Coachella Valley to Increase Water Charge

Coachella Valley's largest consumers of local groundwater soon will be paying a little more to help offset the costs of replenishing the aquifer's supply of water.

Only those who pump more than 25 acre-feet of water (an acre-foot is a little less than 326,000 gallons) annually will be directly affected by increases in the replenishment assessment charges that recently were approved unanimously by Coachella Valley Water District's Board of Directors.

Replenishment is a key component of the district's Groundwater Management Plan for California's Coachella Valley along with conservation and substituting other sources for groundwater -- such as recycled or imported water.

Because of the plan, groundwater tables in Palm Desert are expected to drop only 20 feet between 1999 and 2035, instead of 200 feet, which is what may occur without district management efforts.

Effective July 1, golf courses, several resorts, school districts, agriculture, water providers---including the district, Indio Water Authority and the city of Coachella--utilities and other government entities within the boundaries of the water district will be billed a replenishment assessment charge that will be $2.11 to $7.24 higher per acre foot than current fees.

Water agencies, in turn, divide their replenishment assessment charge among their customers, which, at least with respect to the district, adds only a few cents every month to the typical domestic water bill.

Replenishment of the aquifer in the Upper Whitewater River Subbasin Area of Benefit, which encompasses a significant portion of western Coachella Valley, began in 1973 and is entering its 29th year. More than 2 million acre feet of water have been returned to the aquifer at recharge ponds near Windy Point, west of Palm Springs.

The replenishment assessment charge for this area was increased 2.3 percent, to $93.78 an acre-foot. Most of the replenishment assessment charge is to offset certain costs associated with importing State Water Project Water to the Coachella Valley. The water is exchanged for Colorado River water from Metropolitan Water District, but expenses are those associated with importing the much more costly State Water Project water.

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