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Posted on: September 24, 2021

Western and regional agencies partner on historic water storage program

RIVERSIDE, CA – Six regional water agencies working in conjunction with The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) have reached a historic agreement to better prepare the region for future droughts and promote water use efficiency throughout a three-county area. 

The Santa Ana River Conservation and Conjunctive Use Program (SARCCUP) is a first-of-its-kind regional groundwater banking program between Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD), Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA), Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC), Orange County Water District (OCWD), San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley), Western Municipal Water District (Western), and MWD.

The regional water agencies collectively serve several million customers across portions of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) helped distribute more than $55 million of grant funding from California Proposition 84 to support the program. Five of the participating agencies – EMWD, IEUA, OCWD, Valley and Western – are SAWPA member agencies.

“In our drought-prone region, we have a tremendous need for more local, reliable water sources and partnerships with regional agencies help secure those sources,” said Western’s General Manager Craig Miller. “By partnering to save this valuable natural resource, we are working collaboratively to improve sustainability for our entire region.”

The $150 million SARCCUP program will provide a collaborative, watershed-scale approach toward groundwater basin management, replenishment and water transfers. The regional water agencies will collectively plan for droughts while also conducting habitat restoration and assisting with the development of regional water use efficiency programs.

Under the agreement, SARCCUP will use up to 137,000 acre feet of storage in six groundwater basins. During wet years, Valley may have additional water available through its contract with the State Water Project. MWD has entered into an agreement with Valley that allows for the sale of surplus State Water Project water to MWD. As part of SARCCUP, MWD will make a portion of the water purchased from Valley available to SARCCUP partner agencies for use within the Santa Ana watershed.

Water that is banked would then be extracted using groundwater wells, treated, and then used for drinking water during periods of drought. The regional water agencies will be able to bank groundwater in any of six groundwater basins, with deliveries made through interconnecting pipelines or via supply transfer.

In 2020, Western completed work on its Victoria Recharge Basin, which was designed to increase the local water supply by capturing valuable stormwater that would otherwise be washed away. The Victoria Recharge Basin mimics a natural process called ‘recharging’— which happens when runoff and rain seep down through the soil to replenish underground water sources. In this case, Western designed a 10-acre site in Riverside that can recharge up to 1,800 acre-feet of water per year into the Arlington Groundwater Basin below, saving enough water to supply about 3,600 homes for one year. 

As part of a more extensive storage and conveyance network, the water captured and recharged can be extracted at Western’s Arlington Desalter, stored and pumped through its Sterling Reservoir and Pump Station, and delivered to the city of Norco. Additionally, Western can transport the water using the La Sierra Pipeline, supplementing supplies for Western’s Riverside service area during emergencies or service interruptions to imported water. Collectively, these projects represent a $94 million investment, $43 million of which was supported by grants and federal appropriations from the California State Bond Proceeds, Federal Bureau of Reclamation, California Revolving Fund Loan, California Water Resources Control Board, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

To learn more about the Victoria Recharge Basin, visit  wmwd.com/VictoriaRechargeBasin. Stay up to date on Western’s latest projects and happenings by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Western Municipal Water District is one of the largest public agencies in Riverside County, providing water and wastewater (sewer) services to nearly a million people, both retail and wholesale customers who live, work and play within 527 square miles in one of California’s most populous regions. Learn more: wmwd.com.

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