Helping Nature Store Our Water

San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council

California’s history of water is rich with tales of lawsuits and political clashes. But in the Inland Empire, a dozen local agencies are doing things differently to ensure the long-term viability and sustainability of the region’s underground water supplies. Led by the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, these cities, water districts and other agencies have joined forces to form the San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council -- a collaborate and voluntary team that has taken a historic step toward water management.

Participating members contribute water and/or funding to purchase imported water that will be used to restore and maintain the groundwater basin at sustainable levels.

Participation is voluntary and allows a regional approach to groundwater management.

Council agencies contribute funding, water, and operations and maintenance assistance to ensure a sustainable water source.

Participating agencies benefit from a sustainable water source at very affordable pricing.

 

To date, the council consists of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, San Bernardino Municipal Water Department, East Valley Water District, Bear Valley Mutual Water Company, Yucaipa Valley Water District, Loma Linda University and the cities of Loma Linda, Rialto, Colton, West Valley Water District and Redlands.


This is a group of entities that for 100 years had grappled over water rights. But its members also share a long history of pitching in to help each other during extreme periods of drought.

A growing need for water management collaboration

Traditional methods of trapping local rainfall and snowmelt are no longer enough to serve the growing water needs of the region.

Pumping in the basin began to exceed safe yield in the 1980s, and the situation has grown progressively worse as the region experiences increasingly severe droughts.

Because imported water is needed to replenish the basin, this collaborative model ensure that every agency does its part to assist in that effort -- contributing water, money or both to develop a sustainable model of groundwater management.

While other parts of the state many be facing collaborative mandates under the Groundwater Sustainability Act of 2014, members of the Groundwater Council have been working together voluntarily – putting more than a century of experience into best practices for determining how to fairly distribute this arid region’s most precious natural resource.

Responsibility for replenishing and maintaining the basin is based on water demands. Agencies that require more and conserve less will contribute more in funding or imported water. Those with a limited demand for groundwater pumping contribute less.

It’s important to note that this has been an entirely voluntary process based upon teamwork: these agencies have worked together to determine their fair share without the threat of the state management under the Groundwater Sustainability Act.

They recognize that collaboration is necessary to ensure a sustainable source of groundwater for the future and to reduce costs by eliminating the need to purchase imported water on the “spot market” at much higher prices.

How it works

How much each entity contributes to the council is determined according to use, historic rights, conservation, water recycling and other factors developed over a year of open exchanges of concerns and information. Those that need more water, pay more. It’s a method that ensures capacity for each entity, but does not penalize those who conserve. The primary benefits of the Groundwater Council are:

It significantly improves the region’s water supply at a significantly lower price.

It provides a greater reliability on water availability.

High water quality in the basin is maintained with additional low-salinity imported water.

With so many local agencies contributing their share to the basin, the amount of imported water being recharged each year is now at record highs.

A model for cooperation

The San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council demonstrates what can be done when agencies large and small work together to help resolve California’s water challenges.

It reflects a practical and cooperative spirit of hard work and honest negotiations that help to resolve the region’s larger issues of ensuring safe drinking water for all communities, and finding solutions to long-term drought.

Additional Historical Documents

Groundwater News

SBVWCD Receives Statewide Recognition for Local Groundwater Council

SBVWCD Receives Statewide Recognition for Local Groundwater Council

Unprecedented teamwork among local water districts to establish a regional water storage program has received statewide recognition as the Innovative Project of the Year by the California Special Districts Association.

Groundwater Council

Op-ed: Groundwater Council Reflects New Spirit of Cooperation in Water Management

There’s a new wave of collaboration spilling into the shared management of water in the San Bernardino Valley.

New Council to Address Historic Low Groundwater Water Storage

New Council to Address Historic Low Groundwater Water Storage

Inland Empire cities, water districts and departments are joining forces in a manner never before seen in San Bernardino County:

Groundwater Council FAQ

What is the San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council?

A new and voluntary collaboration that has taken a historic step toward water management. - Participating members (GW Producers) contribute water and/or funding to purchase imported water that will be used to restore and maintain the groundwater basin at sustainable levels. - Participation is voluntary and signals commitment to a regional approach to groundwater management. - Council agencies contribute funding, water, and operations and maintenance assistance to ensure a sustainable water source. - Participating agencies benefit from a sustainable water source at very affordable pricing.

Who is involved in the Groundwater Council?

San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District; East Valley Water District; the cities of Colton, Loma Linda and Rialto; San Bernardino Municipal Water Department; Fontana Water Company; Western Municipal Water District; and Yucaipa Valley Water District. (West Valley Water District and Redlands expected to join soon.)

How does the Groundwater Council work?

- How much each entity contributes to the council is determined according to use, historic rights, considering conservation, water recycling and other factors developed over a year of open exchanges of concerns, options, and information. - Those that need more water, pay more. It’s a method that ensures capacity for each entity, but does not penalize those who conserve.

What are its benefits for the Groundwater Council?

- It significantly improves the region’s water supply at a significantly lower cost than purchasing water in a drought. - It provides a greater reliability of water supply availability. - High water quality in the basin is maintained with local supplies and more low-salinity imported water. - With so many local agencies contributing their share to the basin, the amount of imported water being recharged each year is now at record highs.

Why is it important?

- Traditional methods of trapping local rainfall and snowmelt is no longer enough to serve the growing water needs of the region. - Pumping in the basin began to exceed safe yield in the 1980s, and the situation has grown progressively worse as the region becomes increasingly plagued by drought. - Even while in discussions about forming the Council, these partner agencies began working together to store water for the future. - Nearly 79,000 acre-feet or about 26 billion gallons of water -- enough water to serve 94 percent of the population of San Bernardino, Redlands and Highlands -- was imported into the region by Groundwater Council members and recharged into the basin in the 2016-17 water year, with even more anticipated for the 2017-18 year.

Why is collaboration necessary?

- This is a group of entities that for 100 years had grappled with competing water rights. But Groundwater Council members also share a long history of pitching in to help each other during extreme dry periods. - Because imported water is needed to replenish the basin, this collaborative model ensures that every agency does its part to assist in that effort -- contributing water, money or both to develop a sustainable model of groundwater management. - While other parts of the state are facing groundwater management mandates under the Groundwater Sustainability Act of 2014, members of the Groundwater Council have been working together voluntarily – putting more than a century of experience into best practices for determining how to fairly distribute a region’s most precious natural resource. - Collaboration is indispensable to ensure a sustainable source of groundwater for the future and to reduce costs by eliminating the need to purchase imported water on the “spot market” at much higher prices. - There are several upcoming water collaborations that have been made possible by the agencies working together.