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The Water Bank — Water For A Not So Rainy Day

Lake Mead Lake Mead National Recreation Area - Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Bakersfield Sign - Photo courtesy of Wikapedia

Water banks have been operating for years now, but generally not known to anyone outside the water industry.  Thanks to a recent withdrawal by Metropolitan Water District of Southern California of 80,000 acre-feet from their water savings account in Lake Mead last year and the announcement of another withdrawal soon, (estimated to be twice as large as the last one) many people are now learning about and discussing water banks.

What is a water bank

The term water banking describes a number of ways to manage water during times of rain and times of drought.  The basic concept is probably just what you are thinking.  If you receive a yearly allotment of water and do not need to use all of the allotment you can save or bank some of the water to use at a future date.  This is the basic concept and there are many variations of the concept.  Water banks can vary in the amount of participation they take in the exchange of water.  Sometimes a bank will be a broker, or clearing house and sometimes market maker (A market maker might buy or sell water rights to create liquidity for the market).  You have heard the term, “We don’t have a water shortage. We have a water storage and delivery system problem.”  The concept of water bank solves some of the problem. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California receives a water allotment of around a million acre feet a year.  During rainy periods of MWD is able to take less water and store the savings in Lake Mead for a not so rainy day.

Who runs the water bank

A water bank can be either a public or private entity.  The direction of the water bank is generally given by an elected board of directors.  However, I did find one water bank near Fresno California owned an operated by one person, Marvin Meyers.

Kern County California has a water vault

The vault/bank is just West of Bakersfield and was created due to an interesting geological formation called an alluvial fan. The groundwater bank  stores all the water underground in a “vault” so checking your balance involves a little bit of guesstimating. The Kern Water Bank can store around 326 billion gallons of water underground. Also, not all the water you put into the vault stays where you put it.  Some of the water can move or leak to another area.  As a result the bank forecast around 4% of your deposit will never be withdrawn.  Think ATM fee.

Why do we care

Water banks should provide peace of mind for times of drought.  The concept provides additional ways to store water and deliver water to locations in need.  However, typically the geographical areas banking water experience similar drought and rain conditions.  In times of severe drought the concerns for a water bank are similar to the concerns of a money bank during a depression.  If everyone attempts to withdraw their deposits at the same time how much will actually be available?  Also, could it be possible we would reduce or stop water flow to one geographic area just so another area that banked water could make their withdrawal?

Fortunately there are rules.  There is a cap on how much water can be withdrawn annually.  California’s cap is  400,000 acre – feet a year.  More importantly you can’t make a withdrawal if there is a declared shortage on the river or if your withdrawal would create a shortage.  These rules seem necessary, but also can be viewed as a disincentive for banking water.

There are many other water banks around the United States you can learn more about Arizona Water Banking Authority, Southern Nevada Water BankTexas Water Bank and Trust and Idaho Water Bank.  I think the  concept of water banking is beneficial for all of us and only wish there was an easier way for me to bank water.  Water Banks also have a few drawbacks, but with additional focus on them now many of those drawbacks can be overcome.

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Richard Restuccia

Richard Restuccia is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. Currently he serves on the Irrigation Association’s Board of Directors. As a board member, Richard serves in a variety of capacities, including government/public affairs. He is the liaison between the board and its marketing committee on the best ways to promote water efficiency and educate industry professionals on new technologies, products and services. Richard is also a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.

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  1. Tuesday, 1:13 Dr.CHAHBANI Bellachheb

    There is a new ways to mitigate drought and sustain orchard crops during 3 completely dry years. The first new way is the “water injection and storage in the deep soil layers of the orchards plantations” . the second new way is the “water injection in the shallow ground water tables through the deep soil layers”. Both new ways use 2 innovations: “the buried diffusers” and ” the draining floater”. Experimented in real scale in arid and semi arid regions of Tunisia) the 2 ways of water injection allows to store billions of cubic meters of rain water in the deep soil layers of the orchards or in the shallow water tables. This storage will allows to maintain the productivity during a long drought period(3 years) like what happened in California. The field trial showed that during 3 months we can inject and store, per hectare (equipped with 1000 buried diffusers), 17 millions cubic meters. The origin of the injected water is the retention water of dams(small medium or big sized). This injection technology could be applied in the western states of USA , suffering from droughts and from exceptional heavy rains. For more information about the technology, visit http://www.chahtech.com . For any request to apply this technology contact Mr Chuck Toussieng Sr : crtusamerchantteam@yahoo.com

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