By Yvonne Hester
As the Inland Empire continues to rank number one in job growth, the communities of the High Desert are preparing for the next wave of development. As community leaders plan for growth, the question of water supply becomes paramount turning the focus on the Mojave Water Agency (MWA)—the entity responsible for ensuring a sustainable water supply. Currently, MWA’s leadership is examining ways to protect and enhance supplies, and one opportunity is participation in the California WaterFix (Cal WaterFix).
What is the Cal WaterFix? It is the construction of an underground conveyance system (tunnels) to carry water from the Sacramento Delta to other parts of the state. It is designed to more efficiently store, capture, and move water, as well as protect endangered fish and the fragile Delta habitat. This project is an upgrade of the aging State Water Project (SWP) system which is dependent on 50-year-old levees that are subject to rising sea levels, earthquakes, and flooding.
The Mojave Water Agency is one of 29 State Water Contractors that helped finance the construction of the current state’s water system and, as a participant, may buy this water to augment local supplies. MWA uses this imported water to sell to water districts in the MWA region. This water also is used to replenish local groundwater supplies via recharge programs. The Agency purchases additional water during wet years to store in underground aquifers to help meet water demands during droughts.
How would MWA participate in the Cal WaterFix? The proposal to build the Cal WaterFix has a similar funding and use plan as the current SWP system. Contractors of the SWP system will pay their share of the construction costs, as well as annual maintenance and use costs. The project would not provide a new source of water, but it would improve the reliability of existing sources. This would provide flexibility to meet water demands as the region grows.
The cost for MWA to participate in the Cal WaterFix cannot be determined until decisions are made regarding the final construction and design and costs. The MWA Board of Directors has taken a position supporting the project in concept, but no commitment has been made to financially participate. As more detailed information becomes available, MWA will invite public input before making a decision.
Another effort underway to stretch water supplies is a new desert landscaping conservation tool to help homeowners, businesses, and landscapers choose water-wise landscaping. This new landscape education program is a joint effort between MWA and the Alliance for Water Awareness and Conservation (AWAC) and it’s available online. This easy-to-use online plant database now offers information on hundreds of beautiful, California native plant species and adapted plants.
The plant database, called “Plant Search,” is hosted on the AWAC website, www. hdawac.org. A simple click takes the viewer to options that include California native plants, groundcovers, perennial sub-shrubs, shrubs, cacti, succulents, trees, vines, ornamental grasses, and annuals. Each selection includes a series of photos, a plant description, as well as information on the plant’s size, spread, coverage, flowering season, bloom months, color, water usage, life form, soil preference, growth rate, sun exposure, cold temperature ranges, and more.
The database also allows users to customize their search based on a number of factors, including color, flower season, plant cold hardiness, plant height, plant spread, soil preference and much more. New plants and updates will continually be made to the program.
For more information on MWA programs, contact Yvonne Hester at 760.946.7067.