The cities of Hemet, Calif., and San Jacinto, Calif., are facing a problem with the supply of available water in the area’s basins, according to the Southwest Riverside News Network. Seepage has been occurring in the basins for years, and population growth has resulted in overdrawing from the basins. New regulations are necessary to ensure the availability of water, according to the Department of the Interior (DOI).

A Riverside County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the formation of the Watermaster, a group of individuals representing four municipal organizations working to rectify the water-shortage, according to a press release from the Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD). The Watermaster was approved April 18 for the primary purpose of regulating and maintaining the Hemet/San Jacinto Groundwater Basins.

 “This will undoubtedly be a complex project and will not be solved overnight. But each and every person involved in this project understands how important this process is to ensuring peace in the Valley and we are fully committed to making it a success for the betterment of our entire region,” Vice Chair of the Watermaster and Hemet City Council Member Linda Krupa told The Valley Chronicle.  

The formation of the Watermaster serves to satisfy a judicial requirement of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Settlement Act. The act was approved by Congress on July 31, 2008 for the purpose of guaranteeing available drinking water for the Band, according to the DOI’s website. Soboba Tribal Council Chairman Scott Cozart is quoted on the website, saying,"The Tribe is elated that this long-running issue has finally been resolved and that it is clearly a win-win for all."

The Watermaster includes five members. Four represent separate municipal organizations, including the Lake Hemet Municipal Water District (LHMWD), the city of Hemet, Calif., the city of San Jacinto, Calif., and the EMWD. These four municipal organizations will provide funding for the organization, and will also be responsible for hiring legal counsel and an advisor. The plan for the Watermaster also specifies that a fifth member is included to represent the private sector.  

“There is a great responsibility that this committee has embraced in regards to its ongoing management of this program,” says EMWD President Phil Paule in the EMWD’s press release. “By working hand-in-hand with our neighbors, we can ensure both proper water management for the future and ongoing partnerships that will help unify our Valley.”

The San Jacinto Groundwater Basin has been overdrawn by roughly 10,000 acre feet of water per year for the last several decades, according to the EMWD. One acre foot is enough to provide two families with water for a year. The EMWD has announced on its website a goal of recharging about 7,500 acre feet of water into a newly formed recharge basin every year.

The four agencies composing the Watermaster have also invested in more than 400 acres of habitat restoration for the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat.

The Watermaster is scheduled to meet once a month and officially report its status once a year to the court. The current policies were agreed upon at its first meeting on April 22 and the group will meet again on May 29.