On the heels of an important Colorado River water-sharing deal that took seven years to negotiate, a new reality in Southern California water continued to take shape as Metropolitan Water District's board of directors made a series of long-term investments that broaden the region's reliability options.
"The days of Southern California being solely dependent on imported supplies from the Colorado River and Northern California to meet demands during a drought are over," said Metropolitan Chief Executive Officer Ronald R. Gastelum.
In separate actions, Metropolitan's board authorized agreements with Kern County and Mojave water agencies for groundwater banking and exchange programs that will preserve more than 44 billion gallons of water in 2003 and 2004; created a new incentive for business and industry to invest in weather- and satellite-controlled irrigation systems; accepted $4.6 million in state funds for planned conservation programs throughout the Southland; and extended the district's advertising campaign for its comprehensive region-wide public outreach and outdoor water-savings program.
Metropolitan's board authorized Gastelum to enter into agreements with the North Kern Water Storage District and Mojave Water Agency for groundwater banking and exchange programs, allowing Metropolitan to store a total of up to 135,000 acre-feet and take full delivery of its 2003 State Water Project supplies.
The North Kern program calls for Metropolitan to store as much as 60,000 acre-feet of water in a large groundwater basin underlying portions of Kern County. North Kern will return up to 30,000 acre-feet annually in subsequent years. (An acre-foot is nearly 326,000 gallons, about the amount of water used by two typical Southland families in and around their households in a year.)
Under the agreement with Mojave, a public water agency and state project contractor serving imported water to the high desert in San Bernardino County, Metropolitan will deliver up to 75,000 acre-feet of its SWP water to Mojave in 2003 and 2004. Mojave will return Metropolitan's water through an exchange of Mojave's state project supplies.
"Metropolitan commends North Kern and Mojave for their cooperation in putting these partnerships together. These agreements show what can be accomplished when agencies with similar goals work together and achieve mutually beneficial programs," Gastelum said.
"With these investments, Metropolitan will have more than 2.5 million acre-feet of water in storage available for use by the end of 2003. To put that in perspective, that's equivalent to the region's total imported water demands in a critically dry year," he said.
"Under the new reality, more than half the region's demand is met through conservation, recycling, and other forms of self-reliance, in addition to local supplies," Gastelum added.
Metropolitan's board actions come just days after officials from Metropolitan, San Diego County Water Authority, Imperial Irrigation District and Coachella Valley Water District signed the documents comprising the 75-year Quantification Settlement Agreement for the Colorado River.
Expanding the range of Metropolitan's conservation resources offered in cooperation with the district's 26 member agencies, the district's board established a new incentive for commercial, industrial and institutional customers to purchase and install weather-based irrigation -- or evapotranspiration (ET) -- controllers. These self-adjusting controllers use a variety of technologies, including satellite signaling and historical weather data, to respond to changes in weather and season.
The new incentive offers businesses, which typically have landscapes larger than the average residence, $5.50 per commercial-grade irrigation station purchased. Metropolitan currently offers residential customers through its public member agencies an incentive of $65 per controller, which generally operate up to 12 stations.
In a related action, the board accepted state grants for three water-saving projects, including $1.7 million to provide additional funding on top of Metropolitan incentives for ET controllers. A $2.5 million state grant supplements Metropolitan's $35 incentive for residents to purchase high-efficiency clothes washers, offered through MWD's member agencies. Another $350,000 state grant will be coupled with Metropolitan funding to install treatment technology that recirculates process water at a metal plating plant in Orange County.
Metropolitan's board also appropriated another $500,000 to extend through January an ongoing advertising campaign centered on the district's region-wide outdoor water-use efficiency outreach program. Authorized by the board in November 2002, the program combines public relations and advertising to encourage reductions in outdoor water use through more efficient irrigation and use of native, drought-tolerant plants in landscapes.
For more information on the Metropolitan programs and projects that define a new water reality for Southern California, visit the district's Web site, www.mwdh2o.com.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 18 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.