the water division can pump 1,500 gallons of water per minute out of the Lost Canyon well, from water just 20 feet below the surface. Figures released Monday show half that amount of water pumped from a depth of 85 feet. He and his staff are allowing the well to refill.

"What's beautiful about the alluvial well is that we have tributaries in the area that feed back in to replenish it," Guardado said.


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