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Castaic Lake’s long launch ramp means it’s time to conserve water

Posted: July 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.

If you’ve been to Castaic Lake recently, you may have noticed you’re seeing a lot more of the launch ramp than usual. These days, that launch ramp is loooooong.

The reason for this apparent stretching is, of course, obvious: There’s a lot less water in the lake than is normally the case. The “normal” water line is visible, ringing the lake far above the current water level. California’s ongoing drought is no secret, and there’s been little relief so far this year as we brace for the hottest months of 2014.

That’s why we at the Castaic Lake Water Agency are asking everyone to conserve as much water as possible this summer. If you think conditions are bad now, wait until mid-August. Ugh.

The lake is the terminus of the West Branch of the State Water Project, from which we receive about half of our water supply. The other half of our water supply comes from local groundwater. The water level in the lake provides a good measuring stick for just how severely this drought has impacted California and our region. This year the state has only allocated 5 percent of our State Water Project contract amount and we and other water agencies are having to rely on stored supplies such as those at Castaic Lake.

As of June 23, the lake’s water level had dropped 84 feet below its full level — and by the end of this summer it’s expected to drop another 23 feet, so it will be down by easily more than 100 feet.

The numbers are even more staggering when put in terms of water volume, using the water industry’s standard unit of measurement, the “acre-foot,” which is equivalent to the amount of water needed to cover an acre one foot deep.

The lake’s “full” capacity is 323,702 acre-feet. Its storage volume as of June 23 was 165,733 acre-feet — so, just over half of capacity. By the end of summer, it’s expected to draw down to 137,000 acre-feet, about 42 percent of capacity.

The lake’s level, of course, isn’t the sole indicator of the status of the SCV’s water supply. CLWA is just one “client” of this State Water Project lake, which primarily holds supplies that are being drawn down for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. And, CLWA and the local water retailers have other sources as part of the SCV’s diverse water supply portfolio, including local groundwater, stored water left from previous years and sources of imported water other than the State Water Project.

All told, we remain fortunate relative to some other areas, where water shortages have hit crisis levels. Here in the SCV, at least right now, mandatory rationing is not being implemented.

But the drought is real, and so is our need to conserve. This summer, CLWA is asking everyone in the SCV to do their part. For example, you can help maximize our available water supplies — and stave off draconian steps like rationing — by adopting some or all of these practices in your home and/or business:

• Reduce your landscape irrigation by one-third. According to some estimates, many property owners already overwater by 50 percent anyway.

• Install a weather-based irrigation controller, which senses weather conditions and automatically provides your landscape the proper amount of irrigation. If you visit the SCV Family of Water Suppliers’ website at, you can even complete an online class and get a free weather-based controller.

• Install high-efficiency sprinkler nozzles available from your local water retailers.

The SCV Family of Water Suppliers’ site also includes a wide variety of indoor and outdoor conservation tips — just click on the green tab labeled “Helpful Tips & Support.” It contains a wealth of tips that can help you do your part to comply with the governor’s call to reduce water use by 20 percent during this critical drought period.  Recognizing that about two-thirds of water use by SCV residents is for landscape irrigation, an easy way to achieve the 20 percent goal is to simply reduce your irrigation times by a third.

CLWA and your local water retailers are working hard to improve our community’s water use efficiency, both now and well into the future, as we consider everything from conservation incentives like free irrigation controllers to long-term water supply enhancement initiatives like recycled water for irrigation.

We’re looking at every option, because California’s need to use water efficiently will of course extend beyond this drought. That need is accompanied by a variety of issues that must be dealt with at the statewide level, and CLWA is an active participant in those discussions.

We’re in this, together, for the long haul. Meanwhile, hopefully we’ll soon see a wet rainy season — or two or three — which will shorten the long haul down and up the Castaic Lake launch ramp.

Tom Campbell is the President of the Castaic Lake Water Agency Board of Directors. 



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