Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Reclamation Authority Undertaking Pipeline Study

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority last week committed $449,100 toward determining the most efficient and affordable route and realistic approach toward right-of-way acquisition for the pipeline it is to construct to bring in water to mitigate the drought in the West Mojave Desert region that includes northwesternmost San Bernardino County.
In 2015, in the aftermath of a four-year running drought and a determination by the California Department of Water Resources that the Indian Wells Valley is one of the 21 basins throughout the State of California in critical overdraft, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority was formed, pursuant to a joint exercise of powers agreement involving Kern County, San Bernardino County, Inyo County, the City of Ridgecrest and the Indian Wells Valley Water District as general members and the United States Navy and the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management as associate members.Previously, in 2014, Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, mandating water-saving measures throughout the state and requiring local agencies to draft plans to bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge through the adoption of a groundwater sustainability plan.
Based upon a survey of water usage patterns undertaken by an engineering consultant, Carlsbad-based Stetson Engineers, the authority and the Indian Wells Valley Water District sought to derive a strategy for both reducing water use in the valley and increasing groundwater recharge to reach a balance of both that will end the overdraft.
Any realistic assessment of the existing population, industrial, agricultural and commercial operations in the area and the decreases in the drafting of water from the regional aquifer that could be achieved through efficientization, conservation, increased recycling of water and perhaps the minimization of evaporation demonstrated that it would not be possible to achieve by the target year of 2040, as is mandated by the state, a balance of natural water recharge to the region from rainfall and the amount of water usage, such that the depletion of the aquifer will end. According to the surveys completed to provide the data needed to formulate the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Sustainability Plan, the average natural annual recharge in the basin is 7,650 acre-feet while the annual drafting of groundwater in the region by all entities is three to four times that amount.
Accordingly, staff and the board of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority long ago concluded that the sought-after goal of bringing the region’s water table out of a state of overdraft can only be achieved by the importation of water from outside the valley and injecting it deep into the ground to avoid evaporation and replenish water lost from excessive production.
More than two years ago, after the survey of water use by well owners both collectively and individually was made, the authority assigned water use allowances to the region’s well owners. Excess use fees, referred to as augmentation fees, were formulated for application to those well owners who pump above their allowances as well as on farmers who go beyond their respective share of the water supply set aside for agricultural usage. The authority intends to use money generated in this way to purchase imported water and pay for the infrastructure needed to bring in the imported water.
That water will very likely come from the State Water Project. An issue, however, is that there is no means of conveyance of water that would come out of the California Aqueduct to Indian Wells Valley, meaning a pipeline will need to be constructed.
On July 22, at a specially called meeting, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Board unanimously approved entering into an agreement with Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group for the preparation of an imported water pipeline alignment study.
Provost & Pritchard indicated it could carry out that assignment for $449,100.
According to Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Acting General Manager Carol Thomas-Keefer, a $7.6 million state grant the authority has obtained to do planning and design toward a water importation/water source interconnection project can be used to pay for the work Provost & Pritchard is to carry out. The grant is usable toward design, environmental work, right-of-way acquisition, infrastructure preparation and anything reasonably related to constructing a water importation pipeline.
-Mark Gutglueck

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