Replenish Big Bear Water
It’s no secret that the state of California has suffered through a drought for quite some time. Even though we have experienced a few wet winters since the drought began, it has never
been enough to fully restore California to the way it once was. Big Bear in particular has been dramatically affected by the drought which can be clearly seen by looking at our beautiful lake throughout the years. The damaging effects to our lake levels have turned some lakefront properties and their private docks into dry land. Our local lake has seen record low levels over the past decade and as of November 2018 was measured to be only 40% full. Not only can the damage be seen in our lake but it can also be witnessed in our everyday use of water. Our mountains, local drinking water, crops, and wildlife are all affected when a drought occurs. The love for our mountain town is what Replenish Big Bear was founded on in 2017. Replenish Big Bear is dedicated to fixing our broken water system and restoring life and water in our hometown. Keeping our water levels stable is what will make Big Bear thrive and flourish during all seasons and in times of drought.
So what is our current water system and why is it so damaging to local life? Big Bear’s only source of water comes in as rainfall and drops into our lake or gets absorbed by the ground. This groundwater then becomes safe drinking water and tap water for our homes and businesses in Big Bear. Once we discard this groundwater, it then gets sent to our local treatment plant and pumped into Lucerne Valley to water the crop fields. Although this water is technically considered to be “recycled” water, it is only clean enough to be used for irrigation purposes. This current method is a simple solution to dispose of the water, but it is also wasting our water. Millions of gallons of local water is lost each day due to this harmful water system. Luckily, Replenish Big Bear has a solution! By capturing and purifying the disposed water, we can essentially restore water levels throughout the Valley. Not only will this new system help revive our lake levels, but it will also protect our local drinking water supply and restore our groundwater basin. Replenish Big Bear believes that all water has value and strives to help keep more of our local water in our community.
An advanced treatment process will be at the heart of Replenish Big Bear’s Water system to treat the water that is currently pumped out of Big Bear. Multiple vital steps will be added to the current treatment process to allow for the recycled water to become high-quality drinking water. The water will go through a biological and chemical treatment to remove most nutrients from the water, filtration will remove any suspended solids and bacteria, reverse osmosis will place the water under extreme pressure to remove impurities and UV disinfection will deactivate any bacteria or viruses rendering them harmless. This will result in 600 million gallons each year of premium water that exceeds the drinking water standards. Shay Pond will receive a small portion of this water to help support 10 acres of the endangered Unarmored Threespine Stickleback fish’s habitat. The rest of the water will be sent to Stanfield Marsh to strengthen the 145 acres of wetland which will directly flow back into Big Bear Lake to increase and support our lake levels. Water from the lake, if needed, can be pumped directly from the lake to Sand Canyon to soak into our groundwater basin in order to increase our drinking water supply. This is helpful in keeping our potable water stable in times of extreme drought and dry periods. During times of wet weather, any excess water can be used for additional snow and spring runoff.
Replenish Big Bear’s water system will create a positive domino effect in the Valley. Not only will our locals thrive from more stable supplies of potable water but recreation will also benefit greatly. Lake levels will rise and the opportunity for more snow and spring runoff will create a larger traffic of tourists. This plays a vital role in our community by supporting our tourist-driven economy. Through Federal and State funding we will be able to make this water system an amazing reality for the Big Bear Valley. All new improvements will be made including new and extended pipelines which will allow water to flow to Shay Pond, Stanfield Marsh, and Sand Canyon. New pump stations will also aid in sending purified water to Shay Pond and Stanfield Marsh. Upgrades to our treatment facility will allow for advanced water treatment technology that will provide the Valley with water that exceeds the drinking water standards.
Moving towards the future
For a few years now, Replenish Big Bear has been working toward improving and providing a better future for Big Bear. Funding applications began in 2019 as well as environmental clearance to acquire any needed permits and approvals. In 2020 Replenish Big Bear worked with regulators to guarantee the project meets all local, state, and federal requirements. This year a pilot facility will be built to ensure the new treatment process will deliver the desired quality results. From 2022-2023 the final design will be perfected and finalized. Construction will begin in 2024 and be completed in 2025. Big Bear will then begin to experience the astounding benefits that recycled high-quality water can provide. There are many ways the public can help support this project and the vision for a restored Big Bear. Subscribe to the mailing list for project updates by visiting Replenish Big Bear’s website. This will help you stay updated on any information concerning the project. You can also attend one of the public meetings to hear live information and presentations. If you have social media you can follow the project and partner agencies for project updates and future events. In addition, you can use your platform on social media to share any of this information with family or friends. This will help inform more people about Replenish Big Bear’s beneficial project. In addition to sharing on social media, you can get a Replenish Big Bear sticker for your car by visiting www.bbarwa.org. By spreading the word about Replenish Big Bear, more people will become aware of the urgency and necessity of a new water system.
Big Bear is one of the few places in Southern California that experiences all four seasons. It is known for its natural beauty and endless amounts of outdoor activities. Our local water system is probably not something you think about on an average day but it is something that can affect you and your family whether you are visiting on vacation or calling it home. Big Bear’s current water system is taking away our local water when we could be using it for restoring lake levels and protecting our water supply. Replenishing Big Bear’s plan is a way to not only reconstruct Big Bear but to also assure that Big Bear has a better way to utilize our most natural resource and prepare for any future droughts that may affect our water supply.