Why did BBARWA investigate a groundwater recharge program?

The Big Bear Valley currently draws all drinking water from an underground aquifer – a fragile and limited supply which is replenished by rain and snowmelt.  Although rain and snow levels vary widely, water use steadily increases each year.  With recurrent droughts, our aquifer’s limited supply cannot accommodate present trends and demand.  

With lake water not available and importing water a difficult and expensive task due to our location in the mountains, local agencies began to examine other alternatives. Groundwater recharge is proving to be a promising and cost-effective alternative.

What other alternatives have been considered?

Two reports have been developed that examine different alternatives for recycled water use including the groundwater recharge program. Both of these documents, the Recycled Water Master Plan and the Environmental Impact Report, can be viewed or downloaded from this site on the Documents page. BBARWA closely examined recycled water because it is produced by their wastewater treatment plant. For examination of other alternatives we recommend you contact the City of Big Bear Lake, Department of Water.

How would a groundwater recharge program work?

BBARWA currently treats wastewater from our homes and businesses and processes it through a three step purification process to produce tertiary water so that the water closely resembles drinking water. If a groundwater recharge program was implemented, the recycled water would be put through additional treatment that would purify the water beyond bottled water quality and better than state and federal drinking water standards.

The purified water would be poured onto surface spreading ponds and then it would filter naturally into the aquifer through the soil, the same way that rainwater does.

Which other communities use groundwater recharge?

Every major body of water in the United States contains some amount of recycled water. Currently the Orange County Sanitation District and the Orange County Water District are preparing to construct facilities that will treat up to 140,000 acre feet (enough for 200,000 families) using the same treatment process proposed by BBARWA. Other communities include Los Angeles, Inland Empire, Las Vegas, Nevada and Scottsdale, Arizona. For a list of and links to other groundwater recharge programs click here.

Is the technology safe?

The California Department of Health Services is charged with the responsibility for establishing uniform statewide reclamation criteria to ensure that the use of recycled water will not be detrimental to public health.

The groundwater recharge project being proposed by BBARWA would take tertiary recycled water and put it through an additional three step process of Microfiltration, Reverse Osmosis, Ultraviolet Disinfection and Blending.  This process will make the water near distilled quality and exceeds all drinking water standards.

What would a recharge site look like?

A typical recharge site looks like a pond. If the project progresses to that point, BBARWA will work closely with the community located near the site, on the type of landscaping and fencing (safety purposes) that would surround the recharge pond.

Will the recharge water degrade the groundwater quality?

The groundwater recharge project investigated by BBARWA would take the treated water and put it through an additional three step process of Microfiltration, Reverse Osmosis, Ultraviolet Disinfection and Blending.  This process will make the water near distilled quality and exceeds all drinking water standards.  For a diagram of this process, please click here.

Is this a water issue or a growth issue?

Over the past 14 years, growth in the Valley has been measured fairly consistently at an annual 1.2 percent or less. Because we are approaching the point where we will be taking more from the groundwater aquifer than nature can replenish, planning for the future and safeguarding our municipal water wells from going dry should begin now regardless of future growth. Implementing any type of new water supply infrastructure will take years of planning, time to secure funding, efforts to comply with state and federal regulatory agencies and finally construction.

How much will the project cost?

At this early stage, capital costs are estimated between $16 and $37 million. The impact on rates is estimated at $2-15 a month per household, depending on the availability of state and federal funding. During the study period, BBARWA sought $15 million through the Water Resources Development Act, $2 million through the Environmental Protection Agency and an additional $7 million from the State of California.

Will we be able to vote on this project?

The current BBARWA Governing Board has agreed to submit this issue to the public for a vote before constructing and operating a groundwater recharge facility.

Can we have a presentation given to our community group or take a tour of the wastewater treatment plant?

Yes. Please contact BBARWA at (909) 584-4018.