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Chloride levels drop

Reduced amounts of salt in water from Northern California ease anxiety

Posted: April 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 5, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Chloride in the Santa Clara River watershed, which threatens to cost Santa Clarita Valley residents millions of dollars to remove, has been significantly reduced, local water officials reported Wednesday.

Diluted levels of chloride in water arriving from Northern California, along with Santa Clarita Valley residents ditching their water softeners, contributed to the improvement, officials said.

Half of the water used by residents in the Santa Clarita Valley arrives here via the State Water Project; the other half is from local groundwater.

The concentration of salty chloride in state water delivered from the San Joaquin Delta — blamed for adding to local chloride levels — is exactly half what it was a year ago.

What was measured as 80 milligrams of chloride in a liter of State Water Project water in 2011 now reads 40 milligrams, said Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which contracts with the state for Northern California water supplies.

“Right now the state water is in the mid-forties,” Masnada said Wednesday. “That’s a reflection of the wet conditions we’ve experienced.

“The chloride content of imported water is lower than the chloride levels in our groundwater.”

The result, according to those monitoring chloride levels at the Ventura County line, is water quality well above the point that would warrant fines as it heads downstream in the Santa Clara River.

Farmers down river from the Santa Clarita Valley demanded reduced levels of chloride in wastewater, saying the naturally occurring salt damages their crops.

“Certainly, the combination of our automatic water softener rebate program and reduced State Water Project chloride levels have helped significantly reduce chloride levels in our effluents,” said Dave Snyder, who calculates chloride content for the Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District of Los Angeles County,

Under the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act of 1969, the state of California assures farmers they have a right to expect uncontaminated water and sets limits — enforced by fines — on specific contaminants such as chloride.

Santa Clarita Valley’s wastewater is treated in one of two plants, then released into the river. The treatment plants were not designed to remove chloride.

One plan for dealing with the issue called for construction of a $500 million reverse-osmosis plant to remove chloride. Santa Clarita Valley Sanitation District customers would have to pick up the tab for the plant.

Drought increases the chloride level in water discharged into the river.

In June 2008, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaimed a period of drought in California and on April 2011 his successor, Jerry Brown, announced the drought was officially over.

But the improvement doesn’t mean Santa Clarita Valley residents are out of the woods yet, Masnada said.

“Let’s say we get another dry period — those levels will rise,” he said.


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