The same philosophy eases the minds of water officials who say that while patrols of the aqueducts have increased to guard against a terrorist poisoning the well, it would take a tremendous amount of chemicals to affect drinking water. So even if an entire big rig could be submerged undetected in these manmade rivers – as happened in Northern California, where it was discovered only when a leak prompted a section to be drained – it’s extremely tough to poison the public by dumping some poisonous concoction in the water supply as it heads to the nation’s largest urban mass. But that doesn’t solve the “ick factor” for the unsuspecting one who flips the tap for a cool drink. After all, an occasional body lands in the aqueduct. “People do die in that thing. People fishing fall in and they can’t get out. The sides are too steep and slippery,” Water Resources spokesman Don Strickland said. “They’ve found bodies in trunks of underwater cars. That’s happened, too.” Water in the aqueduct is not treated until it is piped to an agency that buys and distributes it, Strickland said. In the Santa Clarita Valley, that’s the Castaic Lake Water Agency, a wholesaler that distributes water to retailers who in turn pipe it to individual customers. CLWA General Manager Dan Masnada is confident the water his agency treats for a region of more than 200,000 comes out of the tap purer than trendy bottled waters. “The testing we do is very rigorous and it’s driven by a number of regulatory agencies,” Masnada said. Water earmarked for Santa Clarita flows from the aqueduct to Castaic Lake, then is piped to CLWA’s Rio Vista treatment plant in Saugus. The water, which Masnada said comes in looking pure, goes through filtration and disinfection processes “to address any and all contaminants that are in the water.” “There are federal and state standards we have to comply with,” he said. “They exceed that of the bottled-water industry.” Local tap water is treated with a combination of chlorine and ammonia. “State water goes to millions and millions of people and, yes, there are plenty of potential contaminants in the aqueducts, but it is without question clean when it gets to the retailer,” Masnada said. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the East, an examination of potential West Coast targets pointed to the California and the separate Los Angeles Department of Water and Power aqueducts as areas of vulnerability. Patrols have increased and the agencies have urged their employees to keep vigilant, but it’s impossible to keep an eye on the entire systems 24 hours a day, Laumbach said. “First of all, the aqueduct covers an amazing amount of area, mostly in sparsely populated areas,” he said. “We have security measures in place, we have patrols and surveillance, but there’s always holes in the net.” Construction began on the aqueduct 50 years ago, with completion in 1973. Voters have approved $1.75 billion for the work over the decades. [email protected] (661) 257-5251 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “They found a large number of vehicles in there – 20 to 30 pickup trucks and sedans and cars,” said Blaine Laumbach, chief operator at the department’s Pearblossom hydroelectric plant. “They found parts of a motorcycle, a Jet Ski…” And they found some pipe bombs attached at bridges, explosives they figure weren’t meant to be destructive, but were likely planted by fishermen to shock their quarry to the surface, Laumbach said. Water Resources officials maintain that the rejected washing machines and firearms tossed in with enough cars to fill a parking lot amount to just a drop in the enormous bucket of water drawn from Northern California rivers to green the lawns at the southern end of the state. In other words, there is so much water flowing, the foreign bodies don’t make much of a difference. “The solution to pollution is dilution,” is their credo. “When you start to calculate whatever contaminants there are in a vehicle dumped in the aqueduct and compare that with the volume of water that moves through in a certain day, it’s parts per billion,” Laumbach said. “It’s not even at a level that our health standards would consider hazardous.” The tap water piped from the north to Southern California comes from pure snow drifts that melt and flow south in snaking canals – rushing over a hidden trove of stolen cars, lethal weapons and even human remains. The state’s engineering marvel, the 444-mile California Aqueduct stretching from Sacramento to Riverside County to bring water from the verdant north to the thirsty south, masks this linear dump, but raises the question of just how safe is this massive water supply. The state Department of Resources insists the water is perfectly fine to drink for two reasons: The volume of water is tremendous, diluting any contaminants, and the water is treated to meet tough standards when it reaches individual wholesalers. Early this year, the Water Resources crews drained a 98-mile stretch of the State Water Project aqueduct that flows largely across the northern edge of Los Angeles County from Gorman to Pearblossom and south toward Hesperia near Riverside. There was construction upstream, offering a good opportunity to clean out the lower end, a feat accomplished by closing some of the 66 water-tight gates that section off portions of the aqueduct.