Unique water deal lets L.A. bypass MWD charges

first_img“It’s clearly limited to just replacing that environmental water, not getting into (new) supply. We made sure those limits are in the agreement.” Under the deal, the DWP can buy 40,000 acre-feet of water on its own each year – enough for 80,000 households. That’s just 6 percent of the city’s total water demand, but it’s needed to help replace 160,000 acre-feet of water the DWP has had to leave in the eastern Sierras to replenish Mono Lake and control dust at Owens Lake. Still, some observers were surprised Thursday by MWD’s willingness to make a concession for the DWP and wondered whether it would prompt other cities to push for similar agreements. “This allows L.A. to go anywhere in California to make deals with cities, counties and farmers to buy water from them. What does Met do now for other member agencies that come to them and say, `Hey, I want to develop an independent source of water’?” said Richard Katz, a consultant and former member of the state Water Resources Control Board. There are some other beneficiaries to the agreement. The DWP connection is the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency service area. The large water wholesaler in the High Desert is looking to create a water bank to store excess water for sale. The ability to move water between the California Aqueduct and the Los Angeles Aqueduct will help in the development of the bank, as well as provide flexibility in case of problems with one of the aqueducts, said agency General Manager Russell Fuller. Aside from the intricacies and politics of water rights, the DWP project is a fairly simple piece of construction. The DWP will build a connection between the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which carries water south from the Owens Valley, and the California Aqueduct, which moves water from the Sacramento Bay Delta south through the Central Valley. The two aqueducts cross in the Antelope Valley, west of Lancaster. There, the DWP will build a pumping station to pipe water from the California Aqueduct channel up 80 feet to the L.A. Aqueduct that runs overhead. That will cost about $2.5 million. With the connection in place by the middle of next year, the DWP will seek bids to buy from water districts in Central and Northern California. The sellers will put a set amount of water into the California Aqueduct, and the DWP will take it out at the Antelope Valley connection. The DWP will pay for the water and pay a fee to the state for use of the California Aqueduct. In the end, the DWP deal marks yet another twist in L.A.’s long pursuit of water for the region. It was former DWP chief Mulholland who, with early city leaders, outmaneuvered a variety of forces and groups to complete construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1913. Buying water rights in the rural Owens Valley and channeling the water south, leaders saturated the San Fernando Valley and provided drinking water for a booming Los Angeles. But the water export devastated the eastern Sierras. After a series of lawsuits, judgments and settlements, Los Angeles has had to leave about one-third of the aqueduct supply – about 160,000 acre-feet a year – in the Owens Valley and Mono Lake. Because of the repairs and water required in Owens Valley, the DWP has had to buy more water from the Metropolitan Water District, which charges about $330 for an acre-foot of untreated water. This year, the DWP will buy 40 percent of its water from MWD at a cost of $117 million. Some observers found irony in the DWP’s pursuit of government-controlled California State Water Project water. “Los Angeles, more than anybody in the state, built its own system and has controlled its own destiny, and at this point it is now taking a dependency on everybody else’s water supply,” said William Kahrl, editor of The California Water Atlas and author of “Water and Power,” a history of Southern California water. But University of California, Davis, sociology professor John Walton sees a glimmer of Mulholland and his partners’ bold ways in the new water deal. “What they did at the turn of the century was fairly unprecedented for a city to reach out that far to get water rights and build an aqueduct. “This sort of perpetuates the DWP tradition of an imperial reach to acquire water.” [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2The agreement comes after years of negotiations between state and local water interests, which had to be assured their water rights would be protected – and that Los Angeles would not become a competitor vying for water on the open market. That was a concern for the MWD, which is the water wholesaler in Southern California and has the exclusive right to serve water delivered through the California Aqueduct. In the past, MWD has resisted attempts by San Diego and other cities to buy water directly from farmers or water districts. But this time, the agency made an exception because Los Angeles is in a unique situation, losing water for environmental repairs in the Owens Valley, said Jeffrey Kightlinger, MWD’s general manager. “We were willing to cooperate and help them with that,” with some caveats, he explained. In a drive for water reminiscent of the days of William Mulholland, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has signed a deal that will allow it to bypass the powerful Metropolitan Water District and buy some water directly from farmers and water districts. Under the agreement, the DWP will be able to make deals with water districts in Northern and Central California, then hook into the California Aqueduct – the state’s main conduit for water transfers – and pump the water into Los Angeles’ supply. The move could save the city up to $4 million a year in MWD service charges, giving residents cheaper and more reliable water deals to replace the water the DWP must leave in the Owens Valley. “It’s a very good deal, but it’s the kind of deal that in the past utilities would not have done. I think it’s an example of innovation and leadership and making sure we can provide water to the people of Los Angeles for the future,” said Mary Nichols, president of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners. last_img

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