Groundwater Council Reflects New Spirit of Cooperation in Water Management
(Editor's note: The following opinion piece was published Sept. 9, 2018 in the San Bernardino Sun and Daily Bulletin newspapers.)
There’s a new wave of collaboration spilling into the shared management of water in the San Bernardino Valley.
In a state where fighting over water rights is as old as the state itself, a dozen agencies in the region have formed a new entity — the San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council — to work toward the greater purpose of storing water for our future.
San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation 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 and Colton, (Redlands is also expected to join), are committed to making the Groundwater Council a successful model for what arid regions like ours can do to ensure that there is enough water for everyone.
Fundamentally, its purpose is to ensure there are funds available to purchase water in wet years, and facilities in place to store that water underground for use during dry years.
Each member of the council contributes water and/or funding to purchase and recharge groundwater using calculations that ensure that there is always ample water storage for the region. The allocation and cost 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.
Some might say it’s best for water districts to protect and serve only their own customer’s interests. Why work with others when they might be taking the very resources you hope to claim for yourself?
Because the groundwater basin is a shared resource, the responsibility for managing it in a practical way must be shared, too. Collaboration gives any cause more power, and with so many local agencies contributing their fair share to the basin, the amount of imported water being recharged each year is now at record highs.
The San Bernardino Valley Groundwater Council is a model for what water agencies large and small can do to help resolve California’s water challenges.
It’s the kind of spirit that makes the most of a situation — drawing from the various strengths of each district to contribute jointly to ensure the availability of water long into the future.
All in all, this is a remarkable feat for a region that has fought over water for so long.
Douglas Headrick is general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, Daniel Cozad is general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District.
Tribal Members Harvest and Celebrate the Yucca of the Wash
Boiled yucca blossoms have a subtle flavor similar to an artichoke.
The yucca has a strong cultural meaning to the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
Its delicate spring blossoms are harvested for food. Yucca fronds can be processed into rope or be woven into sandals and clothing. When rubbed in water, the plant produces a foamy soap. It can be used as a medicine, and its hardened stalk serves as a trusty quiver for arrows.
The San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians cooperatively steward the cultural native flora through a mutual agreement. This agreement highlights the alliance of the tribe and the district in preserving the natural environment and traditional uses associated with the wash.
“The Yucca Harvest is a big part of the collaboration between the water district that helps us preserve our culture,” said San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos (Serrano/Cahuilla), a former chairman of the tribe.
Other plants, such as the white sage, dog bane, acorn, cactus, pinyon, and juniper berry are also cultivated at various times and locations to celebrate and continue the tribe’s culture, tradition and harmony with the Earth.
This spring’s harvest was celebrated April 14 at the San Manuel Tribal Unity and Cultural Awareness Program’s annual Yucca Harvest Celebration.
Several tribal members from as far as San Francisco came to join in on what Ramos called “a fun-filled family event.”
Willie Pink (Luiseño /Kumeyaay) of Topanga oversaw traditional games such as dice made from walnut shells or a yo-yo like game that involves catching hollowed acorn caps on a stick.
“That’s a game that requires practice,” Pink said, chuckling as a newbie gave the game a try.
Other tribes represented included tribal members from Fort Mojave, Morongo, Pechanga, Cahuilla, Santa Rosa, Tuolumne Me-Wuk and Pala.
The event featured Cahuilla bird singing and Serrano songs, a demonstration of how to cook the yucca blossoms, Tuolumne Me-Wuk dancers, an acorn mush demonstration and more.
Lunch included boiled yucca blossom – which have a subtle flavor that is brighter than, but similar to, an artichoke – yucca bread, yucca salad, rabbit stew, deer chili and other popular dishes such as tamales and tortilla chips.
People spoke about the importance of practicing tradition so that younger generations can retain those memories and carry them on. One speaker, Wally “Uncle Wally” Antone (Fort Mojave) said he retained his knowledge of the local language over the years because he grew up speaking his native tongue at home.
“There’s a lot of difference when you’re brought up traditionally,” he said. “That’s a little bit of what we’re trying to do here today.”
Yucca fronds can be woven into rope and sandals, (above).
Yucca blossoms before preparation.
The San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District (” District”) has completed the 2017 Engineering Investigation (EI) of the Bunker Hill Basin. The Draft EI was presented to the Board at its February 8th Board Meeting and will be presented to the Board for approval at its March 15th Board of Directors meeting to be held at the District Office at 1:30 p.m. This report is completed in connection with the Board of Directors’ consideration of a groundwater charge on groundwater production within the Conservation District’s boundaries. Article 1, Section 75560 of the California Water Code, requires that a water conservation district that proposes to levy or continue a groundwater extraction fee “…shall annually cause to be made an engineering investigation and report upon groundwater conditions of the District.” A copy of the Conservation District’s 2017 EI report is available for review online at the District’s website at https://www.sbvwcd.org/reports-and-data/engineering-investigation.html or at the District’s office at 1630 West Redlands Blvd., Suite A, Redlands, CA.
This notice is provided to advise all interested parties that District staff is recommending a rate increase of 4% for the upcoming water year, and the use of rate stabilization reserves of approximately $35,000 to the District’s Board of Directors, the proposed groundwater rate is $3.36 per acre-foot for groundwater production for direct agricultural production and $12.08 per acre-foot for groundwater production for non-agricultural purposes. These rates are proposed pertain to agricultural and non-agricultural groundwater production from July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018. California Water Code 75594 dictates that the rate for non-agricultural groundwater production must be between three and five times the rate for agricultural use. The groundwater charge is not imposed on a property basis, but rather is a per acre-foot charge, which relates directly to the amount of groundwater produced from wells overlying the groundwater basin within the Conservation District’s boundaries. Consequently, the ultimate amount of groundwater charge to be paid by individual operators cannot be precisely identified now, because it will depend directly upon the amount and purposes of groundwater produced in the basin from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. Assuming similar levels of agricultural and non-agricultural production as occurred in 2016-2017, the total revenue estimated to be collected from both agricultural (11,776 af) and non-agricultural production (60,154 af) for the 2016-2017 water year is $737, 026. The groundwater charge is collected on a semi-annual basis, based on production statements operators submit for their groundwater production. The District uses the proceeds of the groundwater charge to fund ongoing groundwater replenishment of the basin, including direct water recharge, facility operations repairs and maintenance, and related costs. A public meeting and public hearing on the proposed groundwater charge will be held in the Conservation District’s Board Room located at 1630 West Redlands Blvd., Suite A, Redlands, CA 92373. The date and time for the public meeting will be April 12, 2017, at 1:30 pm. The date and time of the public hearing will be held on April 26, 2017, at 1:30 pm. You are invited to attend the public meeting and public hearing, and may submit evidence concerning groundwater conditions, water supplies of the Conservation District, rates, or any matter relating to the proposed groundwater charge. In addition, any party wishing to protest the proposed increase to the groundwater charge, may mail a protest to the Conservation District’s office at the address provided above, and/or present such protest at the public meeting or public hearing. Further inquiries regarding the report or the groundwater charge, or requests for further information, may be directed to Daniel B. Cozad at 1630 West Redlands Blvd., Suite A, Redlands, CA 92373, or by telephone at (909) 793-2503.