Orange County Water District invests in purchasing additional water for groundwater basin

By on August 4, 2017
Water rights holders may see curtailment orders lifted

The Orange County Water District (OCWD) Board of Directors recently voted to purchase up to an additional 100,000 acre-feet of imported water from the Municipal Water District of Orange County, the local representative of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MET). The decision is an investment to help refill the Orange County Groundwater Basin following the state’s five-year extreme drought.

California’s record-breaking 2016/17 drought-busting winter allowed MET to meet the requested deliveries of member agencies but the still agency encountered the possibility of water from Northern California being lost in spite efforts to store the excess water. To preclude the possible loss MET’s Board of Directors authorized entering into agreements with select member agencies who manage groundwater basins in Southern California including OCWD.

In order to maintaining a water supply portfolio, OCWD has entered into an agreement with MET to purchase an estimated $70 million worth of MET‘s excess water supply.

“MET has water available and we need to purchase it to start refilling the basin, which is currently about 40 percent full,” OCWD President Denis Bilodeau. “We are grateful that the MET board implemented this program to take advantage of the abundant supplies in Northern California, which helps us increase water supplies in our local groundwater basin.”

Terms of the agreement state that OCWD will pay for the water over a period of five years. The cost will be less than the current cost of MET imported water, which is just over $1,000 per acre-foot. The debt has been structured to minimize the estimated future rate increase of OCWD’s member agencies/ groundwater producers.

“Our goal,” said Bilodeau, “is to increase local water supplies in the most economic method possible for our groundwater producers. Staff has met and discussed this agreement at length with the 19 groundwater producers we serve and they are all in agreement with this large purchase of water. It’s hard to put a price on water reliability and we all understand that we are investing in long-term sustainability for the region.”

OCWD’s investments in its infrastructure and the management of its groundwater basin have allowed the Orange County area to weather drought and water supply challenges.

Regarding the agreement with MET, Bilodeau said, “OCWD is extremely diligent in maximizing every possible drop of water. OCWD will negotiate this water purchase agreement in the most cost effective manner possible.”