The groundwater level in the San Bernardino Basin area is at its lowest point in recorded history, officials say.
Measured in volume, the groundwater level for the basin is now about 500,000 acre-feet below full, according to Douglas Headrick, general manager for the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.
That would put it below the previous low recorded in 1964, a period that followed a 20-year drought, officials said.
"This isn't just an issue for San Bernardino, but many other cities depend on this basin for much of their water supply, including Redlands, Highland, Loma Linda, Rialto, Colton and Riverside," the district's water resource manager, Bob Tincher, said.
The San Bernardino district and the Western Municipal Water District in Riverside, he said, were facing major challenges, including significant cutbacks in deliveries from the California State Water Project through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the Colorado River.
The region's water problems are underscored by the fact that few residents know where their water comes from, Tincher said.
A survey of 400 residents conducted in March that was commissioned by 13 water agencies, including the San Bernardino district, found that just 3% to 5% of Inland Empire residents knew that 30% of the area's water supplies were imported.
"These survey results showed us that we have some work to do," Tincher said. "If Inland Empire residents do not know that we are dependent on water imported from Northern California for close to a third of our water supply, then they will not understand the need for projects such as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which will safeguard our critical imported water supplies."
Part of the plan includes the construction of two massive tunnels that would move fresh water from the delta to pumping stations that distribute water to the region.