by Josh Heath
With half of California’s water storage gone and preliminary discussions about daily water rationing in the works, each drip of the liquid that gives us life has become more vital than ever.
Stepping in to propose a solution to this problem is City Councilmember Bob Kellar. Councilman Kellar is in preliminary talks with community leaders to recycle the water by constructing new piping to get it back to the community.
And send it where? Canyon Country Lake.
Constructing a lake in Canyon Country would entail major engineering, Kellar said, but would, in the end, provide the area with a scenic view, all the while recharging the valley’s aquifers. If such a lake were to be tacked onto the project, it is unknown how long it would take to be constructed.
No details are available about the project at this time, as Kellar stressed that talks are in their beginning stages.
“Anytime we can conserve our water and recharge our aquifers is good public policy,” Kellar said.
George Thomas, owner of Route 66 Classic Grill, is excited about the prospect of Canyon Country getting a lake, and feels it would do a lot to re-invigorate an important area of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Thomas first discovered the wasted water during a bike ride along Bouquet Canyon in the center of town. Looking to his side, he saw a 42-inch pipe gushing out water. Mortified, Thomas made his way to City Hall, where Councilman Kellar informed him of efforts being made to tackle the issue. According to Thomas, a similar pipe exists off of the Old Road on the west side of the 5 freeway.
Sources say it is still too early to say which proposal is more likely and that the simple fact the problem is being addressed is promising.
‘’I’m not an environmentalist, but I realize that you can’t just throw resources away. We have for a very long time, but now the resources are becoming scarce,’’ said Alan Ferdman, president of the Canyon Country Advisory Commitee, a local political group.
The cleaned water is released into the Santa Clara River, due to Federal Law and the fact that the funds to construct the infrastructure needed to recycle it have been hard to obtain.
In total, 20 million gallons are released into the Santa Clara River every day. And 13 million of the gallons are required to be released in the river in order to maintain habitats protected under the endangered species act. It is also meant to ensure that enough water flows downstream to farmers in Fillmore and Ventura, sources said.
An equitable amount of river water must make its way to Sylmar and Ventura, or else members of that community could file suit for an equal portion of those resources, according to Lynne Plambeck, president of SCOPE (Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment), a local environmental group.
Legally called an adjudication, the long and costly process would result in precise water allocations being handed down for both Santa Clarita and the other parties who file suit.
Plambeck, also a member of the Newhall County Water District, voiced her support for a recycling of the 7 million gallons of water, saying that such an action would not receive opposition from the environmental community.
‘’Getting that water back to Santa Claritans is a vital task. It is good we are getting to it,’’ Plambeck said. “But, I think that the best way to do it is to put it back into the upper Santa Clara River and allow it to recharge the water supply wells.”
Governor Jerry Brown, in an executive order this year, called on Californians to conserve their water usage by 20 percent. Recycling those 7 million gallons of water would conserve our water supply by eight percent, putting Santa Clarita halfway in line with the governor’s recommendation with that single action alone.
One big hurdle still in front of recycling the water is the cost of new infrastructure. Dan Masnada, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, stated that 5,000 acre feet of new recycling piping would cost approximately $50 million.
The Castaic Lake Water Agency had a project to recycle the water in the works, but had to delay it due to the agency’s controversial purchase of Valencia Water, according to sources. The move, which cost approximately $70 million, came under fire from members of the community who felt it unethical for the Agency, a water wholesaler, to purchase Valencia Water, a water retailer.
The Castaic Lake Water Agency had previously purchased another local water retailer in 1999, the Santa Clarita Water Agency. In response to this, the California Legislature passed AB 134 in 2001. The law stated that any further expansion of the Castaic Lake Water Agency’s retail services could only come with authorization from the Legislature. Agency officials did not obtain such authorization for their 2012 purchase of Valencia Water, according to sources.
Masnada called such accusations false, saying that regardless of the Valencia Water purchase, the money was simply not available for the project and that if the job was undertaken, consumers would not see
benefits for four to five years.
‘’We are talking huge hikes in consumer water bills with that kind of a project,’’ Masnada said.
Two new development projects, Vista Canyon and Newhall Ranch, will include their own recycling procedures, according to sources close to those plans. Local environmental groups are concerned, regardless of the recycling efficiency of the proposed projects, about where exactly the water will come from to break ground on the developments in the first place.
According to Jim Backer, president of JSB Development, the organization developing the Vista Canyon site, water will be recycled using similar infrastructure that would be needed for the Santa Clara River water. A reclamation plant will be built for the site, which would recycle all the sewer water that would come from the community.
The plant would be so efficient that it would recycle enough water to cover 100 percent of the planned community’s non-potable water needs. All potable water, or water needed for drinking purposes, would come from the Santa Clarita Water Agency.
‘’The only additional resource needed would be the potable water,’’ Backer said.