GUEST COMMENTARY: A New Model for Resolving Problems in the San Bernardino Valley Emerges
Andrea Miller (City Manager, City of San Bernardino), Douglas Headrick (General Manager, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District), and John Mura (General Manager/CEO, East Valley Water District) write:
When ligation between the City of San Bernardino, its Water Department, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District), and East Valley Water District (East Valley) stalled efforts to develop two new recycled water projects, elected officials and staff members from these agencies came together and found , a win-win solution. Moving forward, we believe that resolving our problems through cooperation must serve as the model for how public agencies work together for the public good.
Approximately 700,000 people in the San Bernardino Valley depend upon groundwater from the San Bernardino Groundwater Basin for the majority of their water supply. This shared resource served as the “common ground” that brought the parties together.
The resulting comprehensive agreement, approved unanimously by all parties, has inspired a renewed sense of cooperation. Collectively we overcame complex issues that will result in the development of two new recycled water supply projects that can deliver 11 million gallons per day into the San Bernardino Groundwater Basin which has reached historic lows from the 20-year drought that continues in Southern California.
The two projects facilitated by the cooperative settlement include the City of San Bernardino’s Clean Water Factory and East Valley Water District’s Sterling Natural Resource Center. Combined these two innovative projects will provide over 10,000 acre-feet of water for groundwater recharge and landscaping needs, enough to meet the needs of almost 100,000 people. This new water supply will be independent of the amount of rainfall that our region receives and provide drought proof reserves to serve our region for decades to come. Both projects will continue our commitment to recovery efforts for threatened and endangered species in and around the Santa Ana River being implemented through the Upper Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan process.
The settlement also recognizes the need to consider the future reduction in revenue to the City of San Bernardino Water Department as East Valley’s flows are diverted to be treated at the Sterling facility by planning for a portion of the wastewater flows to continue to be treated by San Bernardino for a number of years. Further, Valley District is providing 30,000 acre-feet of imported water over 10 years to the groundwater basin utilized by the City of San Bernardino to show their support for the development of the new recycled water.
In addition to a number of contractual improvements provided by the settlement, the transfer of several similarly valued assets between East Valley and the City will result in operational efficiencies and strategic development opportunities worth millions of dollars of savings to our customers. Included in these transfers are property, a pipeline, reserve funds, and service areas. By focusing on and highlighting our areas of common ground, a solution was found to a series of complex issues.
Promoting water conservation is another are that we could all embrace. The settlement includes a provision for a collaborative project to replace and improve a number of visible street median throughout San Bernardino.
This agreement sets the tone for our future by focusing on improving water supply reliability for the residents we serve. We recognize that by working together we can achieve much more than by doing things on our own.
City Manager, City of San Bernardino
General Manager, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District
General Manager/CEO, East Valley Water District