San Fernando Basin

The San Fernando Basin is located in the Upper Los Angeles River Area. The San Fernando Basin was adjudicated in 1979 (the San Fernando Basin “Judgment”), and the safe yield was defined as 90,680 acre feet per year.  The Judgment upheld the pueblo water rights of the City of Los Angeles to all native water (water derived from precipitation).  The total extraction rights are 96,838 acre feet per year, with the difference allotted to the cities of Glendale, Burbank, and Los Angeles for water imported to the basin from these cities for storage.  LADWP currently has over 500,000 acre feet in storage credits in the San Fernando Basin, though only approximately 185,000 acre feet is currently available. Following the 2005 water year, the San Fernando Basin had over 500,000 acre-feet of available storage out of 3.1 million acre-feet of total capacity (Metropolitan Water District, 2007).

The ULARA Watermaster assists the Court in its administration and enforcement of the provisions of the Judgment and any subsequent orders of the Court entered pursuant to the Court’s continuing jurisdiction. It is composed of representatives from the cities of Burbank, Glendale, Los Angeles, and San Fernando, along with the Crescenta Valley Water District. The principle challenge to greater use of the San Fernando Basin is contamination by volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), hexavalent chromium, 1,4-dioxane, 1,2,3-trichloroproprane (TCP), n-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), perchlorate, and other pollutants.  Currently, LADWP and the other cities are taking active steps to bring the San Fernando Basin back into full production. Effective use of this groundwater basin, which has a significant volume available for storage, is dependent upon recharge, groundwater cleanup, and management strategies.

Notes on Groundwater Contamination: Although groundwater basins currently offer the most storage space available, many cannot be used because of contamination.  Therefore, any water infiltrated or injected into these basins would become contaminated as well. This contamination can last decades and the stored water must be remediated before it can be placed to beneficial use. Remediation is a time-intensive process that involves determining responsibility before groundwater remediation can begin.  There are also technical obstacles to groundwater remediation efforts, including multiple pollutants and contamination across more than one aquifer zone. Cleanup goals may evolve over time as new pollutants are identified, and target concentrations change based on new information about the risk and effects of pollutants.  Although local examples exist, it can be extraordinarily difficult to find end uses for the treated water.  Even though pumped and treated water is a valuable resource, agencies often lack the coordination or legal means to successfully bring this water to beneficial use.  These problems are further complicated by the fact that several regulatory agencies have jurisdiction, and their regulatory requirements are often inconsistent.

Atwater, R., 2011. History of Groundwater Conjunctive Use in Southern California. Presentation to the Managed Aquifer Recharge Symposium, January 2011.

Metropolitan Water District, 2007. Groundwater Assessment Study—Chapter IV: Groundwater Basins Report. Report number 1308, September 2007. Accessed October 23, 2013.

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