An aerial view of local ponds used to recharge water into the basin.

An aerial view of local ponds used to recharge water into the basin.

Thanks in part to a wet December that brought heavy snow to the Sierras, 2020 is off to a good start with reservoir storage levels at or above historic averages throughout most of the state – good news for San Bernardino Valley residents.

Even though water districts and cities throughout the San Bernardino Valley rely on local rainfall and mountain runoff for about 70 percent of their water supply, local supplies are not enough. The region relies on Sierra snowmelt from Northern California to meet the remaining 30 percent.

As a State Water contractor, the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District imports water via the State Water Project. This water moves over 400 miles to the Devil Canyon hydroelectric plant, behind Cal State San Bernardino, before it makes its way into Valley District’s water distribution system. Valley District’s allotment is up to 102,600 acre-feet of water from the State Water Project each year, although the actual amount purchased depends on the allocation given to each State Water contractor. (One acre-foot will serve a family of five for about one year.)

“Our investment in the State Water Project enables our region to make it through extended droughts like the 20-plus year drought we are currently experiencing,” commented Bob Tincher, Valley District deputy general manager of resources. “We take our role to develop supplemental water supplies very seriously and continuously work to develop new supplies for our region to ensure a reliable water supply into the future.”

Valley District, in fact, has formal responsibility through a 1969 court agreement to ensure replenishment of the largest groundwater basin in the region, the San Bernardino Basin Area, which holds more water than Lake Shasta, the largest surface reservoir in the state. Valley District, along with other water agencies in the region, recently established a Groundwater Council that is ensuring enough imported water is purchased to keep the basin sustainable. In fact, the district has imported almost 950,000 acre-feet of water since 1972.

“Developing supplemental water supplies is why our agency was established,” replied Heather Dyer, general manager of Valley District. “In 1965, while in the midst of a 20-year drought, the residents and business owners in the San Bernardino Valley established Valley District. One of the first actions was to invest in the State Water Project – securing a supplemental water supply from Northern California.”

In 2019, nearly 105,000 acre-feet of water was recharged in the San Bernardino Basin with nearly half of that coming from the State Water Project. Thanks to more rainfall locally and Valley District receiving 75 percent of its State Water Project allocation in 2019, the San Bernardino Basin will see a slight increase in total storage levels. This increase in the midst of a multi-decade drought demonstrates the importance of the region’s sound investment in the State Water Project.

“The region continues to grow and the needs of the residents and businesses evolve,” said Dyer. “Valley District, though, will continue to achieve our mission – providing a supplemental water supply to ensure a reliable water supply for the region.”

To learn more about the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and the current water supplies in California, visit

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