Water leak forces shutdown of California Aqueduct

A break in the California Aqueduct has halted the flow of water in the canal that supplies millions of Southern California residents, but there's no concern that taps will run dry, officials said Wednesday.

Reservoirs below the break hold enough water to supply customers until a work crew repairs the damaged canal lining, said Ted Thomas, a spokesman for the state's Department of Water Resources.

"Southern California won't even notice," he said. "There's going to be no interrupted deliveries."

The California Aqueduct begins in Northern California, and it supplies water to 25 million residents and nearly 1 million acres of farmland.

The break was first discovered Jan. 2 near Taft, a community about 35 miles southwest of Bakersfield. Repairs should be done no later than Feb. 20, Thomas said.

Thomas said that initially, up to 3 cubic feet of water was leaking every second. At that pace, 11 days of leaking water would be enough to supply roughly 70 families for a whole year.

The leaking water initially ran into an irrigation ditch. It is being diverted into another section of the canal, so no water is being lost, Thomas said.

Construction began in the 1960s on the massive system of reservoirs, pumping stations and canals called the State Water Project, which includes the California Aqueduct.

In its lifetime, flows on the canal have been stopped for maintenance work. The flow is typically low during this cooler time of year, Thomas said.

It's unclear what caused the break in the canal's lining, but Thomas said old age is a likely factor. Engineers determined that the land isn't sinking, he said.

The leak wasn't planned, but the timing was ideal, said Armando Acuna, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a major customer of the state's system.

"The best time to do it - if you have to have a shutdown - is in the winter months," he said. "Demand is lowest at that time as compared to having to do this in July."
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