Low-flow stream study being conducted
Low-flow stream study being conducted

District receives grant for predicting surface and groundwater flows along the Santa Ana River

By: Jim Steinberg

San Bernardino Valley’s water wholesaler has received a $1 million grant to develop a mathematical model for predicting surface and groundwater flows along the Santa Ana River.

The study, funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, will enable the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District to increase its understanding  of how Santa Ana River surface flows are affected by falling groundwater levels as a result of the Inland Empire’s drought, which is in its 20th year, said Heather Dyer, Valley District’s water resource manager and a fish biologist.

The model will help water agencies throughout the region understand how future water infrastructure projects effect the river and its ecological communities, Dyer said.

“The missing link has been the full understanding of how groundwater levels are affecting surface flows and vice versa,” Dyer said, adding that the $1 million in grant funds will help Valley District solve this question.

Valley District and other agencies need this information not only to ensure that they maintain enough water in the Santa Ana River to sustain healthy populations of Santa Ana suckers and other native aquatic species, but to ensure that water agencies in San Bernardino and Riverside counties to continue meeting their water delivery obligations to downstream agencies in Orange County that also depend on Santa Ana River flows. The amounts of Santa Ana River water that Inland Empire water agencies are required to let flow to Orange County are spelled out in a 1969 court settlement, Dyer said.

Valley District has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and twelve other Inland Empire agencies to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Santa Ana River. The HCP will develop conservation activities that will offset impacts from proposed water conservation, flood control and groundwater recharge projects in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. The plan will enable the HCP partner agencies to obtain required regulatory permits for proposed water and flood control projects while also benefiting endangered, threatened or at risk fish, bird and animal species.

Three years ago, Valley District hired the USGS to create a Santa Ana River Native Fishes Baseline Survey, which provides unbiased scientific data that will form the foundation of a region-wide conservation strategy for native fishes currently being developed for the Upper Santa Ana River Conservation Plan for the combined Riverside-San Bernardino county region.

Valley District covers about 353 square miles in southwestern San Bernardino County and serves some 695,000 people. Its service area includes the cities and communities of San Bernardino, Colton, Loma Linda, Redlands, Rialto, Bloomington, Highland, East Highland, Mentone, Grand Terrace and Yucaipa.

Jim Steinberg an award-winning business, environmental and medical writer.

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