They have the plan in hand and 20 years to make it work. The Big Bear City Community Services District board of directors accepted a new water master plan at the Feb. 1 meeting.
The water master plan replaces the old plan, which was written in 1991. The new 450-page document estimates water recharge, water supply and future land use. The plan also includes an evaluation of the existing water system, projects future water needs and makes recommendations for capital improvement projects.
CSD water department superintendent Tim Moran calls the plan a guide for the future. “The natural recharge on the east end appears adequate for the projected area,” Moran said. “Our source of supply is the No. 1 item. We’re in good shape there.”
Daniel B. Stephens & Associates Inc., the consultant that worked on the plan for two years, estimates an annual average recharge ranging from 16,531 to 21,534 acre-feet. The company’s median estimate is between 8,959 and 13,962 acre-feet per year. This latest estimate is four times greater than Geoscience’s 2007 calculation and also greater than the United States Geological Society’s estimate of maximum perennial yield.
Bill LaHaye, water resource manager for the Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power, said the estimate is one of the largest he’s seen for the Valley watershed. He was pleased to see the high numbers since the DWP is looking to partner with the CSD on a couple of projects in the future.
Moran said the recharge model used by the CSD consultant will be adjusted. The model flows like the water it measures. “There are recommendations to enhance the recharge estimates for the basin,” Moran said. One thing the CSD plans to do is develop mathematical formulas relating to annual rain gauge data and estimated total recharge, he said.
Recommendations to improve the recharge model include establishing soil moisture monitoring, snowfall monitoring and streamflow monitoring stations in the basin. Snowfall monitoring stations at high elevation points would help measure moisture from the snow pack, and streamflow monitoring stations would measure runoff. Each of these recommendations will be considered, Moran said.
For LaHaye, models provide numbers, but don’t always match reality. There are so many variables that can affect the numbers. “With all models, you work with a set of assumptions,” LaHaye said. “We always take estimates with a grain of salt. Ultimately, we like to do testing to find the real numbers.”
In addition to recharge, capital improvement projects were identified in the master plan. Moran said he met with Big Bear City Fire Department Fire Chief Jeff Willis regarding fire flow. “We raised the bar from 1,000 gallons per minute to 1,500 gallons per minute,” Moran said. “The areas for improvement are scattered throughout the district.”
The agency’s pipeline system needs upgrading. Steel pipes need to be replaced. Booster pumps are already being replaced. “We’re looking for funding from ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) plan,” Moran said. “We have about $2 million of work to do.”
The biggest issue Moran sees in the future is water quality. “We have some wells with water too high in fluoride,” Moran said. “Our water blending project is going well, but we may have to someday build a fluoride treatment system.”
Capital improvement projects identified in the water master plan total about $16.2 million in 2008 dollars, Moran said. The water department paid the final $225,000 on a 20-year bill for its fluoride blending project this year. “That will free up a lot of money for future projects,” Moran said.
The agency prefers to use the pay-as-you-go method of funding for projects. “We’ll try to keep it that way and to apply for grants,” Moran said. “Our goal is not to raise rates. I don’t anticipate that happening.”
Daniel B. Stephens & Associates Inc. did not return a call from The Grizzly as of press time.
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— Feb 27, 2004. California’s Groundwater Bulletin 118. Bear Valley Groundwater Basin: “Impairments. Water from wells in the eastern part of the basin have had elevated fluoride content, and one well that is screened in all aquifers has fluoride concentration that has ranged from 6.3 to 9.0 mg/L (Geoscience 2001).”
— Oct 8, 2008. When lower levels aren’t an emergency.