Water has always been a precious commodity in the San Bernardino Valley. In normal conditions, the Valley would be considered a desert. However, because of groundwater and irrigation, agriculture is able to flourish.
In 1910, the Water Conservation Association (WCA) was organized to conserve the water of the Santa Ana River by storing it in the groundwater basin for future use. In 1931, local citizens voted to create the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District as a public agency to protect against excessive export of the local surface water by downstream agencies. The WCA was dissolved in the early 1940s and all land and water property was transferred to the District.
The Water Conservation Act of 1931 provided broad authority to exercise a variety of powers necessary to further the District's primary goal of conserving water, such as making contracts, acquiring property through eminent domain, owning and operating recreational facilities, owning and operating hydroelectric plants, and intervening in the actions of other agencies when those actions interfere with the natural flow of streams that would otherwise be conserved for beneficial use. The District is organized under Division 21 of the California Water Code, and regulated by Sections 74000 to 76501.
The District has historically operated water recharge facilities in two areas: the Santa Ana River and Mill Creek. Depending on the amount of rain and snow in the mountains, the District recharges the groundwater basin during most months of the year. Imported water has also been recharged in the District's facilities.
While the District has the tag line "our name is our mission", the formal adopted mission of the District approved in 2001 is shown below:
The mission of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District is to ensure recharge of the Bunker Hill Groundwater Basin in an environmentally and economically responsible way, using local native surface water to the maximum extent practicable. We strive to improve the supply and quality of groundwater, balancing such demands with those of land, mineral, and biological resources.
The water mission is but one of the District's important efforts undertaken by the District. The sections below present more recent history for the District.
The District, Not Consolidated, Emerges More Efficient
In 2009, the nearly 100-year-old district retained the right to remain serving the people of the valley when the Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCO) did not recommend combining it with the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. During the three-hour long public meeting, District representatives and supporters convinced the LAFCO Board of Directors that the goals and mission of the Water Conservation District were not only different from those of the Municipal Water District, but well worth keeping separate. They were also able to demonstrate that combining the two districts could result in a net loss of revenue and not save tax-payer money or improve efficiency.
Water Conservation District Defeats Merger Efforts Press Enterprise
LAFCO Votes Down Water Deal Redlands Daily Facts
The LAFCO decision has proven to be a wise one. The Conservation District is participating with Valley District (Muni) in the improvement plans of the Conservation District’s Santa Ana River water collection and spreading grounds based on recommendations of the Optimization Study. These improvements will benefit the entire basin by trapping and spreading larger storm flows rather than letting valuable surface water flow downstream and out of our area. Another joint project is the improvements to the Cuttle Weir that will improve flow to the basins up to nearly 200 acre-feet per day of water to our basin’s groundwater spreading supply.
2010 - 2011 Great Year for Conservation
In 2011, the District was able to recharge more water than in the last 20 years. Approximately 55,000 acre-feet were recharged. This was possible because of the operating agreements and renewed relationships with water agencies in the basin, above average precipitation, and a basin that could hold the water recharged. The District cleaned the basins in advance of the flows and was ready to get this valuable water into the ground for storage. The water recharge is the third highest in the 100 year history of the District. However, despite the historic cuts to the budget, the cost of basin cleaning and maintenance required rate increases to avoid seriously depleting reserves. Despite unanimous support for the increases, 2010 and 2011 were deficit years financially for the District.
2012-2013 - Refining Governance, Stabilizing Finances and Strategic Planning
The District had the great need and the opportunity to stabilize its revenue with producer supported rate increases to fully fund its Ground water Recharge operations as well as changes in mining agreements to stabilize the Land Resources Enterprise.
While these increases were large as a percentage, they did not increase the cost per acre-foot by much. The reductions in District costs and the groundwater charge fully paying the cost of basin recharge allows the District to stabilize and begin to rebuild reserves with one-time revenue and new contract funding. The District completed a Community Strategic Plan by reviewing the 2010 strategic plan and then engaging the communities, as well as water and other partners to review and refine ideas for the strategic plan to fit the services needed. Partner and community suggestions were incorporated and combined with updated planning by the Board of Directors to produce the Approved District Community Strategic Plan.