Local groundwater provides the sole drinking water supply for the Big Bear Valley. Ongoing drought conditions, a long-term decline in rainfall, and record-low levels in Big Bear Lake have inspired four local agencies—Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency, Big Bear City Community Services District, Big Bear Lake Department of Water and Power, and Big Bear Municipal Water District—to create a new legacy of water sustainability for their community.
As a popular vacation destination, water is central to Big Bear Valley’s economic vitality. The Valley’s only source of water enters as precipitation, and either flows into Big Bear Lake or soaks into the ground to become groundwater. Groundwater is used to meet the community’s potable water needs. Wastewater treated at the local treatment plant is pumped out of the Valley to irrigate crops in nearby Lucerne Valley—transferring millions of gallons of local water each day outside of the community. The four partner agencies knew that it was time to explore a better way to manage the area’s most essential natural resource.
WSC worked with regional Valley partners to envision a more sustainable water supply solution, designed to keep more of the water it already had. Known as Replenish Big Bear, the project will capture and purify water previously piped out of the community and use it to enhance surface and groundwater levels within the Valley.
Replenish Big Bear will upgrade existing wastewater treatment processes with proven advanced treatment technology. The upgraded facility will produce more than 600 million gallons of water each year that exceeds drinking water quality standards. A portion of the treated water will be used to sustain habitat for endangered fish and wildlife. The rest will flow into Big Bear Lake to stabilize lake levels throughout the year, while increasing levels up to five feet in dry years. During dry periods, water can be pumped from the lake to replenish groundwater levels and increase potable water supply. During wet periods, water can be used for irrigation outside of the Valley.
“Together, we will keep a valuable water resource in the Valley,” Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency General Manager David Lawrence said. “The project will directly support recreation so our economy can continue to thrive, and it will improve habitat for our area’s fish and wildlife while protecting our essential water supplies for years to come.”
WSC has helped Valley agencies envision the Replenish Big Bear solution from the start, and it is currently serving as the project’s Program Manager. WSC also helped secure a $4.5 million Integrated Regional Water Management Proposition 1 Funding Award, the largest award in the Santa Ana River Watershed.
Critical to the project’s success is an ongoing effort to build public awareness of the water supply challenges and project support among the local community, agency stakeholders, and regulators. WSC’s in-house strategic communications team created a customized brand identity for Replenish Big Bear and executed a multi-faceted outreach campaign to help stakeholders connect to the project’s key benefits. The multimedia public education campaign and project website have played an important role in positioning Replenish Big Bear as a vital and well-supported community effort.
Learn more at replenishbigbear.com