A firm hired by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority is already in the initial phase to find sources of imported water for the valley, according to a progress report delivered at a Thursday board meeting.

IWVGA general manager Don Zdeba briefed the board of director that Capitol Core Group, which was retained in March, is looking at what water supply options are available and how to secure funding to ultimately purchase and develop infrastructure to deliver into the valley.

The scope of work includes how much it will cost to import water, whether importation will be done on a seasonal basis, purchase timing, any available banking opportunities within the basin, infrastructure needs and cost and a projected timeline for completion.

Zdeba said Capitol Core Group was instructed by the board to seek between 5,000 and 10,000 of acre-feet of water per year based on the current overdraft estimate.

The IWV basin has been categorized as being in critical overdraft by the California Department of Water Resources. Studies show that water users in the valley are pumping at three or four times the basin's natural recharge rate of around 7,500 acre-feet a year.

The IWVGA is looking at imported water as one likely solution as it develops its groundwater sustainability plan. The plan is required under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and must detail how the IWVGA will achieve a sustainable yield for the basin by 2040.

The plan is due to the Department of Water Resources by Jan. 31, 2020. Stetson Engineers and the IWVGA's Technical Advisory and Policy Advisory committees are currently developing or running pumping models to project possible scenarios to achieve the sustainable yield by the target date.

In a separate project, the Indian Wells Valley Water District, in a funding partnership with Mojave Pistachios, Searles Valley Minerals and Coso Geothermal, is working on a brackish water treatment study for the valley.

The goal for that study, being conducted by Auqilogic, is to determine whether it will be viable to treat the valley's brackish water supply to supplement or mitigate the fresh groundwater source. A presentation made to the water district board on May 13 highlights that a pilot project would be the next step for that particular project, with the ultimate goal of securing grant funding to develop a treatment plant and begin treatment by 2025.

According to Auqalogic's presentation, such a project could provide as much as 10,000 acre-feet of treated water during a 40-year period between.

Zdeba said Capitol Core Group has already begun work on a technical memo for imported water sources.

"They are meeting with various water agencies, water banks and districts in order to provide the Groundwater Authority with a comprehensive picture of potential imported water supplies, banking opportunities and delivery methodologies," Zdeba said.

A few options that have been studied in the past have included potential partnerships or deals with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and with the Antelope Valley East Kern Water Agency (AVEK).

He added those meetings started in April and will continue through June. He said the report is expected by July.

For technical memo on imported water costs, Zdeba said Capitol Core Group has already started talking with Assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) and state Sen. Shannon Grove in Sacramento and with Navy officials at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake to discuss potential funding strategies.

An initial technical memo, or white paper, has already gone through an IWVGA ad hoc committee.

"Potential funding opportunities are continuing to be researched and funding strategy being developed," Zdeba said. He said based on construction estimates devised by Stetson Engineers, the IWVGA's water resources manager, funding requires are projected to begin in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

"Phasing of construction has not been determined yet so we cannot approximate the full timeline of funding needs," Zdeba said.

Jeff Simonetti, vice president of Capitol Core Group, said he attended a conference held by the Association of California Water Agencies in Monterey at the beginning of the month. ACWA is the largest statewide coalition of public water agencies in the country.

"We were able to meet with a few water districts that have water available both this year and in upcoming years," Simonetti told the board. "In the near future, we will be putting together a memorandum that will come out ahead of our main one to give you a couple of options that we are seeing right now."

Simonetti said the groups Capitol Core spoke with have both permanent and short-term supplies of water. He added there was more of a focus on short-term supply due to a surplus of available water on the market from both the State Water Project and Central Valley Project.

"There is more water on the market right now than people can either bank or take advantage of," Simonetti said.

Inyo County Counsel John Vallejo, who represents Inyo County on the IWVGA board, asked whether Capitol Core Group will reach out to his agency about the regulations on pumping from Owens Valley. Vallejo also asked whether Capitol Core spoke with AVEK.

Simonetti said his group intends to communicate with Inyo County shortly. He added that he briefly spoke with AVEK officials while at the ACWA conference

"The closest water tie-in they would have (to the IWV) would be in California City, which is 50 miles from here," Simonetti said. "There are infrastructure challenges associated with getting water there, which we are talking to AVEK about."