Valley District Wins $1 Million Grant to Develop a New Model to Predict Surface and Groundwater Flows Along the Santa Ana River
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., May 3, 2018 — San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District has been awarded a $1 million grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will enable it to develop a mathematical model for predicting surface and groundwater flows along the Santa Ana River.
Water agencies have previously hired the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct field research to determine how much water is needed to sustain healthy populations of Santa Ana suckers, an endangered fish, and other native species in the Santa Ana River. The USGS has also studied the movement of sediment in the river, which can dramatically affect the quality of Santa Ana sucker habitat.
But water agencies do not yet know the extent to which Santa Ana River surface flows are affected by falling groundwater levels resulting from the current Inland Empire drought, which is now in its 20th year. That’s why a new mathematical model for predicting surface and groundwater flows is especially needed now, said Heather Dyer, Valley District’s water resources manager and fish biologist.
“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. The model will also help water agencies throughout the region understand how future water infrastructure projects will affect the River and its ecological communities.
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 continue to meet 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.
“This research will indicate if we need to make adjustments to the amount of water captured by our planned water supply projects in order to ensure we meet our water obligations to downstream agencies as well as our natural resource obligations,” Dyer said.
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 Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.
While the Santa Ana sucker has received the most publicity in recent years, the HCP actually covers 23 federal- and state-listed endangered or threatened species as well as non-listed species determined to be at risk for future listing.
Valley District has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and twelve other Inland Empire agencies to develop an HCP 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 benefitting endangered, threatened or at risk fish, bird and animal species.
“Both the new model for predicting surface and groundwater flows along the Santa Ana River and the native fish survey,” said Board President Susan Longville, “will provide the science-based facts the District needs to make wise water management decisions for years to come.”
For more information on the Upper Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan, please visit www.uppersarhcp.com.
Heather Dyer, Water Resources Project Manager
San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District