Southern California agencies partner to bank water for future droughts

Southern California agencies partner to bank water for future droughts

Seven regional water agencies have joined forces 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 (SBVMWD), Western Municipal Water District (WMWD), and MWD.

“This is a historic agreement and will benefit millions of Southern California residents by better preparing our respective regions for future droughts,” EMWD Board President Phil Paule said. “We are proud to have helped develop and implement this innovative program. We sincerely appreciate the partnerships of all the member agencies that have helped make this program possible.”

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, SBVMWD may have additional water available through its contract with the State Water Project. MWD has entered into an agreement with SBVMWD that allows for SBVMWD to sell surplus State Water Project water to MWD, and as part of SARCCUP, MWD will make a portion of the water purchased from SBVMWD 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 in lieu delivery.

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