New infrastructure investments, partnerships address drought and climate change
With extreme drought highlighting the vulnerability of some Southern California communities, Metropolitan Water District is pursuing additional actions to help ensure all its service area has the water it needs to withstand this year’s severe dry conditions and the impacts of climate change.
Metropolitan’s Board of Directors today voted to approve infrastructure investments, water transfer options and alternate delivery programs to improve resiliency and preserve limited State Water Project supplies for member agencies in the western portions of its service area that depend most on this drought-stricken water source, including parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
“We are now in the third year of a severe drought that is challenging our mission to ensure every community in Southern California has the same level of water reliability,” said Metropolitan board Chairwoman Gloria D. Gray. “We have taken several steps to improve water reliability in areas that depend on the State Water Project over the past two years, and our latest actions will build on those efforts. As we pursue these projects, we need everyone to keep saving as much water as possible.”
Southern California gets on average 30 percent of its water from the northern Sierra via the State Water Project, but drought has severely limited these water supplies over the last three years. While much of the region can turn to Colorado River water, water stored in Metropolitan’s Diamond Valley Lake or their own local supplies to meet demands, some communities aren’t physically connected to the Colorado River supply or DVL and have limited local supplies, leaving them much more challenged by the state’s severe drought conditions.
Capital Investment Plan Improvements
Metropolitan’s board today approved a proposal to incorporate several potential infrastructure projects into its Capital Investment Plan to explore how to boost operational flexibility and water delivery capabilities so SWP-dependent agencies in the western portion of its service can access other sources of water. As part of the action, the board also authorized $700,000 in funding to conduct a feasibility analysis to examine projects that could include local water supply development, groundwater or surface water storage, and interconnecting infrastructure between agencies to increase the flexibility of water systems.
Metropolitan also will examine the feasibility of expanding its Greg Avenue Pump Station to increase the capacity of Colorado River water and water stored in Diamond Valley Lake that could be pumped to SWP-dependent areas, and building new pumping facilities along its Sepulveda Feeder to push Colorado River water and DVL supplies further into the western portion of its service area.
The action follows projects in the eastern portion of Metropolitan’s system that were incorporated into the CIP in December 2021 to support reliability for agencies in the SWP dependent areas.
“All of these projects will improve our water delivery system to be more resilient, integrated and flexible so that we can quickly adapt to challenging conditions, including future droughts,” said Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil. “We are one region, so when we invest in our infrastructure, all of Southern California benefits.”
As it has done in past years, the board authorized an agreement to pursue potential water exchanges with other agencies in the Sacramento Valley to access additional SWP water supplies in 2022. Under this agreement, Metropolitan would be able to negotiate to purchase up to 100,000 acre-feet of additional water supplies to mitigate the low SWP allocation this year.
Reverse Cyclic Program
Demonstrating the commitment of the region to working together, the Reverse Cyclic Program, approved by the board, allows member agencies to purchase certain SWP supplies in 2022, but defer deliveries to a future wet year. The program would help preserve SWP supplies for member agencies that have an immediate need in extreme dry years, while still providing planned revenue to Metropolitan this year, and a commitment by Metropolitan to deliver the supplies to participating agencies within five years.
“Our staff has been working tirelessly to develop innovative programs and projects to strengthen reliability for our member agencies that are more dependent on State Water Project supplies, and we are not done,” Hagekhalil said. “We continue to investigate all available options – that means working together with our member agencies to develop new, local supplies and storage -2- and building on our progress in conservation. Climate change will continue to constrain our supplies in the years ahead, so we also will continue to seek state and federal investment in our region’s water supply reliability so that Southern California can continue thriving.”
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative that, along with its 26 cities and retail suppliers, provide water for 19 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.