Local water basins were filled with record-breaking deposits of snowmelt, rainfall and imported water, with 2018-19 Water Year totals achieving numbers not seen since 1987, the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District announced today.
San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District Breaks 30-Year Record for Groundwater Storage, at 20 Billion Gallons and Counting
Heavy rainfall, the collective use of imported water for storage, and improvements in flow capture have filled basins with enough groundwater to serve 180,000 families for one year.
Like money in the bank, local groundwater aquifers have seen record-breaking deposits this year with a staggering 20 billion gallons saved so far and another two months still left in the water year, the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District announced today.
More than 61,000 acre-feet of snowmelt and rainfall has been diverted from Mill Creek and the Santa Ana River by the District and recharged into the groundwater basin for future use by those who pump water from the basin. Imported water was also used to help supplement the amount of water stored.
SBVWCD General Manager Daniel Cozad attributes this year’s high recharge figures to a wet winter and the 2017 establishment of the San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council: a group of local cities and water agencies helping to purchase imported State Project water for groundwater storage.
The water stored so far this year is enough to serve 180,000 families in Southern California for an entire year, Cozad said. It helps to replenish the water used during the prior drought periods and will help provide resiliency for future dry times.
“Our region is blessed with large underground aquifers that can store substantial amounts of water for use in times of severe drought,” Cozad said. “Thanks to our partner agencies on the Groundwater Council, we have been able to capture the rain that fell in the winter and spring and saw unprecedented collaboration to store as much water as our facilities can handle.”
The last time the region stored this much groundwater was in 1987, coming down from a period of successive wet winters. Prior to that, 20 billion gallons of storage had not been achieved since the late 1940s.
“We are excited and encouraged to see the large amount of storage achieved in such a short amount of time,” said San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District General Manager Douglas D. Headrick, whose agency imports the State Project Water used to supplement recharge. Valley District is one of more than a dozen members of the Groundwater Council.
The Groundwater Council is a 21st century model for cooperation, where member agencies pitch in their fair share for the purchase of imported water to achieve optimum levels of water storage in the San Bernardino and Bunker Hill groundwater basins.
Participation in the Council is open to all groundwater producers in the San Bernardino Basin area. Current members include East Valley Water District; the cities of Colton, Loma Linda and Rialto; San Bernardino Municipal Water Department; Fontana Water Company; West Valley Water District; San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District; San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, Bear Valley Mutual Water Company and Yucaipa Valley Water District.
This year’s record-breaking water storage comes on the heels of two other years of significant recharge.
The 2017-18 water year, which runs annually from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, reflected the highest streamflow recharge levels in five years at 16 billion gallons — the 16th highest recharge amount since the District started recording measurements 106 years ago.
The 2016-17 water year’s total recharge was 236 percent above average.
Previous years of substantial streamflow recharge include: 2011 (53,986 acre feet); 2010 (30,565 a/f); 2005 (56,980 a/f); 1998 (55,576 a/f); and 1995 (35,876 a/f). The record year for water recharge in the district was in 1922, when 104,545 acre feet of water was captured in retention ponds where it was allowed to seep underground to recharge the basins.
Since 1912, the SBVWCD has conserved more than one million acre feet or 326 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.
Regional Project to Dramatically Boost Area’s Water Storage Capacity
Three local districts kick off Phase 1 of the new Enhanced Recharge Project, which will replenish the groundwater basin for the 1 million people living in the region.
SEVEN OAKS DAM — A group of area water agencies has joined forces on a new project that will dramatically improve the region’s ability to capture and store water for San Bernardino Valley area.
The first phase of the agencies’ Enhanced Recharge Project was put into operations last month, marking the start of a larger plan to provide a resilient and reliable water supply to the people living and working in Highland, Redlands and surrounding cities.
To kick off the project, representatives from the project’s partner agencies — the San Bernardino Municipal Water District, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, Western Municipal Water District — were joined by area dignitaries and community members at a ceremony May 24 that included a dramatic water flow release from the Seven Oaks Dam into the new $14 million Enhanced Recharge sedimentation basin.
The initial phase of the project included new intake improvements to better capture water flowing from the nearby mountains and streams, a sedimentation basin to contain the rock and sand in those flows, and cleaner water goes to the recharge basins to hold the water so that it has time to percolate into the groundwater basin below.
Phase 2 of the project will include the construction of recharge also called percolation basins farther downstream, which will more than double the amount of water that can be captured in the winter and stored underground for summer or dry years. These facilities will significantly expand the existing 71 basins covering about 700 acres.
Apart from these new facilities, the Conservation District designated land use in the area for water recharge, habitat conservation and mining — balancing the needs of the community, environment and industry as recently authorized under the Santa Ana River Wash Plan Land Exchange Act, which was signed into law earlier this is year.
“This project is a prime example of multi-agency cooperation, collaboration and close coordination,” said Richard Corneille, president of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, which is responsible for recharging water from local rain and snowmelt into the aquifer. “Working together, we have taken the best of our respective financial, land and staff assets and skills and are bringing them together to build a more efficient water storage system for the communities we serve.”
Years of drought have taken their toll on the basin, which is down by 1 million acre feet — enough water to serve about 2 million families for a year. About 75% of the water supply of Inland Water agencies comes from this local groundwater basin.
San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District General Manager Douglas Headrick said the recharge project will significantly improve the reliability and resiliency of the region’s local water supply.
“As the agency responsible for long-range water supply management for the San Bernardino Valley, we are joining other agencies to ensure that we have enough underground water storage to sustain our communities in times of drought.”
Significant rainfall this winter has sparked a bumper year for recharge, said Daniel Cozad, General Manager of the water conservation district.
“We have stored more water in the last year than in the last decade,” he said.
The teamwork represented by the project reflects a broader spirit of collaboration embodied by the formation the Groundwater Council to jointly ensure the reliability of the groundwater basin.
To date, members of the Groundwater Council include the three partners involved in the Enhanced Recharge Project, along with East Valley Water District, the cities of Colton, Redlands, Loma Linda and Rialto, Riverside Public Utilities, San Bernardino Municipal Water District, Riverside Highland Water Company, Fontana Water Company, and Yucaipa Valley Water District.
President Signs Local Santa Ana Wash Plan into Law
President Donald Trump on March 12 signed new legislation into law that will promote the ongoing expansion of sensitive habitat areas and water storage, while establishing appropriate areas for mining operations that provide $36 million in payroll annually to the region.
The adoption of the Santa Ana River Wash Plan Land Exchange Act clears the way for the Bureau of Land Management to exchange land with the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District under regulations in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
The 4,500-acre Wash Plan was developed over many years by a local Wash Plan Task Force made up of the cities of Highland and Redlands; the SBVWCD, East Valley Water District, and San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District; CEMEX, Robertson’s Ready Mix; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game, Inland Valley Development Agency and the Endangered Habitats League.
Several task force representatives attributed the long-awaited success of the legislation to the teamwork involved in making it happen.
“This legislation is an important step in helping local efforts that are good for the environment, good for the local water supply, and good for business and jobs in our region,” said Daniel Cozad, general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District.
San Bernardino Valley Water District General Manager Douglas Headrick said the new law will allow partner agencies to move forward with plans to optimize land use in the wash for the benefit of all interests.
“Valley District has worked alongside other task force members for many years to support the land exchange, which will open the door to a whole host of opportunities including critical water projects to enhance groundwater storage, and expanded habitat for native and threatened species,” Headrick said.
The next step in the process, he added, is for the Bureau of Land Management to approve the Environmental Impact Study that has been in process for years to implement this Act of Congress.
Originally introduced as separate legislation by U.S. Representatives Colonel Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) and Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the Wash Plan Land Exchange was consolidated into S. 47, by Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a broad Land and Natural Resources bill that included more than 100 other pieces of legislation.
Cozad called its passage collaboration at its best.
“It shows that it is possible for both sides of the aisle and both houses to work together to help the communities they serve,” he said. “We really appreciate the work of everyone involved in bringing this legislation to life.”
Rep. Cook called the Wash Plan a win for the economy and a win for the environment. “This will align local land ownership with appropriate uses, setting aside already disturbed land for aggregate mining and setting aside important habitat for conservation purposes,” he said.
Rep. Aguilar agreed.
“The Wash Plan will empower industries to take root and flourish, continue investments in our transportation and infrastructure, and preserve our environment and regional wildlife. This is an important step forward for our communities,” he said.
Cozad said the land exchange will lead to more protection efforts for habitat, improved connectivity in the wildlife corridor, expanded water storage capacity, and the future establishment of public access and trails which, once built, will connect and help complete the Santa Ana River Trail.
“This project has been 15 years in the making,” Cozad said. “Doing a Habitat Conservation Plan with this many seemingly conflicting interests is unusual, particularly when you consider each has a different mission to implement.”