By Patricia Farris News Review Publisher– At the September 14 meeting of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (GA) a report was made by Jeff Helsley, of the Water Resources Management (WRM) team, on the process of making the long-awaited wastewater treatment plant on board. The plant is expected to provide 2,000-acre-feet of water needed to help bring the Basin into sustainability.
Director Stan Rajtora questioned why the cost for the recycling effort was about three times above what the State of California is claiming as the usual cost for developing a recycling plant. Water Resource Manager Steve Johnson’s response was, “We have a complicated system of projects here, starting with the upgrade that the City is doing. Also, we are looking at costs to build from secondary to tertiary treatment.
“If we are going to inject the liquid to get a full advanced treatment under regulatory requirements, we are looking at a physical facility. To inject, there are power costs so I think it is an apples-to-apples comparison.”
Rajtora’s response was, “My only concern is if the State has some numbers they are using I want to make sure we are not looked upon as not being a good candidate for State funding for grants or loans. We have to be careful. Costs are going to be what they are, nonetheless, certainly, we do not want to look at an apples-to-oranges comparison. The recycled water can be very important to us in a few years.”
Jean Moran, a member of the WRM, said they are going forward with the monitoring and well drilling to allow the gathering of data on the subsurface floor from the Rose Valley area into the Indian Wells Valley Basin. The data will be used to update the hydro space geologic conceptual model of the basin and ultimately lead to updating and refining the groundwater model. The data will also be used to update the sustainability plan (GSP). The cost of the project is $220,360.
Reportedly it has been made clear to the GA that all of that data has been collected and is publicly available on the Inyo County website. The GA’s plan also includes drilling well sites south of Little Lake. Close to the Little Lake Gap, there are two Bureau of Reclamation wells. One is just north of the Old Saw Mill and one south of the Saw Mill. Data from these wells should also be available.
If this work has already been accomplished then the funding appropriated for this project could go for the exploration of other available water sources in the Basin.
Moran reported that there is coordination with the California State Board Commission to access the existing Saw Mill wells. The project is being funded by Navy Coastal Royalties and is planned for late fall or early winter.
Regarding the Annual Report schedule, Rajtora said, “My only concern is with the tools that are being used to generate the report. In the past, we have had several conversations regarding the ability to measure the change to groundwater in storage. So, I assume that we have that problem solved. Am I correct?”
Johnson stated, “I’ll say that it is not solved. We have looked at another couple of methods and are still looking at it internally. Our intention is to have it solved for the Annual Report. We are working on it.”
Rajtora replied, “Originally we were told it would be going to the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) at the end of the summer and we are real close to end of summer. Assuming that the tools are available and we can get the information, we ought to be good. Obviously, that one particular tool is essential to getting a meaningful report out. The prior three reports have suffered due to the lack of having a validated tool in that area. I am hoping that you are concentrating on getting that done in the very near future and it can be transferred to the TAC and that will complete this effort.”
Another concern Rajtora voiced had to do with data collection. He said, “It was not clear from the viewgraph whether the data collection that was occurring was not just water quality but also the depth to water. It didn’t appear that there were sufficient wells included to actually include the depth to water data collection.” He asked Moran if she could confirm this.
“Yes, I can,” said Moran. “We are doing a full sweep of all monitoring wells, similar to what we did in March. We are adding extra staff to support the Kern County Water Agency (KCWA) in doing that.”
Rajtora asked if we had already lined up the people we need since COVID is not going to be an issue this year.
“That is true,” Moran responded. “This is the very first water level measurement that KCWA is allowed to do post-COVID. They are now allowed to come out and stay in a hotel and go to domestic wells, which they were not allowed to do before.”
Early in the meeting, Chairman of the Board Phillip Peters asked General Manager Carol Keefer to report on the status of the audit. She said they were hoping to have a draft by the end of October but was not sure if it would actually be available to come to the Board for approval by then. It might be November. Peters asked, “What has the hold up been? Are they inundated with work or is it incomplete data?” She answered, “It is just a variety of things. We have a new partner at the audit firm and a couple of our staff members have had time off for bereavement and maternity. To view, the entire meeting see the City of Ridgecrest YouTube page.