Anza Valley’s future development hinges on water availability and a plan to maintain its sustainability. The pristine and relatively undeveloped valley is classified as a semi-arid high desert dependent on rainfall for all water uses. Furthermore, no comprehensive water study has been completed since 1973.

The valley’s current 10,000 inhabitants include two Native American tribes. Both are using federal litigation to quantify their already established “senior, federally reserved” water rights. And a comprehensive water study to determine water adequacy for future development is the first component of the 2005 Anza Vision and Goals statement (AVAG), devised by the community and adopted by the county as a roadmap for further growth.

Without knowing water availability, the county is unlikely to approve large-scale development of any kind as required by the AVAG. “Allow only as much new development as can be sustained by annual ground water recharge,” states AVAG Goal 1B.

In 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) proposed a $1.3 million plan to complete a comprehensive water study in partnership with the Riverside County Planning Department and complete the study by October 2010. Failure to obtain $800,000 in private funding scuttled the plan.

In early 2011, the county used a $50,000 grant from the California Department of Water Resources to hire Integrated Planning and Management, Inc. (IPM), to restart the planning process. IPM issued the “Anza Area Groundwater Management Report,” a small first step in renewing the quest for a comprehensive study leading to a groundwater management plan (GWMP).

IPM convened three community workshops designed to help local, regional, federal and tribal stakeholders participate in reviewing what is necessary and to plan for a future study and eventual GWMP. One meeting focused exclusively on what organizational structure or local governing body would be needed to have the legal authority to pursue subsequent steps. At the conclusion of the three meetings, attendees approved a preliminary step of forming a steering committee composed of local stakeholders and the Anza Municipal Advisory Council

The November IPM report found significant gaps in information about water levels and quality in the basin. The data scarcity is compounded by insufficient knowledge of existing area wells, their present condition, potential local water contaminant sources and options for controlling them, including better understanding of the affects of local septic tanks. Future investigations will have to fill in these information gaps. The report noted that progress toward a GWMP would be enhanced through the participation of more local stakeholders and the formation of a local governing body to secure funding for the next phase.

The report identified several local organizations with business structures that could be modified to include water or groundwater management. Unfortunately, the report found no current organization includes everything needed to conduct groundwater management. The report discussed organizational structures that could be formed that would be adequate to manage groundwater. They included a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation 501(c)(6), nonprofit public benefit corporation 501(c)(3), a Community Service Area, a Community Service District and a special legislative act district, agency or authority.

In resident comments filed with the report, former Anza Valley Municipal Advisory Committee chair Tulvio Durand said that the IPM process and report “got people with disparate interests to talk to one another about water conservation and planning. Your work is motivating Anza residents to seek and support the next steps in water management planning.”

The next steps will require additional grants and an organization to seek and qualify for that funding.