By the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency
The Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency received formal notification Thursday that the judge presiding over the 16-year-old Antelope Valley Groundwater Adjudication case has approved a Stipulated Judgment, clearing the way for groundwater management.
AVEK Director Rob Parris, who also served on the agency’s ad hoc Adjudication Committee, said San Jose Judge Jack Komar’s decision is good news for the Antelope Valley, ending years of uncertainty over the region’s prospects for economic growth. Parris added, “The judgment allows us to protect our water basin and make sure water is used in a responsible way.”
Judge Komar’s oral statement of decision, issued from the bench on Wednesday, is the stipulation that AVEK, which was not a defendant in the case, and nearly every other party has agreed upon. Parris explained, “We joined the action to protect our taxpayers. AVEK worked very hard to get all the parties together to reach this point in the adjudication agreement.”
AVEK Director Frank Donato, who chaired the Adjudication Committee and was involved from the beginning of the agency’s intervention in the case, said, “This was a historical decision, a decision that was needed.” He said AVEK can now work to help groundwater pumpers extend their supplies in the future. He said AVEK is positioned with the facilities to put imported water into the ground to assure water quality and supply.
Following procedural requirements, Judge Komar will draft a formal written decision, which opens a window to appeals, but also immediately activates the creation of a five-member Water Master Board of Directors to unanimously appoint the AV Water Master, an engineer responsible for monitoring the water basin to assure that no more water is pumped out than the basin can sustain without falling back into overdraft.
AVEK Director Parris said AVEK, L.A. County Waterworks District 40 and a public water utility will each have one seat on the board, with two seats to be occupied by landowners. He said the Water Master appointment will be critical in the fair and equitable administration of the Judgment.
Parris explained that the Water Master will have authority to assess parties who exceed pumping limits to pay for replacement water from the State Water Project.
Attorney Bill Brunick, who represented AVEK in the case, said, “I believe the entire credit should be given to staff, the Board, and the ad hoc Adjudication Committee for moving this along. Without AVEK’s involvement we would be in for another five years.”
The Antelope Valley Groundwater Adjudication case was launched Oct. 29, 1999, when Diamond Farming Co. sued the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, the Palmdale Water District, AV Water Company, Palm Ranch Irrigation District, Quartz Hill Water District, Rosamond Community Services District and Mojave Public Utilities District. In 2001, Bolthouse Farms sued all the water providers named in the 1999 complaint, and added Littlerock Creek Irrigation District and L.A. County Waterworks districts 37 and 40.
In 2006, AVEK entered the picture by filing for declaratory and injunctive relief to protect its overlying rights and rights to pump the supplemental yield from imported state water.
The Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency encompasses 2,300 square miles and includes over 20 municipal users, as well as Edwards AFB, Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale and Rio Tinto in Boron.
Formed in the early 1960s to provide supplemental supplies from the California Aqueduct, AVEK contracted with the state for up to 144,844 acre-feet a year.
In a normal year, of the 144,844 acre-foot annual entitlement, the municipal and industrial, and agricultural water customers are currently using about 60,000 acre feet per year. Municipal and Industrial water is provided by four potable water treatment plants with capacities from 4 to 90 million gallons per day.
AVEK is the third largest State Water Project (SWP) Contractor in the State and, in cooperation with the other water wholesalers and retailers in the Region, has analyzed the most suitable locations and methods for water storage. Based on those studies, groundwater basin banking was found to be the most appropriate and efficient storage mechanism. The need for groundwater storage is expected to increase significantly in the near future as a result of the adjudication of the Antelope Valley Groundwater Basin.
For more information on this Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, visit http://www.avek.org/.