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.