Helping Nature Store Our Water

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San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District on track to break 100-year record for recharge at 21.15 billion gallons and counting

Recent improvements to recharge facilities captured record levels of winter rain and snowmelt, filling the Bunker Hill basin with enough water to serve 190,000 households for one year.

100-year record for recharge at 21.15 billion gallons and counting

REDLANDS, Calif. (July 27, 2023) — Record rain and snowfall has brought record levels of groundwater recharge to the region: storing enough water in an underground aquifer to serve more than 190,000 families for a year, the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District announced today.

The Los Angeles region saw its eighth wettest season in 145 years this year, with local mountains receiving up to 240 inches of snow. That, combined with recent improvements to local recharge facilities, helped make the most of this double windfall with 64,493 acre-feet or 21.15 billion gallons of water stored.

“Coming on the heels of the worst drought in California, this winter has been a blessing for our state,” said General Manager Betsy Miller. “Locally, we are on track to break our 2019 record of 24 million gallons — a number that we hadn’t seen since the 1920s.”

Miller attributes this to ongoing collaborative improvements, including:

  • 2018: The formation of the San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council, which encourages collaboration among agencies to manage water levels within the local basin.
  • 2019: Completion of Phase 1 of an Enhanced Recharge Project, designed and built by San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District to capture and recharge storm water under the eventual ownership and management of the Conservation District.
  • 2020: Approval of the Upper Santa Ana River Wash Habitat Conservation Plan, which manages land uses within the wash to protect groundwater replenishment, native habitat for threatened species, along with industry and recreational uses for the community.
  • 2020-2022: Establishment of the Plunge Creek Conservation Project, which restored the creek back to a naturally braided stream to significantly improve groundwater storage while increasing habitat for the endangered San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat and other sensitive species and created 11.7 acres of new wetted area to recharge the aquifer, including 2.3 acres of constructed channels and 9.4 acres of new recharge areas formed from flows.
  • 2023: Ongoing improvements to Plunge Creek and Mill Creek, with a new phase of Enhanced Recharge Project facilities planned at along the Santa Ana River, in partnership with the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and other partners.


“Collaboration is what’s prompted the recent spike in recharge totals, compared to years past,” Miller said. “Working together, we are able to pool resources and make significant headway on replenishing our Bunker Hill Basin — storing water now for future generations.”

This year’s record-breaking water storage comes on the heels of another record-breaking year in 2019, at 24 billion gallons. Previous years of substantial streamflow recharge include: 2016 (50,063 acre-feet or 16 billion gallons); 2011 (53,562 acre-feet or 17 billion gallons); and 1993 (40,216 acre-feet or 13 billion gallons).

The record year for water recharge in the District was in 1922, when 80,065 acre feet of water was captured in retention ponds where it was allowed to seep underground

Since 1912, the SBVWCD has conserved more than 1.3 million acre feet or 410 billion gallons of water by diverting the natural flow of the Santa Ana River and Mill Creek into 71 percolation basins that allow the water to collect and seep naturally into the ground, where it can be pumped out for future use. For more information, visit

About the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District:

For nearly a century, the SBVWCD has stewarded the San Bernardino Valley water basin and the native species of the Upper Santa Ana River Wash. Its collaborative approach to project management assures high-quality local water supplies for people, agriculture, and the environment. This includes groundwater recharge and oversight, and protection of habitat and native species in the Wash. Visit