Moorpark Council Meeting–Calleguas General Manager Mulligan takes issue with AP article on underground water storage


Susan Mulligan, General Manager Calleguas

Susan Mulligan, General Manager Calleguas

By Debra Tash

Susan Mulligan, General Manager of Calleguas Water District,  did a presentation for the Moorpark City Council on the Las Posas Basin Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project.  Ms. Mulligan took issue with an August 2013 AP story: “Millions spent on water-storage plan that leaks.” Mulligan said it was, “Half true. Half false.”

Calleguas, a water wholesaler, services almost the entire area south of the Santa Clara river in Ventura County.  Historically its supply comes from the State Water Project.  The system is vulnerable to disruptions.  In 1961 Lake Bard was built to hold 10,000 acre feet (a foot of water over an acre) and it met Calleguas’s needs.  By 1990 the District was selling over ten times that amount and in 1994 the Northridge earthquake struck.  Supply pipes broke and Calleguas nearly ran out of water.  The District’s faced a big problem, do they build more surface storage or do they go underground and use the water basin to create emergency supply?  Cost of surface storage was higher and underground storage more environmentally friendly.  Also yearly maintenance by Metropolitan Water District (who sells imported water to Calleguas) shuts down the system and cuts supply.  Then General Manager, Don Kendall, and the Calleguas board choose to use underground storage for backup supply.  Metropolitan entered into an agreement with Calleguas to build the

Moorpark Pump Station

Moorpark Pump Station

well field.  Metro’s goal–to create a drought bank while Calleguas sought to create enough storage for emergencies.  It took a decade and half to build the injection wells outside of Moorpark and construct a five million gallon storage tank.  With the pump station, piping, chlorination treatment, standby power the District has spent $118 million to date and plans on spending another 37 million to service Thousand Oaks. The AP story stated groundwater levels dropped steeply when Metro started to pump water from the well field to supplement imported supplies during the 2007 drought.  Under their contract Metropolitan could pump half of what was stored underground.  To avoid damaging the neighboring pumpers, Callegues had to buy out Metro’s contract. The cessation of this draw-down was stopped when Mulligan came on board as General Manager in 2010.  The well field’s geology isn’t suited for drought conditions. Calleguas also had to pay Metro for the water stored under the well field in addition to the contract buy out.

Ms. Mulligan pointed out that AP article’s assertion they spent so much for so little, isn’t true.  She compared it to Olivenhaim Dam, built as part of San Diego’s Emergency Storage Project.  Calleguas pays $3100 per acre foot to San Diego’s price tag of $9189 per acre foot for stored water.  Last year Moorpark’s cost per acre foot was $1251, of that $54 was earmarked for the well field.   70% of the City’s water is imported.  In 2005 they would have had one to three weeks of outages if the well field had not been built.

The project does not provide drought protection but it does provide essential local supply for outages and emergencies and is still cheaper than surface storage.

Councilwoman Roseann Mikos asked how much can the well field hold?  Bryan Bondy, hydrogeologist for Calleguas answered that 50,000 acre feet, maybe less depending on: “What kind of changes  we are going to have around the well field.”  He is modeling the underground geology for Calleguas.

Science Drive

709 Science Drive

On the application for the Community Marketplace, Manny Asadurain, Jr, (which will now be at 709 Science Drive) the Council continued the public hearing until April 16th because as Councilman Keith Millhouse said: “We messed up on the notice.”


Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis

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