Inland Empire cities, water districts and departments are joining forces in a manner never before seen in San Bernardino County: establishing a collaborative of agencies working together to ensure the long-term viability of underground water supplies, now at historic lows after 20 years of drought.
Action taken Tuesday by the San Bernardino Municipal Water Department and the City of Rialto pushed participation to the point that the San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council can move forward, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District General Manager Douglas Headrick announced Wednesday morning.
“This is a historic moment for water management in our region,” Headrick said. “It reflects a joint commitment to the shared purpose of ensuring that there are funds to purchase the water needed to sustain the region now and long into the future.”
Daniel Cozad, general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, said the council reflects a new era of cooperation among water agencies in the basin.
“Working together accomplishes much more than what any of us could do individually,” he said. “Ultimately, through this council, we are sharing in the responsibility to meet the water needs of the region in a manner in which all members contribute their fair share.”
Participating agencies will contribute water and/or funding to purchase imported water that will be used to replenish and maintain the groundwater basin at optimum levels.
The council is a voluntary action of the member cities or districts. With Tuesday’s votes, participation has surpassed the numbers needed to establish a quorum, Cozad said. That means the council can begin meeting to define the parameters of how the group will function. Impacts on ratepayers will vary by district and be determined as the process moves forward.
To date, members of the council include East Valley Water District, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, East Valley Water District, the City of Loma Linda, Bear Valley Mutual Water Company, Yucaipa Valley Water District, City of Rialto and San Bernardino Municipal Water Department. Votes are still pending for the City of Colton, City of Redlands, Loma Linda University and West Valley Water District.
Membership remains open to other entities in the San Bernardino Basin Area as well.
“Long-term water reliability requires a high level of cooperation and coordination to benefit the communities we serve,” said John Mura, general manager/CEO of East Valley Water District. “Establishing the council allows us to look beyond our individual boundaries to achieve great things through this new partnership.”
The primary benefits of the Groundwater Council are:
- It significantly improves the region’s water supply
- It provides a greater reliability on water availability
- High water quality in the basin is maintained with additional low-salinity imported water
- It represents a collaborative and equitable approach that leverages efficiencies among water agencies
The region set a new record for the amount of imported water that was recharged in the 2016-17 water year. Nearly 79,000 acre-feet, or about 26 billion gallons of water was imported.
About the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District
The SBVWCD serves an area totaling 50,000 acres within unincorporated San Bernardino County as well as portions of the cities of San Bernardino, Loma Linda, Redlands, and Highland. The water recharged by the District serves more than 227,580 people in the District who use well water through partner water agencies. In addition, cities and agriculture in Riverside County pump and use water recharged by the District. SBVWCD recharges native river, creek, and State Project water on behalf of producers and water partners. Visit www.sbvwcd.org.
About San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District
Valley District provides supplemental State Water Project water to 13 retail water agencies from Rialto to Yucaipa that collectively serve more than 700,000 business and residential customers. In addition to providing supplemental water from Northern California, Valley District manages groundwater storage within its boundaries. The San Bernardino-based agency was formed in 1954 - in the midst of a 20-year drought - to find a way to import supplemental water into western San Bernardino County to make up for shortfalls in local water supplies. Visit www.sbvmwd.com for more information.