Southern California's Metropolitan Program Takes Advantage of Every Opportunity to Store Water

Oct. 12, 2005
Board Authorizes First Agreement with Orange County Agencies

One of the wettest winters on record has created a unique opportunity for Southern California -- where to store all the water? Under a program adopted by Metropolitan Water District's Board of Directors, local agencies will be offered additional financial incentives to store available water supplies in Southern California reservoirs and groundwater basins.

Last winter's rain and snow pack created the kind of storage opportunity long advocated by Metropolitan, Southern California's wholesale provider of imported water. Metropolitan has already filled its own reservoirs and has fully exercised storage in the district's groundwater accounts in Southern California and other parts of the state.

"The hallmark of efficient water management is to take advantage and store supplies when they're available, particularly during wet years, for dry times and droughts," said Metropolitan board chairman Wes Bannister.

"The record Southland storms we've experienced and above-average conditions in the watersheds feeding our supplies imported from Northern California and the Colorado River have given us the opportunity to store even more this year," Bannister said. "We're now looking at every spare acre and inch in Southern California as a potential storage spot."

Under the approved program, the Municipal Water District of Orange County and the Orange County Water District will be the first to take advantage of discounted rates to purchase and store water in the 2005-06 fiscal year.

Metropolitan expects to execute similar agreements with other MWD member public agencies to store as much as 50,000 ac-ft in local reservoirs and groundwater basins in 2005-06. An ac-ft of water is nearly 326,000 gal, about the amount used by two typical Southland families in and around their homes in a year.

Dennis Underwood, Metropolitan's chief executive officer/general manager, noted that calendar year 2005 is the second-wettest on record in Southern California, driving down demands for MWD's imported supplies.

In addition, rain and snow-pack levels were above average in the Feather River and southern Sierra watersheds of the State Water Project as well as the Colorado River system. As a result, Metropolitan's state project water allocation has been set at 90%, and the district's Colorado River supplies are higher than anticipated.

"To take advantage of these abundant supplies, we've capitalized on all of our existing storage options inside and outside our service area," Underwood said. "This new program allows us to creatively supplement storage accounts in Southern California to ensure we make the most of all the available water this year."

The program will offer MWD's member agencies a discounted rate to purchase and store additional supplies from Metropolitan, above what the agency had already planned to store this year. The water, which would be stored for up to six years, would be made available at Metropolitan's call.

"We hope that other Metropolitan member agencies can participate in this opportunity, which offers the region another degree of reliability in meeting the challenges of our water future," said Ed Royce, Sr., president of MWDOC's Board of Directors.

Philip L. Anthony, president of OCWD's Board of Directors, said, "We're pleased that Metropolitan has developed a program that allows storage of surplus water supplies in Southern California groundwater basins and reservoirs. In future emergencies and droughts, the entire region will benefit by having these supplies stored in our own backyard."

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 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 water-management programs.

Source: Metropolitan Water District of Southern California