In support of its mission, the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District provides a number of services to support the people of the San Bernardino Valley:
- groundwater recharge
- assure beneficial use of water resources
- Big Bear Watermaster
- balance groundwater levels
- improve groundwater quality
- promote proper uses of natural resources
- plan for and protect the environment
The Water Conservation District provides services that assure high quality local water supplies for people and the environment in the San Bernardino Valley.
The weather in the Valley alternates between droughts and floods. The District staff captures surface water in the wet years and channels the water to a series of small basins where the water percolates into the ground and is stored until it is needed.
By keeping the groundwater basin relatively full, the District helps reduce the cost of pumping groundwater.
The District serves the role of the “honest broker” among ten public and private water agencies which formed the Santa Ana River-Mill Creek Cooperative Water Project to facilitate transfers and exchanges of water amongst the members.
Because the District is neither a wholesaler nor retailer of water, it was deemed the most objective and was selected to manage the program and the water transfers. The District has performed that role continuously since 1976.
The District is one of three court-appointed members of the Big Bear Watermaster. The Watermaster accounts for the flows of water in and out of Big Bear Lake. The District’s function is to ensure that flows that should or would contribute to the groundwater basin are not lost or improperly used by others.
Just as the State of California has more water in the north and people in the south, the San Bernardino Valley has more water in the east and more people in the west. In addition, the subsurface slopes from east downward to the west, so water migrates naturally in that direction. A natural ground fault, called the San Jacinto Fault, forces groundwater toward the surface in the lower (west) end of the basin. As a result, groundwater is higher and could be dangerous in the event of an earthquake.
The District is working with other water agencies to balance the need for higher groundwater in the east end of the basin area with the need for lower groundwater levels in the west end of the basin. Several agencies are pumping groundwater through their wells and making that water available to downstream users. This allows the groundwater levels in the west to be lowered, while also allowing the groundwater to be replenished in the east. A balance of needs is achieved.
The native surface waters of the Santa Ana River and Mill Creek are some of the best quality waters in the State of California.
When the surface water is not being used, such as during storms, the District captures the water and puts it into the ground. This high-quality water blends with and improves the existing groundwater, making native water a much better replenishment source than imported water.
Annual analyses of the principal contaminants of total dissolved solids and total inorganic nitrogen reveal that the groundwater quality is better where the surface water has percolated into the ground. Improving the groundwater supply reduces the cost to treat wastewater.
The District has supported mineral extraction from its lands for more than 60 years. These deposits of sand and gravel are designated by the State Department of Resources to be “regionally significant” and are to be protected to assure sustaining the local economy.
The mining industry provides 2-4 million tons of aggregate annually for road construction and other masonry products. Through an economic multiplier effect, the mining industry pumps $50 million into the local economy each year.
District lands are home to several natural plant and animal habitats, including those for sensitive, threatened, or endangered species.
The District is forming partnerships with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and State Department of Fish and Game to ensure that water conservation practices are compatible with effective wildlife habitat management. To ensure that compatibility, the District is spearheading development of a Land Management and Habitat Conservation Plan for the Upper Santa Ana River, a cooperative effort among 15 agencies.