Ground water storage in Kern County
Groundwater storage at the Semitropic Water Storage District in Kern County. Courtesy of the agency

The San Diego County Water Authority’s board has directed its staff to explore opportunities to help other water districts weather an emerging drought across California.

The authority said that because of three decades of investment in supply reliability, along with a continued emphasis on water-use efficiency, the San Diego region has sufficient water supplies for multiple dry years.

Those investments include high-priority Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley, seawater desalination, and access to the Semitropic Original Water Bank in Kern County, where the authority has stored about 16,000 acre-feet of water — enough to supply more than 30,000 homes for a full year.

“Given the extraordinarily low 5% allocation on the State Water Project and the location of our groundwater in the Central Valley, it’s a perfect time to explore mutually beneficial agreements with agencies that need more water this year,” said water authority Board Chair Gary Croucher.

“The water authority is committed to innovative ideas like this to improve water management across the arid West and at the same time benefit San Diego County ratepayers,” he added.

The water bank in Kern County is located near the California Aqueduct, which carries supplies from the Colorado River. The bank operates some of the largest underground tanks in the world.

California is facing a second consecutive dry water year. Snowpack and precipitation are below average in both the Northern Sierra and the Upper Colorado River Basin, and most reservoirs are below their historical averages for this time of year.

On March 23, the California Department of Water Resources reduced the State Water Project allocation from 10% to 5%. The only other year on record with such a low allocation is 2014.

Following the state’s April 1 snow survey, Department of Water Resources Director Karla Nemeth declared the state’s conditions “critically dry.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.