California’s groundwater basins can store much more water than surface reservoirs. After years of unchecked depletion of many groundwater basins, communities are now coming together to figure out how to manage them sustainably. We talked to Helen Dahlke, a hydrologist at UC Davis and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center’s research network, about efforts to recharge groundwater basins to help bring them back into balance.
It would add just a trickle of water, for now, but a potentially historic vote by April could change how San Joaquin County addresses droughts and floods for decades to come. County supervisors may agree to conduct an experiment of sorts with a longtime nemesis on water issues, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, which exports much of the Mokelumne River to 1.3 million people in the Bay Area.
“A court ruling issued Wednesday could throw up obstacles to operation of a Kern County groundwater bank that has helped billionaire Stewart Resnick build a nut empire in the southern San Joaquin Valley.”
“Then something bigger happened: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor said that 340,000 acre-feet of water stored at San Luis Reservoir on behalf of west-side farmers would be released to them for use during the growing season.”
“West Valley farmers spent $150 million last year buying some water and storing it in San Luis Reservoir. They were planning ahead for a zero water allocation from the federal Central Valley Project this year.”
“With the state extremely dry, the farmers fear federal officials could effectively seize for other purposes the water set aside primarily in San Luis Reservoir on the valley’s west side. Affected farmers say that would be wrong. Unfortunately for them, it might also be legal.”
From The Bakersfield Californian, in a commentary by Lois Henry:
“So, a pile of water banked in Kern County is being used to support a massive urban development in Madera County.
“Before you try and wrap your head around how that’s geographically possible, there’s the whole question of whether the banked water (and other water slated for the project) even can be used for that purpose.”
“More than two decades ago, two water distributors came up with a tantalizing idea to increase reserves in parched Southern California: Create an underground lake so vast it could hold enough to blanket Los Angeles — all 469 square miles — under a foot of water.
“The message is clear: We must do more to prepare for increasingly harmful dry years by capturing more water in wet years. In short, California needs a lot more water storage – and we need it now. … California’s Legislature also must do its part by updating the long-anticipated water bond and ensuring that it includes adequate funding for water storage.”