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Southern California districts facing water surplus

July 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Last winter's heavy snowfall means there's lots of water in the pipeline for Southern California. Now the problem is storing it all until it's needed. Local water districts are having a hard time taking advantage of the surplus.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has more water than it knows what to do with.

"We've experienced above-average rainfall and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which is our primary source of water. But also in the Colorado River," said Bob Muir, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The combination has restored water levels depleted by the state's drought.

The wholesale water supplier is now offering its 26 member agencies the surplus at its Diamond Valley Lake location at a discount. Only one problem: local groundwater storage space is already full.

"In the last five years or so we've worked really hard to develop local supplies, whether it's storm water capture or desalting or the use of recycled water," said Michele McKinney-Underwood, a spokeswoman for the Western Municipal Water District.

For now, the Western Municipal Water District of Riverside County doesn't have the room to store the extra water.

Despite the abundance of water, consumers will not see their bills go down. The extra water will be used as protection from future droughts.

"We've experienced some shortages in the previous years and we want to make sure we try to guard ourselves and protect ourselves from those shortages," said Muir.

And they are continuing to ask Southern Californians to use water wisely.

"One of the things we've been focusing on is not using the word 'conservation,' but really focusing on people living efficiently," said McKinney-Underwood.

While there is plenty of water to go around now, it's the drier years in which the surplus will come in handy.