California: Demand threatens water supply : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Tuesday, December 12, 2000 Demand threatens water supply Efforts are under way to have agencies in the San Jacinto Valley join together to conserve and find inexpensive sources.

By Karin Marriott The Press-Enterprise

If water consumption in the San Jacinto Valley continues at its current rate, the aquifers that provide most of the water to the area are at risk of running dry, according to water district officials.

Without a plan to manage water consumption and the aquifers, the area could be left without local water and customers would face increased fees for water, according to P. "Ravi" Ravishanker, assistant general manager for resource development and research for the Eastern Municipal Water District.

Over the last several years, the demand for water has exceeded what is considered ideal for the aquifers, Ravishanker said.

Agencies have used about 60,000 acre-feet of water a year, 10,000 more than preferred, Ravishanker said. An acre-foot of water is enough to serve eight people for one year.

If the aquifers run dry, Eastern would have to spend several million dollars installing pipelines to pump water into the area, passing the cost on to customers, he said.

"It's very serious in the sense that . . . most of the water supply (in the San Jacinto Valley) comes from that area," Ravishanker said.

"The water agencies can continue to use the water and ultimately the water table . . . will dry up."

On Wednesday, Ravishanker will recommend the Eastern Municipal Water District board join together with other water agencies in the valley to create a plan to conserve water and find inexpensive imported water to recharge the basins each year.

Eastern serves between 9,000 and 10,000 customers in the valley. Water from the local aquifers is also tapped by the cities of Hemet, San Jacinto and the Lake Hemet Municipal Water District and private well owners.

Aquifers in the area have the capacity to hold between 600,000 and 700,000 acre-feet of water. Ravishanker said he does not know how much water is currently in the basin.

Since the 1950s, the water level in the San Jacinto basin has dropped from about 50 feet below ground level to more than 200 feet. The Hemet basin has dropped from 120 feet to about 220 in the same time period, Ravishanker said.

The demand for water will increase as the area's population, which is expected to double to 200,000 in the next 20 years, grows, according to Eastern's documents.

While the water agency officials involved still must devise a plan, they may have to curb water consumption by about 30 percent, Ravishanker said. The agencies will also have to import water to recharge the basins each year.

The Lake Hemet Municipal Water District has been discussing the issue since the early 1990s, said General Manager Rob Lindquist Jr.

He said he supports working with the other agencies to develop a plan that will be fair to all those involved.

"It needs to be done as soon as possible," Lindquist said. "Who can say how far you can go before you jeopardize the basin? The basin could collapse (if too much water is used) and would limit ground water storage ability."

The cities of Hemet and San Jacinto have already been discussing the shortage of water in the aquifers and trying to find a solution.

Without a reliable and inexpensive source of water, building and growth will not take place, San Jacinto Mayor Patrick Williams said.

He said all of the agencies using the basins must cooperate to create a plan to manage water use.

"They are serious challenges, but they are manageable," Williams said.

The meeting will be at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Eastern Municipal Water District office, 2270 Trumble Road, Perris

-- Martin Thompson (, December 12, 2000

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