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South Coast Water District stops pumping groundwater to let basin refill

Water officials stopped pumping groundwater Monday from a Dana Point recovery facility in response to record drought conditions, South Coast Water District officials said.

The facility, which pumps about 400 million gallons of water from the San Juan basin for customers in South Laguna, Dana Point and parts of San Clemente, will be offline for about 60 days to allow groundwater levels to rise, the district said.

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South Coast provides water to about 33,000 customers, about 12,400 of them in Laguna Beach, according to district spokeswoman Linda Homscheid.

The basin is refilled through constantly flowing underground streams that are partially supplied by urban runoff. Water district engineers say that because the basin is small, even minimal rainfall allows the streams to provide enough water for the basin to recharge.

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"There's more than rainwater that enters the aquifer or the basin, but it's possible that it may need more time to recharge," Homscheid said.

Groundwater from the basin accounts for about 15 percent of the district's total water supply. While the recovery plant is down, district officials plan to buy more water from the Metropolitan Water District, which provides 75 percent of South Coast's supply.

Costs associated with importing more water will not immediately affect customers, Homscheid said.

Though the district figures its costs according to the percentage of water that is imported and then charges customers accordingly, "buying a relatively small amount of water from Metropolitan Water District to make up or replace local water is not one of the factors we'd run into our rates," Homscheid said.

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