SAWPA’s Basin Monitoring Program Task Force Celebrates 15 Years of Success

When it comes to water news in Southern California, the drought dominated headlines for several years. But having enough water for everyone who lives and works here isn’t the only water concern we face. Our water needs to be clean, too. We expect that when we turn on our kitchen sinks, the water that flows out is consistently clean and safe for cooking, cleaning and drinking.

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA) Basin Monitoring Program Task Force works collectively to share resources and monitor surface and groundwater quality in the Santa Ana River Watershed. As home to approximately 6 million people, residents and businesses throughout the region rely in part on groundwater from the Santa Ana River Watershed (the natural ecological system including the river and its tributaries) and the five water agencies that comprise SAWPA. These five water agencies – Eastern Municipal Water District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Orange County Water District, San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, and Western Municipal Water District – collaborate on water projects and programs affecting the watershed to bring clean water to businesses and homes.

SAWPA administers task forces like the Basin Monitoring Program Task Force, a 20-agency task force formed 15 years ago, to monitor nitrogen and total dissolved solids (TDS) for water quality compliance in the Santa Ana River Watershed. Excessive nitrogen and TDS can impact drinking water. Too much nitrogen can stimulate growth of algae in water. TDS are the concentrations of solids in water. Both nitrogen and TDSs need to be monitored in order to ensure that Orange County water resources downstream are protected.

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The Task Force brings together key cities and water agencies as well as the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, this region’s local water quality regulatory agency, to work together on the complex job of monitoring and improving water quality. Task Force members include the cities of Banning, Beaumont, Corona, Redlands, Rialto, Riverside and the Jurupa Community Services District, plus the following water agencies:

  • Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District
  • Chino Basin Watermaster
  • Colton/San Bernardino Regional Tertiary Treatment and Wastewater Reclamation
  • Eastern Municipal Water District
  • Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District
  • Inland Empire Utilities Agency
  • Irvine Ranch Water District
  • Temescal Valley Water District
  • Orange County Water District
  • San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District
  • San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency
  • Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board
  • West Riverside County Regional Wastewater Authority
  • Yucaipa Valley Water District

The Task Force compiles and collects monitoring data to evaluate water quality annually and the groundwater basins throughout the watershed every three years; provides guidance on wastewater treatment plant discharge permits; and conducts additional water quality studies to monitor and evaluate salt and nitrate trends.

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By bringing so many cities and water agencies together every month for meetings over the past 15 years, this Task Force has built relationships and greatly improved efficiencies in water and wastewater operations through joint studies on dealing with salt in the water. The Task Force also saves its members millions of dollars due to collaboration and economies of scale.

The Basin Monitoring Program Task Force is a success because the members understand that we have only one Santa Ana River Watershed to share and the water in it belongs to everyone, now and in the future.

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