Unlike California’s majestic rivers and massive dams and
conveyance systems, groundwater is out of sight and underground,
though no less plentiful. The state’s enormous cache of
underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed
to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and
leader in high-tech industries.
Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities
and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future
sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an
average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply
comes from groundwater.
A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local
and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable
groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.
California is well behind the curve on groundwater regulation.
With a few exceptions, groundwater extraction has never been
regulated in the state or even monitored with
any precision. However, a 2014 law, the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), at last will require
groundwater basins in the state to reverse longstanding
Major parts of San Francisco Bay’s shoreline are slowly
sinking, a new scientific study has found, dramatically
increasing the risk of billions of dollars of flooding in the
coming decades as sea level rise continues due to climate
Followers of the ecologically dubious and largely pointless
Cadiz water project in the Mojave Desert might have pricked up
their ears last week at reports of a possible conflict of
interest involving Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law,
and the investment firm Apollo Global Management.
In this episode of Deeply Talks, Tara Lohan, Water Deeply’s
managing editor, speaks with Philip Bachand, a water engineer
and founder of the environmental engineering firm, Bachand &
Associates; Daniel Mountjoy, the director of resource
stewardship at Sustainable Conservation; and Don Cameron, vice
president and general manager of Terranova Ranch, about
recharging groundwater and the crucial role that farms can play
in this important effort.
On Feb. 26, the farmers will make a pivotal decision: whether
or not to tax themselves about $14 million over 30 years to
build a new delivery system. Thursday, the League of Women
Voters, the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District and
county officials will host a public meeting to explain all of
this at 6 p.m. at Jackson Hall, on the Lodi Grape Festival
The Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, on the Hawaiian
island of Maui, pumps 3 million to 5 million gallons of treated
sewage a day down four wells on its property. Once underground,
the water does not stay put. It seeps through porous lava rock
and then flows into the Pacific Ocean, a half-mile to the
When the Water Replenishment District of Southern California
located a 30-year supply trapped between the ocean and an
aquifer, it was like a prospector finding gold. … A pilot
project that began in 2002 proved new technology could turn
brackish water into drinking water.
After extensive fieldwork, site observation and geologic
mapping, a team of scientists hired by Cadiz Inc. concluded
that a proposed water transfer project in a remote part of San
Bernadino County desert won’t harm one of the largest wildlife
water sources in the Mojave Desert.
Constellation Brands, maker of Modelo and Corona beers, finds
itself in the crossfire of a bitter dispute. On one side are
government officials who are vowing to see the project through;
on the other, opponents determined to shut it down, saying the
plant will use a large amount of water that should go to local
California’s sweeping effort to regulate groundwater extraction
is still in its infancy. But many community groups are already
concerned that too little is being done to involve low-income
and disadvantaged residents in managing aquifers dominated
by agriculture. The Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act, adopted in 2014, was a Herculean achievement for
Garry Holiday grew up among the abandoned mines that dot the
Navajo Nation’s red landscape, remnants of a time when uranium
helped cement America’s status as a nuclear superpower and
fueled its nuclear energy program. It left a toxic legacy. …
Mining tainted the local groundwater.
In a quiet agricultural community in Fresno County things have
been sinking for a long time. California’s Central Valley
subsidence problem was discovered decades ago, right around El
Nido. Now, this town is more famous for its elevation than its
population because agriculture’s demand for water here has sent
pumps ever deeper into the ground, causing the valley floor to
sink by dozens of feet.
A 20-mile portion of one of the Valley’s largest waterways is
sinking. It’s getting worse each month and while the water
levels drop, the price tag rises. Earlier this year, the
Friant Water Authority reported measurements that showed a
nearly 3-foot drop in the Friant-Kern Canal’s elevation in some
Groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley – producer of
half the state’s agricultural output – has averaged roughly 1.8
million acre-feet annually since the mid-1980s. Even before the
start of the most recent drought in 2011, a few San Joaquin
farmers recognized the dire need for sustainable water
management and started individually pioneering a groundwater
recharge practice that has since gained
The state’s water conservation districts don’t need the
approval of property owners or voters to charge their customers
fees to fund programs aimed at protecting groundwater, the
California Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration over
its decision supporting a company’s plan to pump up
to 16.3 billion gallons of groundwater each year from a
Mojave Desert aquifer and build a pipeline to sell
that water to Southern California cities.
Environmental activists sued Tuesday to halt a plan to pump
water from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern
California cities and counties. The lawsuit takes aim at the
U.S. Bureau of Land Management for allowing Cadiz Inc. to build
a 43-mile pipeline to transfer the water from its desert wells
into the Colorado River Aqueduct so it can be sold to water
This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River
where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand
is growing from myriad sources — increasing population,
declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
Participants of this tour snaked along the San Joaquin River to
learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most
expensive river restoration projects.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most
contentious legal battles in California water history,
ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government,
Friant Water Users Authority and a coalition of environmental
For as long as agriculture has existed in the Central Valley,
farmers have pumped water from the ground to sustain their
livelihood and grow food consumed by much of the nation. This
has caused the ground in certain places to sink, sometimes
dramatically, eliminating valuable aquifer storage space that
can never be restored. The damage by subsidence extends to the
California Aqueduct, the 700-mile artificial river that conveys
water from Northern California to the valley and beyond as the
principal feature of the State Water Project.
The joint ground-mapping pilot project is designed to help
Soquel Creek Water District and the County of Santa Cruz locate
sandy soil areas to install collection basins and dry wells for
easier passage for stormwater runoff to return to underground
Fresh from gaining the long-sought federal approval for its
massive desert water project, Scott Slater, Cadiz president and
CEO, said it’s time for the project to “slow down” a bit.
… The Cadiz project involves pumping billions of gallons
of water annually from an underground aquifer in a remote part
of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as
the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface
water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square
miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25
percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits,
nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
During California’s five-year drought, the row of ponds in the
desert north of the Palm Springs often lay empty and dry. But
this year, the ponds have been filled to the brim with a record
amount of water from the Colorado River. The Coachella
Valley’s water utilities are using the influx of imported water
to chip away at the long-term problem of groundwater overdraft.
The state of California is asserting landownership rights along
a proposed pipeline’s path that would help carry groundwater
from a remote part of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino
County to Orange County and other communities.
A state commission is throwing a new hurdle in front of Cadiz
Inc.’s plans to turn a remote desert valley into a lucrative
water source for Southern California. In a Sept. 20 letter to
Cadiz, the State Lands Commission informed the company that its
proposed water pipeline crosses a strip of state-owned land and
therefore requires a state lease.
If you want a new well in California, you might have to let
your neighbors know how much water you plan to pump. That’s if
it’s tapping a critically overused aquifer, and if a bill on
Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk survives calls for a veto.
Now, a private company wants to use the pits for a $2-billion
hydropower project. The plant, proponents say, would help boost
renewable energy use in Southern California and lower
greenhouse gas emissions. But park officials fear the
hydropower project could draw down local groundwater levels and
California survived its historic drought, in large part by
using groundwater. It was a lifeline in the Central Valley,
where it was the only source of water for many farmers.
California regulators are charged with protecting that
groundwater, but for years they failed to do so.
Stanislaus County will try a new groundwater treatment system
to keep the former Geer Road landfill from polluting the
Tuolumne River and nearby wells. The county will pay a Southern
California contractor $1.74 million to build the groundwater
extraction and treatment equipment at the old landfill on the
north side of the Tuolumne River, about a mile northeast of
Groundwater replenishment happens
through direct recharge and in-lieu recharge. Water used for
direct recharge most often comes from flood flows, water
conservation, recycled water, desalination and water
The battle over plans by a Los Angeles company to sell water
pumped from aquifers underneath Mojave Desert conservation
areas heated up again this week when state legislation was
amended to require a new round of state reviews.
The SGMA [Sustainable Groundwater Management Act] is now
kicking into gear as its first major deadline arrives: By June
30, counties and regional water managers must form “groundwater
sustainability agencies,” or GSAs – the task forces that will
eventually be responsible for developing their own sustainable
groundwater use plans. Districts that fail or choose not to
create a GSA will be subject to intervention by the State Water
Resources Control Board.
A rush-hour delay caused by flooded tracks at the Powell Street
Station in San Francisco — in the middle of summer — points up
a BART issue that doesn’t get nearly the attention that
overcrowded trains, finicky air-conditioning and the seemingly
daily “equipment problems” command: a steady supply of
Vickie Mulas, a partner in her family’s Sonoma Valley dairy and
vineyard operations, is no friend of regulations. … But
Mulas, a member of a prominent local ranching family, relishes
her role in California’s newest round of rule-making that will
— in an unprecedented departure from past practice — put limits
on how much water people can pump out of the ground.
A company’s vision to pump water from the Mojave Desert and
sell it to thirsty Southern California cities had looked to
some to be a long shot. … But a series of developments has
invigorated backers of the project, which involves both federal
and state jurisdictions.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ 4-year-old legal
fight to assert rights to groundwater took a step forward on
Wednesday as a federal judge agreed to let the lawsuit proceed
while water agencies appeal an earlier ruling to the Supreme
Five companies responsible for polluting the groundwater in the
San Gabriel Valley have agreed to continue cleanup for another
10 years, sparing 400,000 residents higher water bills, a state
agency announced Thursday.
California farmers have long been able to get permits to drill
new wells in areas where groundwater levels are falling without
publicly saying how much water they intend to pump. That would
change under a bill approved this week by the California
The Trump administration has shown support for the
project, which has been opposed by [U.S. Senator Dianne]
Feinstein and several environmental groups that argue the water
extraction would harm the fragile desert ecosystem.
The massive scale of California’s groundwater pumping is
outlined in a study released Wednesday by researchers at UCLA
and the University of Houston. The researchers conclude that
California’s pending groundwater regulations remain woefully
behind what is necessary to bring the state’s groundwater
levels back into balance.
Land subsidence caused by groundwater pumping has been a problem
for decades in the San Joaquin Valley, but an increased reliance
on aquifers during the last decade has resulted in subsidence
rates in excess of a foot per year in some parts of the region.
University Business Center
One of the wettest years in California history that ended a
record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage
to be built above and below ground.
In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help
store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is
used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning
for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they
The heavy rain and snow over the past six months in California
could reverse the infamous decline of the state’s groundwater
stores, but the relief may last only a season or two, according
to a hydrologist with University of California, Davis, who says
water agencies must find efficient ways to refill
The rain has largely stopped after one of the wettest winters
in California. But as spring temperatures begin to climb and
snow in the Sierra Nevada melts, the threat of flooding has
communities across the Central Valley on edge. … The
concerns are magnified in some areas by subsidence, a festering
problem exacerbated by five years of drought in the Central
William Alley, director of science and technology at the
National Groundwater Association, and Rosemarie Alley, a
science writer, are the authors of High and Dry, a book that
explores the world’s growing dependence on groundwater. Circle
of Blue reporter Brett Walton spoke with the Alleys about the
role of science in groundwater management and the knowledge
that is necessary for sustaining what they call “the neglected
child of the water world.”
A new nationwide study has unearthed the huge hidden potential
of tapping into salty aquifers as a way to relieve
the growing pressure on freshwater supplies across the United
States. Digging into data from the country’s 60 major aquifers,
the U.S. Geological Survey reports that the amount of brackish
— or slightly salty — groundwater is more than 35 times the
amount of fresh groundwater used in the United States each
Knee-high tufts of grass dot the streets of Hardwick, a rural
neighborhood with a few dozen homes hemmed in by vineyards and
walnut and almond orchards in California’s agriculture-rich San
The water spread into every corner of the fields, beckoning
wading ibises and egrets as it bathed long rows of sprouting
grapevines. Several inches had covered the vineyard ground for
a couple of months. But rather than draining it, Don Cameron
was pouring more on.
In the end, it wasn’t very controversial. Nineteen years after
San Joaquin County water interests overwhelmingly rejected a
water-sharing plan with rival East Bay Municipal Utility
District, a similar plan earned the unanimous approval of the
Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
In a key ruling released Monday, a judge slammed the Oakdale
Irrigation District for skirting state law in last year’s
fallowing proposal. The district should have studied whether
shipping river water elsewhere might harm local groundwater
levels, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne said
in a decision issued nearly 11 weeks after a one-day trial in
A long-running political struggle over a company’s plan to sell
water from a Mojave Desert aquifer has taken a new turn with
the Trump administration announcing a policy change that could
facilitate the controversial water project.
It’s a race against time this spring as water roars out of
Central California’s dams and rumbles its way to the
lowest-lying areas of the western San Joaquin Valley,
communities where land is collapsing and water channels are
growing more unstable. State engineers are generating new maps
to understand where water is stagnating in spots it once flowed
freely, and to learn which communities are in the most danger
The city of Vacaville is facing pressure to clean up its water
supplies after an environmental group sued this week over the
amount of chromium-6 in groundwater. … Vacaville is
among several California cities that have been wrestling with
the carcinogen since 2014, when the state adopted the nation’s
first chromium-6 rules.
Mineral rights and royalty owners have filed a new lawsuit
against Monterey County, challenging voter-approved Measure Z,
which establishes some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on
oil and gas operations in the state’s fourth-largest
oil-producing county. … Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking,
and wastewater injection into aquifers will still be prohibited
during the stay.
A federal appeals court sided with the Agua Caliente Band of
Cahuilla Indians on Tuesday in a landmark water case, upholding
a ruling that the tribe has federally established rights
to groundwater in the Coachella Valley.
San Francisco’s famously pure High Sierra water is about to be
served with a twist. Starting next month, city water officials
will begin adding local groundwater to the Yosemite supplies
that have satiated the area’s thirst since the 1930s and made
the clean, crisp water here the envy of the nation.
Unchecked groundwater use is colliding with seesawing weather
patterns to produce a new act in California’s long-running
tragedy of the commons. According to NASA and European Space
Agency data released on February 8, parts of the California
aqueduct on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, near
Avenal, sank more than two feet between 2013 and 2016 as
farmers pumped records amounts of groundwater during the
state’s historic drought.
As storms hit California and the Sierra Nevada snowpack keeps
building after years of punishing drought, water managers on
the San Joaquin Valley floor are replenishing groundwater
supplies while the getting is good.
Even as California struggles with surface flooding, the state
is going dry underground, triggering sinking in parts of the
great San Joaquin Valley, according to a new NASA report
released by the Department of Water Resources.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously
approved a letter to the California Department of Conservation
expressing their concerns about a proposal to expand the
boundaries of an aquifer where oil-production wastewater is
Until Donald Trump won the presidency, prospects looked bleak
for Cadiz, a California company that has struggled for years to
secure federal permits to transform Mojave Desert groundwater
into liquid gold. With the change of administration, a new day
For decades, California oil companies have disposed of
wastewater by pumping it into aquifers that were supposed to be
protected by federal law. California regulators mistakenly
granted permits to do it, through a combination of poor record
keeping, miscommunication and permitting errors.
While some farmers lament the release of thousands of acre-feet
of water from Friant Dam, others are putting it to good use:
recharging groundwater supplies. Last week, the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation began releasing water from Millerton Lake to make
room for a deluge of storm runoff.
Amid greater scrutiny of oilfield contamination threats to
California’s groundwater, state officials will hold a hearing
Wednesday on a proposal to expand the aquifer area where a
Livermore driller is permitted to dispose of oily wastewater.
Kern County has lost a key round in its decade-long battle with
Southern California waste districts over the land application
of treated human and industrial waste. Now the Board of
Supervisors will have to decide whether to appeal the loss and
continue the fight.
Cadiz Inc. has raised more than $9 million in a public stock
offering held Thursday, said Andy Moore, president of B. Riley
& Co., of Los Angeles, which underwrote the offering on the
NASDAQ Global Market.
Three environmental and community-based groups have given their
notice of intent to appeal a federal court’s ruling allowing a
subsidiary of Nestlé to continue to remove millions of gallons
of water annually from the San Bernardino National Forest.
Next year, a new California law will revolutionize how the
state manages its groundwater. … There is an entirely
different category of California groundwater, however, that is
exempt from SGMA [Sustainable Groundwater Management Act].
These are the “adjudicated” groundwater basins, so-called
because the rules for managing them has been decided in a court
Dr. Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed
Sciences, is the godfather of research on the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta. When he says it took John Sutter eight days to
wind his way from San Francisco Bay through the Delta to find
the narrow Sacramento River in 1839, you can bet that’s the
truth. … Now, water agencies have joined together again
to launch the River Arc Project.
Four months ago, the Coachella Valley Water District’s managers
approved a plan they described as their costliest
infrastructure project ever: the construction of small water
treatment plants at nearly a third of the district’s 92 wells.
Lawyers for the Coachella Valley’s largest water districts and
the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians presented their
arguments to a federal appeals court in a water rights case
that could set a precedent for tribes across the country.
Manteca-area farmers voted this week to oppose a state proposal
to permanently allow more water to remain in the Stanislaus
River to protect fish. … The State Water Resources Control
Board says river flows would increase from roughly 20 percent
to perhaps 40 percent on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced
In a move that could have ramifications across the arid West, a
government watchdog agency accused federal water regulators of
wasting taxpayer funds when they gave Klamath Basin farmers
more than $32 million to stop growing crops and to pump
groundwater instead of drawing from lakes and rivers.
The Yuba County Water Agency board of directors on Tuesday
unanimously voted to reject an initiative to redistribute
revenue generated from groundwater substitution transfers —
that is the sale of surface water which is then replaced
locally by pumped water. … The initiative, known as the
Groundwater Fairness Act, was submitted to the agency on Sept.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will investigate
groundwater contamination from industrial operations in Orange
County’s north basin in a study that is expected to take up to
two years and cost $4million, the agency announced Wednesday.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today [Oct. 5]
announced it has reached an agreement with the Orange County
Water District to conduct a remedial investigation and
feasibility study to address a large area of groundwater
contamination in Northern Orange County known as the “North
Basin.” The work required by the agreement is expected to take
up to two years to complete and is estimated to cost up to $4
Sometime in the next few months, lawyers for the state of
Mississippi will stand before a U.S. Supreme Court-appointed
legal expert, clear their throats, and argue that Tennessee, a
neighbor, is stealing water. … It is the first time the
Supreme Court has considered a lawsuit that involves the use
and distribution of groundwater reserves that lie beneath
multiple state boundaries.
The water that gurgles from a spring on the edge of this
Northern California logging town is so pristine that for more
than a century it has been piped directly to the wooden homes
spread across hills and gullies.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed Senate Bill 1262 into law,
representing an initial attempt to incorporate groundwater
management requirements under the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act into two of California’s water supply planning
laws. … SGMA was adopted in 2014 and, for the first time in
California, establishes statewide requirements for establishing
sustainable groundwater management in all basins designated by
the California Department of Water Resources as medium- or
Drive through rural Tulare County and you’ll hear it soon
enough, a roar from one of the hundreds of agricultural pumps
pulling water from beneath the soil to keep the nut and fruit
orchards and vast fields of corn and alfalfa lush and green
under the scorching San Joaquin Valley sun.
Sinkholes are caused by erosion of
rocks beneath soil’s surface. Groundwater dissolves soft
rocks such as gypsum, salt and limestone, leaving gaps in the
originally solid structure. This is exacerbated when water is
acidic from contact with carbon dioxide or acid rain. Even
humidity can play a major role in destabilizing water
Irrigation is the artificial supply
of water to grow crops or plants. Obtained from either surface or groundwater, it optimizes
agricultural production when the amount of rain and where it
falls is insufficient. Different irrigation
systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but in
practical use are often combined. Much of the agriculture in
California and the West relies on irrigation.
States Geographical Survey (USGS) defines freshwater as
containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids.
However, 500 milligrams per liter is usually the cutoff for
municipal and commercial use. Most of the Earth’s water is
saline, 97.5 percent with only 2.5 percent fresh. Of this water,
about 70 percent is confined in glaciers and permanent snow in
the Arctic, meaning the remaining available water is accessible
after treatment, as potable water.
Springs are where groundwater becomes surface water, acting as openings
where subsurface water can discharge onto the ground or directly
into other water bodies. They can also be considered the
consequence of an overflowing
aquifer. As a result, springs often serve as headwaters to streams.
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management from opening more than 1 million acres in Central
California to oil drilling because the agency did not properly
explore the potential dangers of fracking.
Extensometers are among the most valuable devices hydrogeologists
use to measure subsidence, but most people – even water
professionals – have never seen one. They are sensitive and
carefully calibrated, so they are kept under lock and key and are
often in remote locations on private property.
During our California
Groundwater Tour Oct. 5-6, you will see two types of
extensometers used by the California Department of Water
Resources to monitor changes in elevation caused by groundwater
Flowing into the heart of the Mojave Desert, the Mojave River
exists mostly underground. Surface channels are usually dry
absent occasional groundwater surfacing and flooding
from extreme weather events like El Niño.
As the western United States struggles with chronic water
shortages and a changing climate, scientists are warning that
if vast underground stores of fresh water that California and
other states rely on are not carefully conserved, they too may
soon run dry.
With a theme focusing on “Wave of Change: Breaking the Status
Quo,” the Water Education Foundation’s 34th annual Executive
Briefing will be held March 23 in Sacramento. The event will
examine new approaches to water management, tools to extend
supplies, plans to prepare for drought, and the intersection
between politics and policy.
This premiere water conference will offer you the
opportunity to hear from top policymakers and leading
stakeholders on key water topics:
Hilton Sacramento Arden West
2200 Harvard Street
Alluvium generally refers to the clay, silt, sand and gravel that
are deposited by a stream, creek or other water body.
Alluvium is found around deltas and rivers, frequently
making soils very fertile. Alternatively, “colluvium” refers to
the accumulation at the base of hills, brought there from runoff
(as opposed to a water body). The Oxnard Plain in Ventura
County is a visible alluvial plain, where floodplains have
drifted over time due to gradual deposits of alluvium, a feature
also present in Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County.
Under the $29-million expansion plan launched Monday, officials
said the groundwater recharge facility will double in
capacity by 2018, helping ween Angelenos off increasingly
expensive and unreliable imported water.
A pollutant that has leached into California aquifers since
farmers first began using synthetic fertilizer continues to
accumulate and would not be removed from groundwater even if
the state’s agriculture businesses abruptly quit using
nitrogen-based materials to boost the productivity of their
Regional groundwater leaders took some necessary next steps
this week on the road to groundwater management and
sustainability. In less than a year, local water leaders need
to decide who will oversee state-mandated groundwater
A coalition of environmental groups had worked for more than
two years to persuade [Alameda] county leaders to ban fracking
and other high intensity oil recovery practices to protect
against pollution of local groundwater. The Board of
Supervisors approved the ban 5-0.
As California regulators plan to set a legal limit on a
cancer-causing chemical found in Valley water systems, clean
water advocates are urging residents to attend coming public
workshops on the issue.
This 2-day, 1-night tour travels from the Sacramento region to
rural Capay Valley to view sites that explore groundwater, a key
resource in California.
Examine groundwater monitoring stations where you will
learn how this precious resource is measured, tracked and
evaluated. Visit local farms and wineries that are
mitigating groundwater needs through innovative irrigation
techniques. Learn about groundwater contamination and ways to
prevent it at a local dairy.
The more scientists study California’s declining supplies of
groundwater, the more they’re emphasizing one basic point: We
still don’t know nearly enough about the water in our aquifers,
and we need a lot more data.
California took a needed and much overdue step in 2014
when it passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA) to regulate groundwater. The law will take decades to
implement, but the first steps of the process are already
The Central Valley has been hit hard by the long-running
drought. La Niña has failed to deliver the relief everyone was
hoping for, but researchers at Stanford have discovered what
could be good news for the region and for the state.
The Central Valley is home to California’s productive farming
belt, but the region’s groundwater is so severely overdrafted
in some places that the land has been sinking. … Now
scientists from Stanford University have found that the region
might actually have three times more groundwater than previous
estimates, which are decades old.
A new Stanford study indicates California’s groundwater supply
is three times greater than previous estimates and could
represent a potential “water windfall,” its authors say. …
However, water experts not involved in the Stanford study say
the newly discovered supply may be too deep and too difficult
Our [Stanford University] new study published this week in
the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences concludes
that the Central Valley has almost three times more fresh water
underground than the state estimates. … Assembly Bill
1755, scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Senate Committee on
Natural Resources and Water, establishes a shared water
database for surface and groundwater and water diversions.
Promised state funding for the increasingly costly Interlake
Tunnel project in legislation backed by Assemblyman Luis Alejo,
D-Watsonville, has been cut by 60 percent to $10 million,
potentially risking long-term project financing.
In the past 30 years, perhaps no legislative effort to bolster
the state’s water policy has received as much attention as the
management of groundwater. This effort lead to the
expansion of water district powers, the creation of special act
districts with unique powers, the authorization of voluntary
plans and finally culminated in the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA) and its trailing legislation.
A ballot initiative created by a group of concerned citizens
aims to alter groundwater management in Siskiyou County.
Chapter 13 of the Siskiyou County Code governs the withdrawal
and transport of groundwater, and section 3-13.301 does not
allow the unpermitted transport of water from the county;
however, “commercial water-bottling enterprises” are exempt
from requiring such a permit.
With this year’s storms helping to refill the Sacramento
region’s lakes and reservoirs, local water district officials
and state regulators are diverting and percolating stormwater
from Cache Creek into the Yolo County canal system to recharge
groundwater supplies used by local farmers, city residents and
For anyone who doubts that we’re still in a drought, San
Joaquin County’s groundwater “savings account” was even more
depleted this spring than last, despite improved rainfall over
the course of the winter.
By this time next year a lot of work needs to be done on a
regional groundwater sustainability plan. … Every big task
needs to start somewhere, and this week the public is being
asked to join the conversation.
Chloride and nitrate concentrations are rising and arsenic
levels are holding steady or falling. Those are two of the
conclusions from a U.S. Geological Survey assessment of changes
in the nation’s groundwater quality in the last two
A new era of groundwater management
began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies
to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management
plans with the state as the backstop.
SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the
“management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be
maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without
causing undesirable results.”
Cadiz Inc. won a decisive courtroom victory Tuesday for its
plans to transfer ancient groundwater in a remote part of San
Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert to parts of Orange County and
The ruling by a three-judge panel in Santa Ana moves urban
districts a step closer to getting up to 75,000 acre feet of
desert groundwater a year from the Cadiz and Fenner valleys in
San Bernardino County — enough to supply about 150,000 homes.
The group Protect Monterey County delivered 16,108 signatures
Wednesday to the Monterey County Elections Department in
support of putting an initiative on the November ballot to ban
fracking and dangerous oil production practices in the county.
The military is checking U.S. bases for potential groundwater
contamination from a toxic firefighting foam, but most states
so far show little inclination to examine civilian sites for
the same threat.
Legislation to protect California’s aquifers and groundwater
resources from permanent damage due to over-pumping has been
approved by the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and
Water on a 6-2 vote.
Farm water managers said new rules for managing underground
supplies are confusing and potentially expensive. … The
regulations are slated to go into effect June 1; the state
Department of Water Resources is taking public comment about
them until April 1.
The film, titled “Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing
Groundwater,” was co-produced by Steve Elfers of USA TODAY and
Ian James of The Desert Sun, and was supported by a grant from
the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
The Department of Defense has announced that it is testing
military sites nationwide to determine if perfluorooctane
sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid – both chemicals used in
foams that extinguish flammable liquids – are in sediments and
groundwater around runway areas.
State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, introduced a package of water
measures Friday, including legislation halting the
proliferation of new wells to slow the depletion of aquifers,
and avoid permanent damage to the state’s groundwater
The Department of Water Resources has now released the first
draft regulations to manage groundwater sustainably. The plan
lays out the steps local public agencies will need to take to
prevent chronic groundwater overdraft.
This symposium will focus on three areas related to paying for
development and implementation of groundwater projects and
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA)-related
activities; obtaining outside funding; developing the agency
contribution, or “match”, and Generating revenue to implement
your Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).
This event is sponsored by the Groundwater Resources Association
of California. The Water Education Foundation is a Cooperating
After suffering another year of historic drought and a State of
Emergency declared by Governor Brown, California remains poised
in 2016 for the extension of Emergency Drought Regulations
promulgated by the State Water Resources Control Board. But will
2016 also be a year of finding and finalizing solutions for long
term groundwater sustainability? Join the Groundwater Resources
Association for a dialogue on this and other subjects with
California’s most influential Legislators and Administration
The U.S. Geological Survey has begun collecting private well
water samples here as part of a $5.4 million study of the area
to determine how much of a cancer-causing chemical in the
groundwater is man-made and how much was put there by
Nearly three years after the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla
Indians sued the Coachella Valley’s largest water districts,
the two sides remain just as far apart in a case that
could force changes in how water is managed locally and set a
precedent for similar disputes nationwide.
The state Department of Water Resources on Thursday released a
list of 21 groundwater basins and subbasins that are
overdrafted, causing land subsidence, chronically lowered
groundwater levels and, in the case of the Salinas Valley,
In an effort to restore California’s desperately depleted
ancient aquifers, scientists are testing an approach that
seizes surplus winter rain and delivers it to where it’s most
useful: idle farms and fields.
This winter, dozens of water agencies across the state are
counting on a drenching El Niño to produce surplus water to
stash in the earth and make up for what’s been pumped out at
unprecedented rates due to the recent absence of surface
Water experts in Yolo County are actively monitoring water
wells to measure the groundwater supply. … The
groundwater supplies about 30 percent of the water in our
region, according to the Northern California Water Association,
which represents water rights holders in the Sacramento Valley.
Aquifers largely remain unmanaged and unregulated, and water
that seeped underground over tens of thousands of years is
being gradually used up. … These are stories about people on
four continents confronting questions of how to safeguard their
aquifers for the future – and in some cases, how to cope as the
water runs out.
In Great Oaks Water Company v. Santa Clara Valley Water
District, originally issued March 26, the Sixth District Court
of Appeal found that the water district’s groundwater pumping
fees are property-related fees subject to Proposition 218. …
The Great Oaks opinion, however, reached a different conclusion
than the Second District Court of Appeal reached in City of San
Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation District, issued
A new law regulating groundwater use for the first time in
California is decades away from being fully implemented. But
already, it is clear how difficult it will be for local water
providers to comply.
California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, set to
take effect in 2020, will limit how much groundwater can be
extracted over the long haul. While details of what constitutes
“sustainable” pumping are still being fleshed out, water policy
experts say many farmers will gradually have their water
supplies curtailed – and the nation’s leading agricultural
state will farm fewer acres.
The tensions in Kings County offer just a taste of what’s
expected in cities and towns throughout California’s farm belt
over the next few years as local officials work to enact the
state’s first-ever groundwater regulations.
By analyzing isotopes of tritium, an atomic variant of hydrogen
that accumulated in lands and waters after the dawn of the
nuclear age, a group of researchers was able to produce the
first global estimate of the age of groundwater. The results
show that groundwater, which provides two-fifths of the water
used for world agriculture, is not inexhaustible.
When the California Water Commission this year surveyed water
agencies about storage proposals that might qualify for funding
under Proposition 1, the 2014 water bond approved by state
voters, half the responses involved groundwater projects,
including one from [Gary] Serrato’s [Fresno Irrigation]
Water year 2016 began with the potential for heavy El Niño rains
that captured the attention of the public. State and federal
officials knew that California’s drought-stricken reservoirs
would not recover that quickly.
Hydrologic conditions, precipitation patterns, the need for
fishery flows, and forecasts of state and federal water project
operations were all discussed at a special FREE briefing
held February 23, 2016. Sponsored by the California
Department of Water Resources and the Water Education Foundation,
the briefing was held at the Sacramento Convention Center, Room
Sacramento Convention Center
1400 J Street, Room 204
Almost 28 years since state regulators learned there was a
chromium-6 problem in Hinkley, officials from the same agency
approved a comprehensive clean-up order for the world’s largest
known plume of this cancer-causing chemical.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an
amended water recycling agreement between the county Water
Resources Agency and the Monterey Regional Water Pollution
Control Agency, the primary backer of the groundwater
replenishment project also known as Pure Water Monterey.
In the drought-ravaged Central Valley, scientists are using a
new imaging technology to find ancient worlds of trapped water,
hidden hundreds of feet underground. … This week, a
helicopter swept 60 linear miles of parched fields in the
Tulare Irrigation District in one of the most arid regions of
The governor should use his emergency powers under the existing
drought to ban new wells in areas where groundwater pumping is
causing significant economic damage. I [Gerald H. Meral] don’t
take this position lightly. I understand it would harm people
who need groundwater to keep their farms going.
In an attempt to prevent its oil industry from contaminating
groundwater sources that could be used for drinking water,
California regulators closed 33 wells last week that were
injecting oilfield waste into protected aquifers.
It’s been one year since California Governor Jerry Brown signed
a landmark law to manage the state’s groundwater. The
California Water Commission has approved new groundwater basin
boundaries – the first major step in implementing the law.
On October 9, 2015, Governor Brown completed what is probably
one of the most remarkable two years in water legislation in
California’s history. … In signing SGMA, the Governor
pledged that during the 2014/15 legislative session, he would
submit a proposal to streamline groundwater
adjudications. With the signing of AB 1390 (Alejo) and SB
226 (Pavley), the Governor kept his promise.
A much-anticipated “Godzilla” El Niño this winter may refill
California’s drought-diminished reservoirs, but it won’t do
much to restock the severely depleted aquifers we rely upon to
get by during droughts. One reason for this is the sheer depth
of California’s precipitation deficit – the deepest of any
drought in 120 years of recordkeeping. The state has been drier
than normal for 10 of the past 14 years.
The CEO for embattled Cadiz Inc. has a plan to keep alive a
controversial project to transfer ancient groundwater in a
remote part of San Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert to parts
of Orange County and other locations, where it could serve as
many as 400,000 people.