Integrated Santa Ana River Model
The Upper Santa Ana River watershed encompasses four groundwater basins, nine separate groundwater and watershed models that cover more than a thousand square miles and serve more than four million people.
The stakeholders include:
San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District
Western Municipal Water District
Inland Empire Utilities Agency
Orange County Water District
City of Riverside Public Utilities
United States Geological Survey
United States Fish and Wildlife Survey
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
The San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMWD) was seeking ways to increase recharge to regional water supply aquifers and to improve recycled water reuse in the Upper Santa Ana River (SAR) watershed. Additional recharge and water reuse are keys to improving water supply reliability of the groundwater supply in the region. And therein lay the challenge.designated as very low priority and thus was not required to develop a GSP. However, being committed to good basin management, the WMWD didn’t take advantage of this loophole, but instead decided to continue meeting with stakeholders to establish a 14-month, 5-step plan to develop a GSP.
The Upper Santa Ana watershed encompasses four groundwater basins, multiple water districts, and nine separate groundwater and watershed models. To complicate matters further, the four basins are hydrologically connected to one another. That means water management actions upstream have the potential to affect downstream water uses. To permit new recharge and reuse projects, the agencies needed to develop a regional hydrologic model to assess the effects of the projects.
The stakeholder group of water districts and related agencies identified five goals for the project:
- Develop a modeling tool to simulate both streamflows and groundwater levels to support protection efforts for riparian habitat and endangered species
- Identify perennial rising or shallow groundwater locations and assess how current and proposed projects would affect the riparian habitat
- Develop a better understanding of how current projects in the various basins, such as groundwater operations, impact flow in groundwater levels and the SAR
- Predict how proposed projects and mitigation measures addressed in the Habitat Conservation Plan would impact flow in the SAR and groundwater levels in the area
To help with both the technical challenge and the permitting challenge, SBVMWD and its partners needed someone with local expertise and knowledge of the hydrology and hydrogeology of the area, technical expertise in modeling ground and surface water, and a proven track record of working with stakeholder groups in a collaborative technical advisory process.
Geoscience integrated the four regional groundwater models and the watershed to cover the area under consideration, and then used the results to support a draft Habitat Conservation Plan and a draft Environmental Impact Report. Since the initial engagement, Geoscience has continued to develop the model and to help the various agencies on other projects.
The Integrated Santa Ana River Model provides an important management tool, simulating surface water, groundwater, and the important interactions between the two in the Upper Santa Ana River watershed, enabling the assessment of a wide range of groundwater basin management strategies.
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