State Water System Doesn't Have Enough for North L.A. County Housing Tract; Is This the Beginning of the End of Sprawl?
Officials float rejecting new housing tractThis story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press on Monday, October 1, 2007.
By JAMES RUFUS KOREN
Valley Press Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES - With California Aqueduct water supplies in question because of a court ruling over an endangered fish, Los Angeles County water officials have proposed refusing to allow construction of a 650-home tract in west Lancaster. County supervisors will be asked Tuesday to approve a report showing there is an inadequate water supply for a 160-acre tract proposed near Avenue J and 70th Street West. The Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency cannot guarantee water from the State Water Project will be available for the new tract, according to the report from Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 40, which supplies much of Lancaster and west Palmdale as well as other parts of the Antelope Valley. The trouble stems from a U.S. District Court action that protects the delta smelt, an endangered fish species that has been hurt by water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta - the source of the water that flows down the California Aqueduct to Southern California. "While state and local water agencies are still analyzing the court ruling, the decision might result in a significant reduction in water supplies from the State Water Project to AVEK and other State Water Project contractors," the report said. "As AVEK is currently unable to assure the (Waterworks) District of the availability of State Water Project water supplies ... the District is unable to conclude that sufficient future water supplies are available for this project." According to the report, the 650-home tract would create demand for 780 acre-feet of water per year. A single acre-foot is 325,851 gallons. Supervisors face the decision against a backdrop of controversy over the Valley water supply's ability to support population growth. With last winter the driest on record for Southern California, coupled with the delta smelt court decision, AVEK officials have warned that local supplies from the California Aqueduct might be cut back drastically if next winter is dry. Waterworks officials have not ordered their customers in Lancaster or elsewhere to reduce water consumption, but Palmdale Water District officials last month told customers to stop hosing down sidewalks and to take other conservation measures. District officials had contemplated ordering a 30% reduction in water use, but shelved that plan after city officials accused them of failing to prepare for an emergency and of engaging in scare tactics. This is the second time the Waterworks District has said there is not enough water for new developments in the Valley. In July 2004, the district stopped issuing new "will-serve" letters - documents that say the district will supply water - to proposed housing tracts. The waterworks district never officially refused water service, but it had sent letters saying water might not be available. That dispute was settled in December 2004 when the waterworks district and AVEK struck a deal that required AVEK to provide District No. 40, which covers most of Lancaster and Palmdale, with a set percentage of its water supply. The deal also increased fees paid by developers to enhance the Valley's water system.