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Mountain Community In San Diego Finds Abundance Of Water Underground

Evening Edition

Above: As some cities and counties across drought-stricken California scramble to find other water sources, a mountain community in San Diego County is relishing in an abundance of supply.

Aired 1/30/14 on KPBS News.

As some cities and counties across drought-stricken California scramble to find other water sources, a mountain community in San Diego County is relishing in an abundant supply.

Water supplies are a growing concern across drought-stricken California -- especially as the second snow survey out this week from the Sierra Nevada, where San Diego gets a third of its supply, is expected to be even more dismal than the first.

But as some cities and counties are scrambling to find other water sources, a mountain community in San Diego County is relishing in an abundant supply.

"Pine Valley is blessed with an unbelievable supply of water," said Flip Boerman, manager of Pine Valley Mutual Water Company, which supplies water to nearly all of the town's businesses and 1,500 residents.

Nestled beside the mountains in San Diego’s East County, Pine Valley doesn't have a reservoir or depend on Sierra snowpack or the Colorado River. Their source comes from hundreds of feet underground; most of it originates from Mt. Laguna, said Boerman, where rainfall averages more than 17 inches per year.

"We drill through rock and our wells are hard rock wells," explained Boerman. "And we are drilling looking for fractures in the rock, which the water is moving through, and as we hit a fracture then our well produces water out of that fracture."

Boerman said they have eight active wells, with plans to drill two more in the future. They monitor underground water supplies monthly and estimate they’re only using 10 percent from the total basin.

"We alternate the use of those wells because we have more than adequate supplies, so we’re able to give anywhere from three to four of our wells, anywhere from 30-60 days break before we use them again," Boerman said.

After water is pumped from the well, it’s stored in large tanks, located on the outskirts of town.

Boerman said they have enough supply to share, but because they’re a share-holder owned company, that’s complicated.

"The only people we could sell to are other share holder companies," said Boerman," --meaning mutual, or government or schools."

They recently sold to CalTrans for a major freeway project, he said.

Despite the drought, they don't expect to implement any water restrictions," said Boerman. The last time they had to cut back was in 1980. Since then, they've drilled four more wells and worked hard to prepare for extended droughts.

"You’re always going to be concerned, but we feel that we’ve prepared for this and we’ve worked really hard to put ourselves in the position to where we would have the water to get us through these periods," said Boerman.

Approximately 35,000 residents in San Diego County use underground water, but the supply in some wells is depleting as winter marches on without a storm to replenish them.

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