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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
January 23, 2015     The Catalina Islander
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January 23, 2015

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Conservancy Times Third in a series about fresh water issues on the Island BY JOHN J. MACK Over the past two weeks, we've gone over the basic facts of water on Catalina Island, from who owns it and is required to provide water to the basics about where and when water arrives and leaves the Island. In this, the third article in the series, we will consider what the future of water could be on Catalina Island. With the exception of the occa- sional periods when the Island's desalinization plant is running, Catalina has relied almost exclu- sively on groundwater stored in shallow aquifers and provided by nature. Those of us living on the Island have especially relied on water from Catalina's two largest Island watersheds, Cottonwood and Middle canyons. The Cottonwood Canyon well field supplies water to the Million Gallon Tank in Two Harbors. The Middle Canyon well field supplies most of the water needed by Avalon. Like the rest of California, the water we drink is exported from watersheds where it is found (Cottonwood and Middle Canyons) to the watersheds where it is used (Two Harbors and Avalon Canyon) through a system of pipes, pumps, tanks and reservoirs. There also wells in other locations and major canyons (e.g., Whites Landing, Founded in 1913 by Ernest Windle Publisher Vince Bodiford vince@thecatalinalsla Editor Dixie Redfearn Assistant Editor Charles Kelly General Manager Jon Remy advertising@thecatalinalsla Office Assistant Kristy Throndson Graphic Designer Christy Smith Multimedia Director Franco Te 635 CRESCENT AVENUE SUITE A AVALON, CA 90704 (310) 510-0S00 FAX: (310) 510-2882 Postmaster: Send address changes to The Catalina Islander P.O. Box 428, Avalon, CA 90704 W Calendar: Noon Monday I News: 5 p.m, Monday I Display Adver- tising: 2 p.m. Tuesday I Classified Advertising: Noon Tuesday I Legal/Public Notices: 5 p.m. Monday SUBSCRIPTIONS Send to One Year Subscription: Catalina .............................................. $39 Mainland ............................................ $48 Subscriptions via First Class Mail are available for $80/year A Publication of CommunityMedla Corporation. CATALINA ISLANDER (USPS 093-140) Acceptance under 39C, F.R. 3464 periodicals postage paid at Avalon, CA 90704 and other additional offices. Adjudication Decree No. 377598. Date of Adjudication: Oct. 4, 1934 Exact Name of Newspaper as shown in the Petition for Adjudication: The Catalina Islander. Published weekly at 101 Marilla Avenue, #6 Avalon, CA 90704. The entire contents of The Catalina Islander are copyrighted by The Catalina Islander. No part may be repro- duced in any fashion without written consent of the publisher. This publication is printed almost entirely on recycled paper. Contents Copyright 2015 and Title Registered, Catalina Islander, Inc., All Rights Reserved. ~1 PROUD MEMBER OF THE CALIFORNIA NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION Middle Canyon watershed provides the water for Avalon and, in an earlier year with more rainfall than the current year, was home to a creek that provided the water for these cattail plants to flourish. (Photo by Jack Baldelli.) Toyon, E1 Rancho Escondido, Avalon Canyon and Howlands Landing). All of current oper- ational wells on the Island are located in the shallow alluvial soils deposited in canyon bottoms over the millennia. While groundwater is gener- ally cost-effective and reliable, relying almost exclusively on it puts our local water supply and economy at risk during prolonged droughts, like the current one, when supplies can become deplet- ed. Groundwater extraction also can have serious environmental impacts, including causing soil subsidence or sinking, saltwater intrusion into fresh water supplies, the lowering of the water table, the dewatering of perennial streams and physical habitat destruction from building pipelines, pump houses, ponds and reservoirs. For example, in most of the Island's canyons where groundwa- ter is pumped, it is easy to observe formerly perennial (flowing year- round) streams on the Island that are now dry except during large rain events. In fact, we may have exploited all of the easily accessible ground- water available in the Island's shal- low, alluvial aquifers. The recent- ly installed new well at Howlands Landing and the new well or wells proposed to be installed in Middle Canyon are "bedrock" wells screened hundreds of feet below the alluvial soil aquifers. For the Middle Canyon bedrock well proposal, the Conservancy has asked for the up-front study and evaluation required by the Island's Local Coastal Plan and Title 22 of the Los Angeles County Code to be undertaken before the installation in Middle Canyon of production-capable wells, which would make bedrock groundwater extraction possible. The study would help under- stand the risks--which are cur- rently unknown--of dewater- ing the Middle Canyon riparian and wetland ecosystem. Middle Canyon is the single largest water- shed on Catalina Island. It rep- resents nearly 20 percent of the AVALON GRILLE - PM $3 BEERS I $4 WINE I *5 WELL COCKTAILS RESERVATIONS AT OPENTABLE.COIq 310.510.7494 Island's land surface and has six Significant Ecological Areas spe- cifically identified in the Island's Local Coastal Plan which require special protection. Another looming problem is what effect climate change will have on the Island's natural hydro- logic cycles. Regional predic- tions for the west in general and Southern California in particular are that our current natural cycle of wet years and drought years will change: in particular our droughts will become more frequent and/or longer. So, the periods when we exhaust the aquifers that supply most of our water will become more frequent and longer. The Conservancy's long-term strategic plan is titled Imagine Catalina because, in large part, we are only limited by what we can imagine and desire. So, it might be useful to close this article by imagining the kind of water sys- tem we would like to have to ensure the long-term ecological health and human livability of Catalina Island. What might such a system look like? Imagine the following: A water system adapted to the Island's natural cycle of rain and drought years that could be oper- ated so that the Island has suffi- cient reserves to get us through the drought years (that are a natural part of life here) without serious economic disruption or harm to the natural environment .... A water system that would use the Island's valuable and limited groundwater resources only for essential human uses and as a back- stop for extraordinary droughts or the loss of other sources. A diversified water system using all viable sources of water so that we are not reliant on any one source. A decentralized water sys- tem for the Island's interior that would only incorporate central- ized water delivery and treatment systems where they are absolutely necessary. With existing tech- niques and technologies, all the camps, yacht club outstations and small interior settlements, such as Middle Ranch, Empire Landing and Airport in the Sky, could be self-reliant because they would have their own water systems. Decentralized household, apart- ment building and neighborhood- scale technologies could also be deployed in Avalon, especially for all non-potable uses. Next week: Ways to increase Catalina's water supply. John J. Mack is the Catalina Island Conservancy's chief con- servation and education officer. For more information about the Conservancy, please visit catali- The Catalina Island Conservancy has been an active participant in the Catalina Island Consortium, a group of Island stakeholders who have sought to maintain an affordable and sus- tainable fresh water supply for the Catalina Island community. The Consortium, working with Southern California Edison and the California Public Utilities Commission, was recently success- ful in averting significant water rate increases on the Island. 2 1 Friday, January 23, 2015 THE CATALINA ISLANDER