Desert’s Water Supply Approaches Historic Low
By Gary George
In early 2014 all of California was declared to be in a severe drought and for the first time ever, a zero water allocation was declared. Is anyone worried about turning on the tap and not getting water?
Approximately 45 people attended a tour offered by the Mojave Water Agency in Apple Valley on November 13. Here’s the basic facts as laid out by the agency’s general manager, Kirby Brill.
Two-thirds of California’s population is in it’s southern portion. Two-thirds of our water supply, rain and snow, falls in the northern part of the state. Most of our water comes from increasingly infrequent storm events. Water must be transported from the north to the south.
The California State Water Project (SWP) was formed to distribute water, the supply of which varies greatly in amount from year to year depending upon precipitation. The Mojave Water Agency is one of 29 state water contractors that pays to get that water. It serves a 5000 square mile area and has around 500,000 people. Its main goal is to resupply our aquifers or ground basins which holds our water supply.
Our area’s rain and snow is a natural recharge for our aquifers, making up about a third of the water needed to resupply them. For the other two-thirds, we depend upon the SWP to bring us an artificial recharge, water from the north.
Our natural recharge comes from the Mojave River, Deep Creek and West Fork Mojave River. The last two are at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains. The Mojave River Dam is nearby and the open hole in the bottom makes sure its water is constantly filtering through the sand and gravel that makes up our soil and recharging our ground basins.
Our conservation as individuals reduces reliance on imported supplies and stretches local supplies. The daily per capita use has declined from 271 gallons per day in 2000 to 172 in 2013. 7 million square feet of grass has been rid of through the ongoing Cash For Grass programs. Still, 60-70% of our water use is still used for landscaping.
Drought and increase in population has moved the level in our aquifers downward and that level is approaching the historic low set in 1977.
Town meetings on their proposed water rate increase held several months ago by the Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. drew several hundred people, most of them outraged. Citizens told stories of how they conserved water only to have their bills go up. Indeed, the company’s represenative said that people had reduced their water usage by 32%. But the company is guarranteed an 8% profit margin. So water rates go up. Wall Street indicates that water companies are selling the gold of the future. Larger companies are gobbling up smaller companies.
Regardless of the price, it seems we must conserve just to have water available. How bad might it get? The Mojave Water Agency is figuring on a 2.7% per year population increase for the entire district. By the year 2045 the water supply will become “imbalanced.”
As Water Conservation Manager Nick Schneider advised the tour group about their grass, “If you only step on your lawn to mow it, you don’t need it.”
Region Receives $10.1 Million in Water Grant Funds for Projects in Hesperia, Yucca Valley, and Region-wide
From Press Release
Three projects in the Mojave Desert region are the recipients of grants totaling $10.1 million from the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Proposition 84 Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Fund program. They include a region-wide conservation program, the Hesperia Reclaimed Water Distribution System, and the Hi-Desert Capital Water Main Replacement Program in Yucca Valley, announced the Mojave Water Agency (MWA) today.
The IRWM grant funds are part of legislation that Governor Brown signed last March to assist drought-affected communities and provide funding to better use local water supplies. Statewide, $221 million was awarded to various projects. The three local projects in the region that received funding were selected by involved citizens and stakeholders from a multitude of potential projects that are included in the region’s 2014 updated Integrated Regional Water Management plan.
Beverly Lowry, MWA Board President said, “This is excellent news. The two capital projects are integral to the region’s long-term water supply that includes the use of reclaimed water, and the new conservation funding will ensure we continue to save every drop of water we can.”
The City of Hesperia Recycled Water Pipeline project is a 10-mile pipeline that will begin at the new Victor Valley Wastewater Regional Authority’s Sub-regional Recycled Water Facility and will terminate at the Hesperia Golf Course. The total cost for this project is estimated to be $14.6 million.
“Hesperia is pleased to be the recipient of a $2 million grant from the Department of Water Resources for our Recycled Water Pipeline Project,” said Mike Podegracz, Hesperia City Manager. “Mojave Water Agency was instrumental during the application process for this grant and we are proud that this inter-agency collaboration will help to build vital recycled water infrastructure in our community.”
The Hi-Desert Water District’s $7.254 million project involves replacing more than 100,000 feet of old 4-inch to 12-inch steel water mains, and serves as the initial phase of the District’s planned wastewater treatment plant.
“This project will improve water quality and reliability, increase fire flow, and eliminate all leaks in the area,” said Ed Muzik, General Manager of Hi-Desert Water District.
In addition to the two capital projects, the Mojave Water Agency will receive $922,000 to fund its new Large Scale Cash for Grass Program. Since 2008, the Agency has run a successful residential turf removal program that offers residents a rebate of 50 cents a square foot for turf removed. The new program will offer $1 per square foot for turf removed for large scale commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential projects.
In previous funding cycles, the Mojave region secured some $8 million in IRWM Plan funding for water conservation projects and groundwater recharge projects. Neighboring planning regions such as Antelope and Coachella Valleys also were successful in this round of grants. Representatives from the Mojave region and the Antelope and Coachella Valleys worked together to develop a grant submittal plan to ensure critical projects in each of the areas that received funding. In the past, regions competed against one another with the result of some regions receiving no grant funding.
Lance Eckhart, MWA Principal Geologist, who participated in the collaborative grant submittal said, “We continue to see the fruits of collaboration. That’s the key to successfully ensuring a sustainable water supply.”
Water Issues Are Subject of Educational Series by MWA
By Katrina Siverts
The Mojave Water Agency is offering an educational series to the general public, entitled “The ABCs of Water.” With titles like “Straight Talk on the Drought” to “What’s Really in My Drinking Water?” these presentations offer a good way for people living in the Mojave Desert to get answers to their questions about their water situation.
The Mojave Water Agency is one of 29 State Water Contractors and is responsible for managing the region’s water resources.
The presentations generally start out with a slide show of material to be covered, and also some news clips from TV news and newspapers.
During the presentation about the drought, one headline said some people in northern California were “bathing in buckets,” due to lack of availability of water in their area.
Could this happen here? Although water in the Mojave aquifer has been in steep decline for the past few years, it as of yet has not reached historic lows.
Tony Winkel, Senior Hydrogeologist for MWA used some large charts posted on the wall to explain the situation. They showed hydrographs of the Mojave River and depths needed to reach water in different areas. Also, that in some areas the water is actually rising.
The MWA is constantly studying the aquifer and comparing it with historical data to plan for the future.
To view these graphs visit: www.mojavewater.org/upper-mojave-river-hydrology.html
Call the MWA at (760) 946-7000 to sign up for presentations in this educational series.