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Planning Program
Southern California Area Office

Planning Studies
Basin Studies (WaterSMART)

Santee Basin Aquifer Recharge Study

Mojave Water Agency Water Supply Management

Los Angeles Basin Water Augmentation

SoCal Regional Brine-Concentrate Management - Phase I

Water and Energy Efficiency Program for Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional Customer Classes in SoCal

Southern California Comprehensive Water Reclamation and Reuse

Southern California Water Recycling Projects Initiative

Santa Margarita River Watershed

The Southern California Area Planning Program offers water management consultative services and can assist in addressing water issues in your area, developing integrated and sustainable solutions to water problems from a regional perspective, and providing local program advocacy. Reclamation promotes the efficient use of water through conservation, recycling, salinity management, ground and surface water conjunctive management, storm water management for water supply, drinking water protection and groundwater recharge. Some of the programs we've been involved in include:

Santee Basin Aquifer Recharge Study

A majority of Southern California's water supplies are imported into the region from northern California and the Colorado River. The Padre Dam Municipal Water District, which serves more than 100,000 customers in the San Diego suburbs, is seeking creative ways to increase local water supplies to ensure greater reliability for the region. The District is researching the feasibility of injecting advanced treated recycled water into the Santee Basin aquifer, part of the greater San Diego surface and groundwater system, and re-extracting it for future potable uses. The Bureau of Reclamation partnered with the District on a five-phase study to analyze the regulatory and engineering viability of such a project. These reports present the analysis, results, conclusions, and recommendations for the study.

Phase 1 was completed in October 2011 and included a literature review and interpretation of regulatory and engineering viability. It also included a recommendation that the next phase define bedrock topography through geophysical methods. Phase 2 defined this topography through electrical resisitvity imaging surveys that were conducted in March 2012. Recommended next steps include: Phase 3 - Targeted drilling to further calibrate the test results and determine hydraulic conductivities, Phase 4 – Development of a detailed Groundwater Management Plan, and Phase 5 – Development of injection and extraction wells placements and operating strategies.

Mojave Water Agency Water Supply Management Study

The Mojave Basin is located in a dry region of California with annual precipitation of 2 to 8 inches. The region's population is rapidly increasing, and the Mojave Water Agency is seeking cost effective methods to supply additional water or reduce water use in the area.

Phase 1 of the study analyzes the amounts of water "saved" as a result of a saltcedar removal effort between 2007 and 2010, and provides data and analysis on vegetation along the Mojave River riparian corridor. Study analyses included: classification of native and non-native vegetation in the Mojave River floodplain, vegetation evapotranspiration modeling, lidar elevation map development, groundwater mapping, and cost calculations of water transpired.

The first report developed during the Study is:

Los Angeles Basin Water Augmentation Study

The Bureau of Reclamation forged a unique partnership with the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council on the ten-year Los Angeles Basin Water Augmentation Study.  Los Angeles County is home to nearly 30% of California’s citizens and includes the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watersheds. The Watersheds are subject to increasingly unreliable water supplies due to drought, growing urban and industrial demands, and environmental water user competition. 

With nearly 2 million acre-feet of unused storage capacity in local groundwater basins, capturing more runoff for infiltration could substantially increase local water supplies without the need for new surface storage facilities.  Reducing urban stormwater volumes reduces pollutant loads and demand on the flood control system.  Increasing infiltration also helps restore the natural hydrology and treatment function of the soil.

Study Phases

  • Phase 1 (2000-2002): Investigated water quality ramifications of infiltrating stormwater by monitoring water quality at two sites in the Los Angeles area.
  • Phase 2 (2002-2005): Expanded water quality monitoring to four additional sites. Determined that stormwater infiltration had no negative impacts on groundwater quality.
  • Phase 3 (2005-2010): Analyzed viability of region-wide infiltration in terms of potential quantity, physical constraints, social and institutional issues, and compared the costs of developing this water supply relative to other possible sources. Phase 3 planned for the Elmer Avenue Neighborhood Retrofit Demonstration Project, which was completed in 2010.  This Project occurred at the neighborhood scale and showed how existing infrastructure can be retrofitted to locally manage stormwater and incorporate a variety of other sustainable watershed management practices.

The reports developed during the Study are:

Additional information about the Study is available at the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council website:  http://lasgrwc2.org/programsandprojects/was.aspx.


SoCal Regional Brine-Concentrate Management Study - Phase I

The Southern California Regional Brine-Concentrate Management Study is a collaboration between the Bureau of Reclamation and 14 local and state agency partners who together form the Brine Executive Management Team. The Team identified the management of brine-concentrate as significant in addressing southern California’s water supply reliability. Management of brine-concentrate faces economic, environmental, and regulatory hurdles to developing ocean and brackish groundwater supplies and recycling water. Developing these new water supply sources is important for water and wastewater agencies in southern California due to limitations in availability of existing imported water and good quality groundwater supplies. As these existing supplies continue to be strained, lower quality and more expensive water sources will be developed or recovered for use.

Development of these lower quality waters often requires the use of membrane or other treatment technologies that produce brine or concentrate waste streams. This waste is classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as an industrial waste and can face regulatory limitations on disposal. Currently, the most common practice for disposal is the use of brinelines and ocean outfalls. However, as the amount of brine-concentrate waste increases, several implementation, regulatory, and institutional issues present complex challenges to agencies.

From the issues facing management of brine-concentrate, it is clear that there are a number of different elements that together formulate the regional landscape for management of this waste stream. These elements are the amount of brine-concentrate produced, regulatory issues driving brine-concentrate management needs (including emerging constituents of concern), institutional arrangements, available brine-concentrate management or disposal options, and planned agency brine-concentrate management projects including pilot/demonstration projects. Each of these is a key element in formulating a comprehensive view of the southern California brine-concentrate management landscape. For this reason, complete reports were developed for each of these elements as part of this study:

Water and Energy Efficiency Program for Commercial, Industrial, and Institutional Customer Classes in SoCal

As a major water provider for southern California, the Bureau of Reclamation, in partnership with the California Energy Commission and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, commissioned an innovative study in 2007 to bring together energy utilities, water districts, wastewater sanitation districts, and state and local agencies to study the potential for integrated water and energy efficiency programs. This approach allows water districts and energy utilities to take advantage of opportunities to leverage their limited resources and coordinate resource management efforts to meet future needs. The study:

• identifies potential SoCal commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) customer classes for participation in water and energy efficiency programs;

• summarizes savings potentials for these CII customer classes;

• develops audit guidelines and tools to identify water and energy efficiency improvements, and recommends opportunities for enhancing practices at CII customer sites;

• identifies marketing and outreach practices that are best suited for promoting water and energy efficiency in southern California; and

• develops a method for evaluating the costs and benefits associated with water and energy efficiency improvements.

A final report on this activity, published in 2009, is available in 5 volumes:

Southern California Comprehensive Water Reclamation and Reuse Study (SCCWRRS)

This 6-year, $6 million study evaluated the feasibility of maximizing the beneficial uses of recycled water through regional collaborative programs. SCCWRRS covered a 6 county area in southern California, included over 7,300 demand points and all wastewater supplies in its data bases. SCCWRRS was a partnership between Reclamation and 8 cost sharing partners:

A final report on this activity is available with attachments (all are PDF files):
Southern California Water Recycling Projects Initiative

The Southern California Water Recycling Projects Initiative is a multi-year Bureau of Reclamation planning program. The Initiative is designed to continue the work begun during the Southern California Comprehensive Water Reclamation and Reuse Study and assist local water and wastewater agencies in final planning and environmental documentation leading to implementation of projects identified in the SCCWRRS. The Initiative began in 2000 with $3.4 million dedicated to effort over the following three years. The Initiative began with 12 cost sharing partners:

Several reports have been produced during the initiative including:

Santa Margarita River Watershed Activities

Feasibility Design Report - Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project - Sept 2013 (PDF, 22.4 MB)

Southern California Steelhead Passage Assessment, Lower Santa Margarita River, California and CUP Surface Water Availability Analysis (TM 1.1)
     Final Report - April 27, 2012 (PDF, 8.6 MB)
     Appendix A (PDF, 240 KB)
     Appendix B (PDF, 552 KB)
     Appendix C (PDF, 857 KB)
     Appendix D (PDF, 2.5 MB)
     Appendix E (PDF, 7.0 MB)
     Appendix F (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Final Report - Hydrological and Biological Support to Lower Santa Margarita River Watershed Monitoring Program - February 2010
     Final Report (PDF, 4.8 MB)
     Appendices (PDF, 9 MB)

October 29, 2008, Conjunctive Use Project Open House Presentation Materials
     Presentation (PDF, 2.45 MB)
     Decision Regarding Alternatives for Further Study Memorandum - December 11, 2006 (PDF, 125 KB)
     Recommendation of Alternatives for Further Investigation Memorandum - June 2, 2005 (PDF, 24 KB)
     Proposed Obermeyer Modifications to O’Neill Diversion Weir - August 2004 (PDF, 884 KB)

Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Project
     Final Technical Memorandum No. 1 - April 2007 (PDF, 3.1 MB)
     Final Technical Memo No. 2.2 - Volume 1 - April 2007 (PDF, 2.1 MB)
     Final Technical Memo No. 2.2 - Volume 2 - April 2007 (PDF, 8.8 MB)
     Final Technical Memo No. 3 - April 2007 (PDF, 3.4 MB)

Santa Margarita River Conjunctive Use Pre-Feasibility Plan Formulation Study - May 2005 (PDF, 6.3 MB) and Appendices (PDF, 467 KB)

Report - Hydraulic & Sediment Considerations for Proposed Modifications to O’Neill Diversion Weir on Santa Margarita River - Sept 2004 (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Report - Santa Margarita Watershed Supply Augmentation, Water Quality Protection, and Environmental Enhancement Program - December 2003 (PDF, 1.6 MB)
           Appendix A (PDF, 2.5 MB)
           Appendix B (PDF, 1.1 MB)
           Appendix C (PDF, 335 KB)
           Appendix D (PDF, 56 KB)

Recycle and Reuse Study - Fallbrook Public Utility District: Supplemental Study to the Santa Margarita River Recharge and Recovery Enhancement Program - Permit 15000 Feasibility Study for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton - February 2002
           Part 1 (PDF, 7.6 MB)
           Part 2 (PDF, 1.4 MB)
           Part 3 (PDF, 6.2 MB)
           Part 4 (PDF, 6.2 MB)
           Part 5 (PDF, 4.7 MB)

Santa Margarita River Recharge and Recovery Enhancement Program - Permit 15000 Feasibility Study for Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton - March 2001
           Part 1 (PDF, 3.6 MB)
           Part 2 (PDF, 5.4 MB)
           Part 3 (PDF, 4 MB)
           Part 4 (PDF, 2.7 MB)
           Appendix A (PDF, 3.1 MB)
           Appendix B - Part 1 (PDF, 6.3 MB)
           Appendix B - Part 2 (PDF, 3.9 MB)
           Appendix B - Part 3 (PDF, 6.3 MB)
           Appendix C (PDF, 645 KB)
           Appendix D (PDF, 3.7 MB)
           Appendix E (PDF, 2.7 MB)
           Appendix F (PDF, 6.1 MB)
           Appendix G (PDF, 8.2 MB)

Reclamation holds three water rights permits totaling 185,000 acre-feet on the Santa Margarita River. These permits were intended for surface water impoundment that, at one time, Reclamation was proposing to develop. Under California Water Rights Law, these permits must be "perfected" - the water must put to beneficial use - by 2007 or the water rights may be lost. Reclamation has been meeting with interested parties on the watershed to examine the possibility of perfecting the permits by identifying and implementing a functional equivalent to the dams and surface impoundment originally envisioned for these permits.

As a result of these discussions, Reclamation recognizes that more effective water management on the watershed will depend on water quality monitoring methods that include water supply management as an objective. Presently, Santa Margarita watershed agencies are required to monitor for various constituents as set by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. These water quality monitoring requirements are viewed as expensive, with little water management value, by local water agencies. Thus, to augment local water supplies through perfection of Reclamation's water rights permits, a more effective water quality monitoring approach needs to be identified and adopted for use on the watershed by the regulatory authorities.

Activities included a review of existing methodology and regulations, and development of new water quality monitoring plan. Reclamation, along with its partners on the watershed, obtained and reviewed information on monitoring programs by Santa Margarita River watershed agencies, and suggested monitoring alternatives. The information was obtained from Fallbrook Public Utilities District, Rancho California Water District, Eastern Municipal Water District, Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, the Santa Margarita River Watermaster, the Pechanga, Cahuilla, Pauma, and Ramona Band of Indians, US Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base Office of Water Resources.

Reclamation developed a framework-monitoring plan to supersede existing monitoring requirements, and satisfy regulatory mandates scheduled to be set on the Santa Margarita watershed and water supply issues related to the water rights permits that Reclamation holds in the name of local agencies.

In January 2005, Reclamation held public meetings to receive comments on the scope of issues to be addressed in a Environmental Impact Statement /Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) for a proposed conjunctive use water resource development project on the Santa Margarita River. The Federal Register Notice about this activity offers additional information.

Need More Information?

If you have water resources planning questions or need technical assistance, contact Amy Witherall at awitherall@usbr.gov or call 951-695-5310.

Updated: June 2014