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EMWD, Regional Agencies Partner on Historic Water Storage Program


Perris, CA (September 22, 2021) — Six regional water agencies working in conjunction with The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) have reached a historic agreement that will better prepare the region for future droughts and promote water use efficiency throughout a three-county area, the agencies announced this week.

The Santa Ana River Conservation and Conjunctive Use Program (SARCCUP) is a first-of-its-kind regional groundwater banking program between 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.

The regional water agencies collectively serve several million customers across portions of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

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

“This is a historic agreement and will benefit millions of Southern California residents by better preparing our respective regions for future droughts,” EMWD Board President Phil Paule said. “We are proud to have helped develop and implement this innovative program. We sincerely appreciate the partnerships of all the member agencies that have helped make this program possible.”

The $150 million SARCCUP program will provide a collaborative, watershed-scale approach toward groundwater basin management, replenishment and water transfers. The regional water agencies will collectively plan for droughts while also conducting habitat restoration and assisting with the development of regional water use efficiency programs.

Under the agreement, SARCCUP will use up to 137,000 acre feet of storage in six groundwater basins. During wet years, SBVMWD may have additional water available through its contract with the State Water Project. MWD has entered into an agreement with SBVMWD that allows for SBVMWD to sell surplus State Water Project water to MWD, and as part of SARCCUP, MWD will make a portion of the water purchased from SBVMWD available to SARCCUP partner agencies for use within the Santa Ana watershed.

Water that is banked would then be extracted using groundwater wells, treated, and then used for drinking water during periods of drought. The regional water agencies will be able to bank groundwater in any of six groundwater basins, with deliveries made through interconnecting pipelines or via in lieu delivery.

This fall, EMWD will complete work on its Mountain Avenue West Groundwater Replenishment Basins, which will allow EMWD to percolate imported water from the State Water Project into its local groundwater basins. EMWD is also constructing three new groundwater production wells in San Jacinto to recover the groundwater as part of the SARCCUP program.

The program also provides funding for habitat restoration and water use efficiency programs. Removal of 640 acres of Arundo donax – a non-native plant that uses 3.75 additional acre feet of water per year compared to native habitat plants – will be completed within five years. This will create annual water savings of approximately 2,400 acre feet of water – enough to serve more than 5,000 households annually.

Approximately $500,000 from Proposition 84 funds will be used to support up to 10 retail water agencies in the watershed to create efficiency-based water budgets for a sub-set of their customers, such as those classified as commercial or industrial. The funding is also used to provide landscape design assistance and an education program for residents to maintain their water efficient landscape.

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Eastern Municipal Water District is the water, wastewater service and recycled water provider to nearly one million people living and working within a 555-square mile service area in western Riverside County. It is California’s sixth-largest retail water agency, and its mission is “To deliver value to our diverse customers and the communities we serve by providing safe, reliable, economical and environmentally sustainable water, wastewater and recycled water services.”
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