San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency
To import supplemental water and to protect and enhance local water supplies for use by present and future water users and to sell imported water to local water districts within the service areas of the Agency.
SGPWA (the Agency) is located in Riverside County between two mountain ranges—the San Bernardino Mountains on the North and the San Jacinto Mountains on the South. It is located in the San Gorgonio Pass, the elevated strip of land between the San Bernardino Valley to the West and the Coachella Valley to the East. The San Gorgonio Pass is named for Mt. San Gorgonio, the tallest peak in the region.
Key Agency Facts
The Agency was created by the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency Act, passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Pat Brown in 1961. Although the Agency was created with the intent of becoming a State Water Project Contractor, and while it signed a contract with the Department of Water Resources in 1962, it did not receive any water from the State Water Project until 2003, when Phase 1 of the East Branch Extension of the California Aqueduct was completed. In the intervening 40 years, the area transitioned from primarily agricultural (horse and sheep ranches, peach and cherry orchards), to primarily urban.
Service Area Details
The San Gorgonio Pass is one of the deepest mountain passes in the US, with peaks rising nearly 9,000 feet above the floor on both sides. This geologic oddity also makes it one of the windiest places in the nation, and the home of the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm.
The Agency’s service area includes 228 miles. The service area includes nine retail water agencies, the cities of Calimesa, Beaumont, and Banning, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians reservation. It also includes the unincorporated communities of Cherry Valley and Cabazon. The service area is home to just over 100,000 residents, a number that is increasing annually. Most of the service area is located above 2,500 feet in elevation, resulting in high pumping costs for imported water. After the Agency takes delivery of water from the State Water Project in San Bernardino at an elevation of 1,900 feet, it must pump this water three more times to reach the service area.
The area includes a number of landmarks that Southern Californians recognize as they drive from the Los Angeles area to the Palm Springs area or the Colorado River. These landmarks include the Cabazon dinosaurs, the 27-story Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, and the westernmost windmills in the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm that extends into the Coachella Valley.
How long has SGPWA been an investor in Sites Reservoir?
The Agency invested in the project at its earliest opportunity, in 2016, and has been an active member of the Reservoir Committee since its inception. The Agency’s investment is 14,000 acre-feet of yield, or approximately 86,000 acre-feet of storage in the reservoir.
Why did SGPWA decide to invest in Sites Reservoir?
The Agency’s Board, recognizing that the area represents one of the last relatively inexpensive swaths of land in Southern California and is likely to grow significantly in population, started looking for alternative supplemental water supplies as early as 2006, three years after it first received State Water Project water. It reviewed a number of water supply options, but focused on Sites Reservoir early on due to its environmental component, likelihood of being constructed, projected cost per acre-foot, and its ability to provide water in dry years. Since 2016, the Agency has found additional water supplies, but has continued its investment in Sites Reservoir, recognizing the long-term nature of the project.
What makes SGPWA unique?
While the Agency is relatively small, its population is increasing faster than most areas of the state. There is an acute housing shortage in Southern California, and San Gorgonio Pass still has a lot of land that can support new homes, especially modestly priced first homes for young families. It is also located at “the end of the line” and is located so far from its State Water Project delivery point that it did not receive any water from the Project until just a few years ago—just before the 2012-2016 drought. The Agency went from having no customers to being short of water in less than ten years. Its investment in Sites Reservoir is a large part of its strategy to not allow such shortages to occur again.
For More Information
For more information on the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency, visit www.sgpwa.com.