Cool, clear water: AV officials work to protect valuable supply

Conservation projects underway

Merdies Hayes | 11/21/2014, midnight
Although much of California remains parched as big cities and little towns devise plans to find and/or conserve water, the ...
Cover Desgin by Andrew Nunez

Although much of California remains parched as big cities and little towns devise plans to find and/or conserve water, the Antelope Valley is managing its way through the drought with relative ease. That’s not to say that water conservation is a low priority, but this section of northern Los Angeles County undertook measures years ago to manage its water affairs which apparently are paying off under the latest statewide restrictions.

The Antelope Valley has a vast reservoir of wells, called naturally the Antelope Valley Groundwater Basin (AVGB). To better serve a population expected to exceed 600,000 residents by 2020, the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency (AVEK) is anticipating the construction of three potable groundwater wells to connect the existing Los Angeles County Waterworks District (LACWWD) turnout (connection) at the northeast corner of West Avenue H and 80th Street West in Lancaster. The completed project will allow the AVEK to provide an additional supply of water to meet demands during periods of below average allocation of imported water from the State Water Project (SWP). The wells may supply a needed emergency supply of water because the transmission piping will connect into the turnout for the LACWWD, which is one of the AVEK’s largest customers.

Also, the Palmdale Recycled Water Authority has introduced a new Recycled Water Facilities Plan in which wastewater collection/treatment can be better monitored with the addition of two new treatment plants in Palmdale and another just across Avenue M in Lancaster. Each plant will facilitate storm runoff to provide more water for agriculture. The new plants are important advances in capturing more water for agricultural and industrial use, while leaving the many wells within the AVGB available for households. The Lancaster water reclamation project provides most of the agricultural water for the region, and also supplies water for a 200-acre wetlands wildlife refuge as well as maintaining the water level at Lancaster’s Apollo Community Regional Park which has a lake.

Because the Antelope Valley is a closed basin with no ocean outlet, treated wastewater either evaporates, is reused, or infiltrates into the groundwater basin itself. The Los Angeles County Sanitation District (LACSD) is in charge of wastewater treatment; its plan for the two new facilities is to reduce the amount of recycled water that it provides for agriculture and possibly use the savings for industrial and city maintenance applications. Until that happens, the recycled water must be disposed of via agricultural irrigation.

Upgrades to Palmdale Water Plant

The LACSD has completed upgrades and expansions at the Palmdale Water Reclamation Plant, resulting in increases in the future availability of recycled water. Next year, the plant expects 15,000 AFY (acres feet per year) of recycled water for agricultural use. When the Palmdale Hybrid Power Plant goes online in 2017, it will use about 3,400 AFY of recycled water for its cooling system. The plant will be serviced by a portion of the Recycled Water Backbone System which is in the design process headed by the City of Palmdale and Waterworks No. 40, the latter being a statewide governmental body that prescribes regulations that limit the amount of contaminants in water provided by public water systems. There is also the potential to use a blend of imported and recycled water to recharge the AVGB at Littlerock Creek and/or Amargosa Creek. The City of Palmdale, the AVEK, Waterworks No. 40 and the Palmdale Water District are all hoping to come up with a plan to recharge imported water at the Amargosa Creek. The aforementioned “Backbone System” will allow recycled water from both the new Lancaster and Palmdale reclamation plants to be used throughout the region. So far, portions of the Backbone System have been built by both Lancaster and Palmdale as well as Waterworks No. 40.