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The Journey Your Drinking Water Takes

Filling glass of tap water
  • October 06, 2017

As you turn on the tap in your home or business, all the water you see started as snowmelt in the High Sierra Mountains in Northern California. Water infrastructure is largely invisible, so most people don’t even think about it. However, smart and efficient water use is critical as Southern California experiences a fifth year of substandard rainfall and drought.

Water is brought to our area through the California Aqueduct and travels more than 440 miles to reach your tap. Before water arrives at your tap it has been treated, filtered, disinfected, routinely sampled, and tested. Even before the journey to your tap begins, much effort goes into protecting water supplies at their source in Northern California and protecting it along the way. This has many benefits, including fewer contaminants in the water supply, better water quality, greater safety, and lower treatment costs. Thus, although far away, the fate of levees in the Bay Delta area is of great importance for our local water supply.

The Journey Begins…

Rain and snow that fall in the northern half of California equals 2/3 of the state’s annual precipitation and is used to supply 2/3 of the state’s population that lives in the Southern half of California. Snowmelt flows through the mountains into the Upper Feather Lakes created in the 1960s primarily for recreational use. Water releases from these lakes enhance fish and wildlife in the area and supplement water supplies.

Water next enters the Orville -Thermalito Complex, Lake Orville, which is the State Water Project’s principal reservoir. This is enough to supply about 40% of California’s urban water needs for 1 year. The water then flows into the Sacramento Bay -San Joaquin Delta, originally a native marshland, and a complex region containing 700 miles of rivers, sloughs, and almost 550,000 acres of farmland.

As the water continues south, it passes through the Skinner Fish Facility. Here, a giant screen helps protect fish by keeping them away from the pumps that lift water into the California Aqueduct. An average of 15 million fish a year are diverted and returned to the Delta via oxygenated tank trucks. Most of the water flows to the San Joaquin Valley via the California Aqueduct a major SWP structure.

San Fernando Valley

The journey through most of the San Joaquin Valley is a direct, gravity driven flow. However, at the Tehachapi Mountains the water flows into the Antelope Valley where the Aqueduct divides. The East Branch of the Aqueduct carries water through the valley into the San Bernardino Mountains and into lake Perris. Water destined for the San Fernando Valley crosses the San Andreas Fault and eventually flows into Lake Pyramid in Los Angeles County.

Leaving the lake, water flows through the Angeles Tunnel to Castaic Power Plant, Castaic Lake. The lake holds 324,000 acre-feet of water and was built to provide emergency storage during a shutdown of the California Aqueduct. Finally getting closer to home, the water flows through a Water Treatment Plant in Granada Hills. This facility provides safe, highly treated drinking water to portions of Ventura, Los Angeles,and Orange Counties. Finally, your water is pumped into transmission and distribution water mains where it flows through service lines to individual homes and businesses.

As you can see, it’s a long journey from the mountains to our homes. Nothing is more fundamental to our quality of life than a dependable supply of clean, safe water. Therefore, water conservation and greater water use efficiency must be “The New Normal”.

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