Southern California agencies partner to bank water for future droughts

Partnership formed to protect surplus water

San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency (SGPWA) will preserve excess water for later use under a one-time water exchange with Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency (AVEK). The historic partnership marks the first time SGPWA has ever stored water outside of the area to secure future supplies.

After an exceptionally wet year, SGPWA delivered more than 20,000 acre-feet locally in 2023, setting a regional record. The Agency’s overall water portfolio is currently around 37,500 acre-feet, after a 100 percent State Water Project (SWP) allocation and more than 5,000 acre-feet of Article 21 water, available to contractors when there is ample extra supply due to wet weather.

“With more than 15,000 acre-feet of carryover water going into 2024, collaborating with AVEK was key to our ability to take full advantage of all the water available in 2023,” said SGPWA General Manager Lance Eckhart. “Safeguarding our surplus now will allow us to maintain a dependable future supply for the 106,000 people we serve in the region.”

Under the agreement, SGPWA will deliver 4,000 acre-feet of water to AVEK’s service area. In exchange, AVEK will return 80 percent of the water to SGPWA by 2033, in years when the allocation is 30 percent or above. There is a five-year extension if any return water remains at the end of the term.

Costs to achieve the water exchange will be shared between SGPWA and AVEK. The total cost of the water exchange is anticipated to be approximately $1.4 million for SGPWA, which is expected to be offset by revenue from the sale of the water when it is returned to the local area or sold to another entity.

“Partnerships between water suppliers will continue to be vital to protecting California’s water supply as we experience future droughts and other possible water shortage situations,” said AVEK General Manager Matt Knudson. “This water exchange benefits customers of both agencies, and we look forward to pursuing additional collaborative opportunities in the years ahead.”

The water exchange with AVEK provides a critical storage solution as SGPWA develops more projects locally and acts to further diversify its water supply. SGPWA is committed to expanding its local recharge capability, including plans to double its water-spreading capacity with the future Brookside West Recharge Facility — a complement to the existing Brookside East Recharge Facility. For more information, visit www.sgpwa.com.

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