News Feature | February 19, 2014

Settlement May End Bickering Over Los Angeles Groundwater

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

gavelreg

Water stakeholders in the Los Angeles area recently won court clearance to implement a major plan to share water storage space underground. 

The settlement may put a close to "infighting among the cities and other water utilities dating back to 1999" about groundwater storage, the Whittier Daily News reported

The backdrop: The Water Replenishment District (WRD) "manages groundwater for nearly four million residents in 43 cities of Southern Los Angeles County," according to the organization. 

WRD has long sought "to limit pumping in the basin, generally covering southern Los Angeles County, to halt over-pumping and thus diminishing the basin's limited ground water supply," the Los Angeles Wave reported.

"A 1965 court decision allocated cities and private providers with a limited amount of water, measured in acre feet, which they could pump out in a year. A 1991 amendment allowed pumpers to carry over to the following year their unused water allocation," the Wave said. 

The problem? "Storage was not involved" in those decisions, the report said. 

Under the new plan, water stakeholders will now have clearer guidance. 

"A Superior Court judge approved a plan which cleared the way for water utilities in Southeast Los Angeles County and the Water Replenishment District (WRD) to share the underground basin to store water," the Daily News said. 

What will the new plan look like?

"WRD replenishes that water through purchases or reliance on storm water.This new plan will allow the use of 330,000 acre feet of water for storage by WRD and the many water utilities and others with water rights in the basin," the report said. 

"WRD will be allowed the use of 110,000 acre feet to recapture storm water or other sources. Another 108,750 acre feet will be used for storage by those with water rights. They will be granted space on a proportional basis," the report said. 

The final third of water space will be provided "as part of a community storage pool, giving a priority to those with smaller amounts of water rights." 

Decision guidelines are part of the deal, as well. "A Storage Panel consisting of the Water Rights Panel and WRD Board of Directors will review proposals for regional storage," the report said. 

Water stakeholders in the area previously did not have clear guidance about groundwater storage. The compromise plan "would for the first time establish rules for ground water storage and how it would be managed," the Daily News said

"Annually, numerous water utilities pump nearly 217,000 acre feet of water. An acre foot, 326,000 gallons, can be visualized as a football field submerged in one foot of water," the Daily News said. 

Image credit: "Gavel & Stryker," © 2008 KeithBurtis, used under a Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

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