Groundwater Council Reflects New Spirit of Cooperation in Water Management

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.


Inland Empire Districts to Form Partnership to Enhance Water Reliability

Inland Empire Districts to Form Partnership to Enhance Water Reliability

REDLANDS, Calif. (Sept. 11, 2018) —The boards of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District and San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District voted Monday to pursue a partnership agreement that will draw from the best of both districts to promote a brighter future for groundwater storage and the protection of threatened species in this region. 

In a rare joint meeting, the two boards took action to develop a partnership agreement that will serve the Upper Santa Ana River Wash Plan, the Upper Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan and complete projects to recharge water into the Bunker Hill Basin for use during dry years.

“This partnership reflects the commitment of the two districts’ boards to meet our region’s needs for groundwater recharge and habitat conservation,” said Daniel Cozad, general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District. “It will expand the ways we work together to benefit the region and enhance cooperation and efficiency in operations.

“Collaboration is oftentimes difficult in our industry, especially where water or habitats are concerned,” he said. “But I believe, working thoughtfully together, we can more efficiently meet the water and habitat needs of our region.”

Douglas Headrick, general manager for the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, agreed.

“Both districts bring valuable resources and relationships to the table to accomplish recharge and species preservation,” he said. “This partnership is a win-win for local tax- and ratepayers, and the sensitive habitats of our region.”

Details of the proposed partnership provide that:
• The conservation district provide up to 295 acres of conservation easements to the San Bernardino Valley Conservation Trust, to help offset the environmental impacts of active recharge projects being undertaken to enhance groundwater recharge and storage.
• For each acre of conservation easement the conservation district transfers to the trust, Valley District will provide funding to the conservation district for building new recharge projects.
• Valley District will fund a permanent endowment with the conservation trust to support the management of habitat mitigation land.
• Valley District will transfer to the conservation district the implementation, management and eventual ownership of the following capital improvement projects: Plunge Creek Basins 1 and 2 (construction and operations); City Creek Basins (construction and operations);Waterman Percolation Basins (reconstruction and maintenance); East Twin Creek Basin (repairs and maintenance); Mill Creek Diversion (expansion, construction, and operations).

Oversight and participation in the new partnership arrangement will be ensured through the establishment of a Partnership Agreement Policy Committee. The San Bernardino Valley Conservation Trust would be asked to expand its board to include a designee of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District as a member.


District Employee Named CalPERS' Public Servant of the Year


Manuel Colunga, field operations supervisor for the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, was awarded this year's CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence Award —- an honor bestowed each year on one outstanding public servant in state of California.

The award was presented Oct. 22 at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s Education Forum in Indian Wells. A video, paying tribute to Colunga’s work and volunteerism in the community, was posted on the CalPERS website alongside past recipients of the award.

“The efforts of public servants often go unnoticed, even as they work diligently behind the scenes to educate us, protect us, keep us healthy, and provide essential services and infrastructure,” CalPERS stated on its website. “That’s why we created the CalPERS Spotlight on Excellence award.”

In his role at the District, Colunga keeps watch over the 18 miles of canals, 26 miles of roads and 73 recharge basins he patrols daily with his small team within the San Bernardino Valley Wash. As a steward of the land and the water, it’s his job to watch the skies, anticipate water flows, reshape contours of the earth and capture water — recharging it into the groundwater basin that serves the San Bernardino Valley region.

Colunga is also a committed member of the community. He has volunteered as a trainer for the Redlands YMCA Youth Circus for more than 18 years.

“Manuel is an exceptional person, and we are extremely lucky to have him on our team and helping out in our community,” said SBVWCD General Manager Daniel Cozad. “From the standpoint of doing what’s right and helping others, he clearly exemplifies the values and principles of public service in all his professional and personal interactions.”

Tribal Members Harvest and Celebrate the Yucca of the Wash

Tribal Members Harvest and Celebrate the Yucca of the Wash

20180414 121431 preview

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.”

20180414 120136 preview

Yucca fronds can be woven into rope and sandals, (above).

32539112060 1a90f57f68 o preview

Yucca blossoms before preparation.