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As much of the nation continues to look to groundwater as a source of water to meet rising demand, California's Orange County Water District Board voted last week to take steps to minimize its use of groundwater. With an eight to two vote, the board reduced the amount of groundwater provided to its water retailers in north and central Orange County.
The Orange County Water District manages and protects the huge groundwater basin underlying north and central Orange County that supplies more than half of the water needs for 2.3 million California residents.
The vote cut the amount of groundwater pumped from 75 percent to 66 percent of the water retailers total demand and increased the cost of groundwater from $127 per acre foot to $149 per acre foot. According to the board, this move will translate into a 10 percent increase for some water retailers or an additional $1.50 to $2.00 on the average monthly residential water bill.
"To get this point, we have cut our proposed annual budget $4 million and continue to examine possible reductions in other areas before the final budget is approved in June," said Denis Bilodeau, board president. "We will continue to place our highest priority on providing high quality drinking water in order to continue to maintain a healthy groundwater basin and water supply."
The board explained its actions as needed to address the county's low groundwater levels and continuing seawater intrusion. It reduced the amount of groundwater available to its water retailers and increased the cost of groundwater to buy more water to begin filling the basin after four years of drought in Southern California.
Board member hope that the lowering the amount of groundwater use and the shift of water pumping in the basin inward away from the coast, will hold back seawater intrusion.
The water authority has already begun to implement a new "zero-based" basin management strategy that links the amount of future groundwater use with guaranteed replenishment water available and its capability to put that water into deep aquifers.
The United States now pumps 28 trillion gallons of groundwater every year.