Water utilities, wholesale water supplier form water bank

3-county effort promotes water efficiency & combats drought

Six local water agencies and regional wholesale water supplier Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) have agreed to better promote water use efficiency and prepare for future droughts.

The Santa Ana River Conservation and Conjunctive Use Program (SARCCUP) is a first-of-its-kind groundwater banking program established among Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD), Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA), Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC), Orange County Water District (OCWD), San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMWD), Western Municipal Water District (WMWD), and MWD.

Collectively, several million customers across portions of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties are expected to benefit from the history water storage initiative.

water banking groundwater basin map | credit SARCCUP

SARCCUP is a $150 million collaborative, watershed-scale approach toward groundwater basin management, aquifer replenishment and water transfers. Together, the regional water agencies will plan for droughts, conduct habitat restoration and assist with the development of regional water use efficiency programs.

During future droughts, water accrued in any of six groundwater basins will be extracted, treated, and made available for drinking water.

Before year-end, EMWD will begin banking imported water from the State Water Project into a local groundwater replenishment basins. In addition, the water agency is drilling three new production wells in San Jacinto to recover the groundwater on behalf of SARCCUP members.

A five-year habitat restoration plan or removal of a water-thirsty non-native habitat plant is expected to create annual water savings of about 2,400 acre feet of water. This volume will serve more than 5,000 households a year.

Five participating agencies – EMWD, IEUA, OCWD, SBVMWD and WMWD – are members of the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) which helped distribute more than $55 million of grant funding from California Proposition 84 to support this innovative program.