Whitewater River Dries Up Allowing Maintenance on Hydro Facility

Whitewater River Dries Up Allowing Maintenance on Hydro Facility

Patrick Price

If you’re driving on Highway 111 heading out of Palm Springs, you’ll notice the Whitewater River is all dried up. It’s a rare sight this year as we’re experiencing lower than normal water totals across the valley.

The big question is, where has all the water gone?

“Something that they’ve gotten accustomed to,” said Ashley Metzger with the Desert Water Agency.

The sight of shimmering rushing water underneath the desert sun was a true oasis, providing water to thousands in the valley.

“Over the last year, we’ve had some of the highest levels of delivery in history,” said Metzger. “We were running for months at a time, and generating about $70,000 dollars in hydropower.”

But now, there’s a drastic change in scenery because water intake is so low.

“March was actually a good month. But it wasn’t enough to make up for how really dry December or January was,” said Metzger.

She says because of less water running, it’s the perfect time to do maintenance at their facilities that help generate power.

“Our hydro facility got so much use last year. We really needed to take everything apart, make sure all the pieces are in good condition and put it back in order, so when we do start receiving water, we can start generating that hydro power,” she said.

But after the drought restrictions were lifted by Governor Jerry Brown last Spring, residents like Nancy Gilbreath are still trying to conserve water…

“I only take a three minute shower, sometimes four,” said Gilbreath.

And the conservation continues throughout her home as well. 

“In the kitchen, I keep a tub of water instead of having running water to do the dishes,” she said.

Gilbreath has spent 30 years here in the Coachella Valley. This year is the driest she’s ever seen.

“I think the droughts here for a long, long time,” she said.

Not good news for the dry riverbeds in the Whitewater River, as the struggle continues to keep the Coachella Valley hydrated.

The amount of water the desert water agency expects to receive from the state this year is about 20 percent of what we’re allotted from the state. That’s a drastic change from last years amount of about 80 percent.