Big Bear has already had more than 7 inches of rain and some snow this
season, according to the National Weather Service. But despite the
precipitation, the lake remains 16 feet below full. Big Bear likes to
advertise that it?s sunny 300 days a year, but I suspect by now the
community would be willing to sacrifice a few of those sunny days. The
six Big Bear reservoir has fallen from 73,320 acre-feet at full pool
in the spring of 1998 to about 30,500 acre-feet at the end of
At the moment, the only source of water for the region is groundwater
The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Authority said current trends
are not sustainable, and that new sources of water must be found.
The region has indeed tried many ways of alleviating the effects of
the drought, though to be honest, what residents can do to alleviate
the situation in the short term is modest at best. The only real,
long-term answer to a prolonged drought is more precipitation. Many
people believe there is plenty of water under the ground in the
region, but the science behind such allegations is uncertain. Below
I?ve laid out some of the methods used in an effort to mitigate the
effects of the drought.
The city of Big Bear Lake has a plan. With the goal of ensuring a
dependable long-term water supply, the city says it?s going to
regulate development, enforce existing regulations, evaluation
land-use plans, and blah, blah, blah. The plan is ambitious but
generic, as is the preference of most politicians. The plan dates back
to August 1999.
The East Valley Resource Conservation District also has a plan. It?s
more detailed than the city?s, but still more general than specific.
Conservation efforts continue, with both government-mandated
water-use restrictions and voluntary reductions by individuals and
businesses. While most people seem to support the idea of
conservation, some measures are controversial, such as rate hikes
designed to limit water usage. The Department of Water and Power
lowered water-use budgets in the summer, including limiting the hours
for outdoor watering and disallowing the planting of new grass. There
is a push to limit development, with opponents citing the drought and
water shortage and reasons ? a push that sounds more political than
environmental. While a building moratorium would certainly have a
deleterious economic effect, it would probably help with the water
problem. In the summer, more building permits were being issued than
the number of available water connections.
Funding for cloud seeding was approved by the Big Bear Lake City
Council in September, though the project was postponed in early
November because of worries about a loss of funding from the Santa Ana
Regional Water Quality Control Board for other projects. There are
doubts about whether cloud seeding will work, whether it will take
water away from the surrounding area, how it will affect the
environment, and whether it will occur at all. A newspaper online poll
found 71% of respondents thought cloud seeding was worth considering.
In July, the Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency began a pilot
program to deliver recycled water to consumers for use in irrigation.
The plan is up for review in November.
The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency hopes to us recycled
wastewater to replenish the natural water supply. Most of this water
is currently used for crop irrigation. Other regions use similar
programs. The Big Bear Area Regional Wastewater Agency has done an
environmental impact study. In the spring, the agency began testing
the feasibility of adding water to the existing groundwater by simply
pouring water onto the ground at strategic sites. BBARWA continues to
study the issue. This is perhaps the best solution to the problem, and
the only one that could significantly increase the amount of
groundwater without additional rain or snow. The project, if it does
go forward, would be expensive and place a heavy burden on the
region?s well-pumping ability. The state requires a 50/50 mix of
potable and recycled water, which could end up being the sticking
point because of pumping capacity. However, BBRWA hopes the state will
relax its standards when confronted with more study data. BBRWA hopes
to begin augmenting the water supply with recycled wastewater by 2005.
Most recently, a Shoshone shaman did a rain dance on Nov. 15. No word
yet on its effectiveness.
Fortunately, the fishing is great.
For more information on Big Bear Lake and its water supply, check out
the following links:
Stats on Big Bear Lake, including average rainfall and temperature.
Here you?ll also find links to the Big Bear Chamber of Commerce and
the visitor information center.
A newspaper story about the October snowstorm.
Landscapers have turned to xeriscape as an alternative to traditional
Controversial plans to pump water into a moat for wildlife preservation.
An editorial promoting less use of water for landscaping.
Forest Service plans to cope with fire risk, which has been
exacerbated by the drought.
A detailed analysis of the Big Bear Lake Rehabilitation & Enhancement Plan.
Google searches for:
"big bear lake" drought
?big bear lake? drought solution
Searched archives of the Big Bear Grizzly (http://www.bigbeargrizzly.net/archives/).