Adequate water supplies are essential to the Antelope Valley and its future, an issue the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency is working to ensure.
“Water is a very vital issue and it’s very important for the growth of the region. We take that responsibility … very seriously,” AVEK General Manager Dwayne Chisam said during the Antelope Valley Economic Development and Growth Enterprise Semi-Annual Fall Forum, Wednesday.
AVEK is water wholesaler and supplies water to other providers, such as Los Angeles County Waterworks and Quartz Hill Water District. Its own supplies come from a combination of groundwater and water from the State Water Project, delivered through the California Aqueduct.
The pumping water from the underlying water basin is subject to limits set by a 2015 judgment.
With that, about 56% of AVEK’s supply is through groundwater pumped from local wells, 30% is from the State Water Project, and the remainder from the runoff behind the Littlerock Dam and recycled water supplies, Chisam said.
This year, the drought has caused AVEK’s allocation from the State Water Project to drop to only 5% of its total allowed.
“One of the reasons this drought is particularly disturbing versus other droughts is the fact that even with a normal snowpack, we weren’t able to get the kind of runoff that we have anticipated over the last 70, 80 years,” Chisam said.
Much of the Sierra snowpack the state relies on for water was absorbed into the burn areas this year, rather than running off into rivers and reservoirs.
“For 2022, it looks even worse,” Chisam said, with the potential for the State Water Project allocation to drop to zero. “That has a pretty significant impact.”
To maximize its water resources, AVEK has established water banks, in which water is stored underground. Water from the State Water Project is stored during years when the supply is greater than needed, to be used during dry years.
At this point, the agency’s water banks contain 70,000 acre-feet of water, enough to meet two to three years’ demand.
An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, or approximately the amount of water a typical Antelope Valley household used in one year, before the most recent drought-reduced usage.
“We’re constantly looking for more and innovative ways which to utilize the traits that we have here in the Antelope Valley, the open spaces to be able to bank water for not only our use, but for other state water contractors,” Chisam said.
To stretch to precious resource during this exceptional drought, the state has called for a voluntary 15% reduction in water use.
“Quite frankly, we haven’t seen that type of reduction that’s going to be necessary,” Chisam said.
Water officials anticipate that mandatory conservation requirements will be imposed “very soon,” he said.
Water agencies in the region have pulled together in the Antelope Valley Conservation Round Table, meeting monthly to cooperate in public outreach on conservation methods.
“Fortunately, our long-term outlook looks pretty good,” Chisam said, based on the agency’s Urban Water Management Plan. “We will still have our drought issues that we will still have to address through our water banking, but in the long-term basis, the Antelope Valley is looking pretty good.”
The plan is based on a predicted demand in 2025 of about 44,400 acre-feet per year, increasing to about 57,000 acre-feet in 2045.
To ensure supplies in any given year, AVEK is constantly seeking out means to diversify its supplies, Chisam said.