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Local agency looks to buy 3.7M bath tubs of water

Yuba County selling water under settlement.

Posted: March 26, 2008 1:28 a.m.
Updated: May 27, 2008 5:02 a.m.
There's a sale on water right now in Yuba County, and local water officials are expected to take full advantage of the deal.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency Board of Directors is tonight expected to endorse a plan to buy about 850 acre-feet of water - enough to fill more than 3.7 million bath tubs - at a price of between $50 and $125 an acre-foot. The wide price range is due to availability and the cost of moving that much water from Yuba County, north of Sacramento, to the Santa Clarita Valley.

Local water resource officials at the agency began eyeing the available water - which is not part of the water normally supplied to Santa Clarita Valley - as a security investment that would offset any shortage of water in times of drought.

"This is favorably priced water," Dirk S. Marks, the agency's water resources manager, said Tuesday. "It's a good deal, given the nature of the supply. This is a dry year water supply. The price is good compared to buying this water from other places."

The Yuba water package became available to agencies such as the Castaic Lake Water Agency as the result of a settlement agreement between the California Department of Water Resources, the Yuba County Water Agency and the Bureau of Reclamation.

If the board endorses the recommendation made by its water resources committee, the Yuba supply will allow the Castaic Lake Water Agency to keep the water it has already set aside in storage for times of drought in Santa Clarita Valley.

"It's particularly important to us that this water supply is available to us in drier years," Marks explained. "Rather than pulling water out of our bank account, we use their water and save what we have in storage."
The amount of water delivered to Santa Clarita from Yuba depends on how much is available as a result of that county's hydrology for any given season - meaning how wet or dry the season turns out to be. It also depends on how many other water agencies affiliated with the State Water Project take advantage of the same opportunity.

The water supply in Yuba County became available when Yuba was required to revitalize the Yuba River environment and enhance its fisheries, all as part of its settlement agreement with the State Water Resources Control Board. As a result of the settlement, the Yuba County Water Agency offered to sell a portion of the water it was expected to release for those fishery enhancements, and also offered to sell water released by opening its storage reservoirs. Under the terms of its agreement with the state water board, Yuba County would transfer tens of thousands of acre-feet of water to agencies signing up for the deal.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency is entitled to about two percent of the water made available.


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