Creating a self-reliant mutual water company to serve development could avoid annexation approvals by public water purveyors and the politics associated with those approvals.
Developing large properties using a site’s own water resources may become an increasingly attractive option for developers.
A number of factors — early melt of Sierra snowpack, persistent drought in the upper Colorado River basin, court decisions allocating surface water to maintain endangered species– have increased uncertainty about future water supplies, especially with respect to imported water.
As a result, purveyors (municipalities, water districts and private utilities) are constrained in preparing SB 610 Water Supply assessments or SB 221 Written Verifications of Water Supply and are constrained issuing readiness-to-serve letters to proponents of development projects. However, large properties (1,000 acres or more) may have sufficient groundwater in storage and recharge from rainfall to sustain development. Creating a self-reliant mutual water company to serve development could avoid annexation approvals by public water purveyors and the politics associated with those approvals.
Assessing sustainable, self-reliant water supply entails:
- Verifying or establishing surface and groundwater rights
- Quantifying the elements of a site-specific water balance
This includes rainfall, runoff, evaporation, transpiration by plants, recharge, the volume of groundwater in storage, and the water demand of any critical habitat that may need to be preserved post-development.
Quantifying site-specific water balance will provide a defensible estimate of the volume of water available for development allowing the landowner to realistically size potential development alternatives and evaluate their economic viability.
The more years that the components of a site-specific water balance are measured or monitored, the less uncertainty there is about the long term sustainable supply. Generally monitoring for 3 to 5 years is best to obtain a short-term average for recharge that approximates the long term average. Longer periods of monitoring are advisable as annual rainfall is highly variable.