Water deal benefits multiple agencies

San Bernardino Valley secures financing for Watershed Connect program

San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMWD) has received a $70 million Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This WIFIA funding will support an innovative regional partnership with SBVMWD to help secure a drought-resilient water supply while supporting the long-term ecological health of the Upper Santa Ana River.

For many years, the San Bernardino Valley has been challenged by prolonged drought, increased wildfires, and climate uncertainty. In 2021, five Southern California water agencies came together to form the Watershed Connect program to improve water reliability in the drought-prone region. One project funded in part by a WIFIA loan is the Santa Ana River Enhanced Recharge Phase 1B, which will expand the existing groundwater basins to capture and recharge local stormwater. Additionally, a new regional recycled water pipeline will be constructed to convey the treated water for groundwater replenishment. At the completion of these projects, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and the Watershed Connect participating agencies will secure a reliable water source in times of drought by capturing up to 80,000 acre-feet of stormwater runoff and recharging up to 23,000 acre-feet of recycled water for future use from the local groundwater aquifer.

“Infrastructure projects of this magnitude require a complex collaboration between technical engineering, environmental stewardship, funding commitments, and regulatory approvals to address our region’s water challenges,” said Paul Kielhold, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District Board President. “The WIFIA loan is a symbol of progress in the realms of water supply reliability and environmental conservation.”

This is the second WIFIA loan to support the Watershed Connect program. EPA previously announced $81 million to the Yucaipa Valley Water District for other aspects of the program.  In total, EPA has committed $216 million in WIFIA financing through master agreements. Through the regional Watershed Connect program, participating agencies will save approximately $47 million by financing with WIFIA loans while project construction and operation will create over 1,000 jobs.

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