Storms Aren't Helping Southland's Supply Woes

Even with the powerful storms that have swept through the state, Southern California continues to face significant supply challenges in 2010 and beyond, regional water managers cautioned on Jan. 25.

“These storms may have left many consumers with the misperception that the region’s water supply problems are over. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Metropolitan’s main sources of imported supplies, particularly deliveries from Northern California through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, remain hindered by limitations, Kightlinger said. He pointed to the state Department of Water Resources record-low allocation of 5 percent of State Water Project supplies to Southern California and other areas of the state.

“Although that allocation may be adjusted soon, the Southland and other parts of California must continue to deal with continued shortages because of the effects of three years of statewide drought and the Delta’s deteriorating environmental conditions,” Kightlinger said.

In April, Metropolitan’s Board of Directors will decide the extent of mandatory conservation for the year, when much of the wet season is concluded and when the district has a better handle on available supplies for 2010.

In the face of these seemingly perpetual supply challenges, consumers and businesses must continue to use water as wisely and efficiently as possible.

The Water Replenishment District (WRD), the groundwater management agency in southeast Los Angeles County, reminded residents that the storms haven't solved the state's drought problem.

It is important to note that for the last three years, California has suffered a severe drought that includes sharp curtailment of water from Northern California resulting in serious water conservation measures and the unavailability of imported water for groundwater replenishment.

Groundwater is vital to south Los Angeles County because it is responsible for providing almost half of the water supply to more than 4 million residents, which represents 10 percent of the state’s population.

The region’s groundwater supply is drawn from a number of aquifers that lie beneath the Los Angeles area. The Central and West Coast basins, separated by the Newport Inglewood Uplift, is managed by WRD, whose region includes a 420 square-mile area comprised of 43 cities from the South Bay to Whittier and Monterey Park to Long Beach. The ongoing drought in the region and significant reduction of water from the Delta has meant increased reliance on groundwater to meet the area’s water needs.

“This storm system will help recharge the groundwater table, but it is still not enough to make up for three years of drought. And it’s not enough to make up for the lack of imported water for groundwater replenishment for the past three years,” stated WRD General Manager Robb Whitaker. “That is why WRD is implementing a local, sustainable, and reliable water supply for the region through increased stormwater capture, water recycling and water conservation projects,” concluded Whitaker. A key element of the water package adopted by the Legislature in November is the development of local water supplies in Southern California. Development of local water supplies will help to reduce demand for water imported through the environmentally sensitive Delta.

One example of local sustainable water supplies is the WRD’s Water Independence Now (WIN) program. WIN is a suite of projects designed to completely eliminate our reliance on imported water for groundwater replenishment. WIN will help “drought proof” the region and secure a reliable source of water for south Los Angeles County.

“This large storm event is a good start to the year, but let us not forget that we have to make up for three dry years,” WRD Board President Albert Robles said. “That is why our WIN program is vital to securing our own local water supply future, while providing a significant overall solution to the state’s water supply challenge,” concluded Robles.

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