Orange County to Get Additional Water-Supply Reliability

Metropolitan Authorized to Sign Storage Agreement

Water-supply reliability was furthered as the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California authorized signing an agreement that will allow the district to store water in the Orange County groundwater basin for use by Orange County residents. The action is equivalent to Metropolitan's approving a sizable new reservoir.

"If this aquifer storage program were a surface reservoir, it would be Metropolitan's third largest," said board Chairman Phillip J. Pace. "This will allow Metropolitan to store conserved water for later use by Orange County residents during dry spells or emergencies, thereby benefiting the entire region."

The $30 million water storage program, in conjunction with the Municipal Water District of Orange County and the Orange County Water District, will provide Metropolitan with storage for 60,000 or more acre-feet in the vast natural, underground aquifer. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, and provides the water needs of two typical families for a year.

"Metropolitan will allocate $15 million of its $45 million share of state Proposition 13 funds toward the cost of building the infrastructure needed for the project," said Ronald R. Gastelum, Metropolitan president and CEO. "In addition, the district will fund $14.8 million of related capital projects."

Stanley E. Sprague, general manager of MWD of Orange County, said: "This is an investment in the groundwater basin that will pay off for both Metropolitan and Orange County. We appreciate the cooperation that has gone into developing this agreement, and we look forward to building on this in future water-management arrangements."

In addition to increasing the amount of water stored locally, the project also will improve the quality of water in the aquifer by helping to repel highly saline seawater, which seeps into depleted aquifers near the coast.

Virginia Grebbian, OCWD general manager, said, "We're very pleased to be a part of a regional partnership with Metropolitan and MWD of Orange County to be able to store water locally for use regionally during dry spells."

The Orange County groundwater storage project is one of eight that Metropolitan has launched recently throughout Southern California. Together, these programs will provide nearly 480,000 acre-feet of new storage space for Metropolitan.

Local storage agreements have been, or are expected to be, signed with

-- Thousand Oaks-based Calleguas Municipal Water District,

-- Long Beach-Central Basin Municipal Water District,

-- Inland Empire Utilities Agency, located in Fontana,

-- Three Valleys Municipal Water District, headquartered in Claremont,

-- Foothill Municipal Water District, located in La Canada,

-- San Diego County Water Authority, and

-- City of Pasadena.

Metropolitan has had groundwater storage agreements with its member public water agencies since the 1950s, but recent developments have increased the importance of groundwater storage.

"It's extremely important that when water is available -- either on the Colorado River Aqueduct or the State Water project -- that we be able to take it in what may be a very short window of opportunity," said Kathy Kunysz, Metropolitan's conjunctive use program manager.

"That means we must have places to put it, and local groundwater basins are perfect for that purpose," she said.

The Orange County facilities are expected to be built and the project operational by 2008.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

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