“You never know the worth of water till the well runs dry,” warns an old English proverb. Fortunately for Californians, the State recognized several years ago that groundwater, which is accessed by wells, is a valuable resource that must be protected. Groundwater supports families, farms, communities, jobs, and the economy.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), passed in 2014, prioritized local groundwater management. It directed local water managers to work with their communities to develop plans on how to ensure groundwater availability for the long-term. The plans are submitted to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) for review to ensure that groundwater reliability could we reached within a 20-year timeframe.
SGMA also charged DWR to serve in an assistance role, supporting local communities’ efforts. DWR provides planning, technical and financial assistance to communities as they develop and implement their groundwater plans. DWR has already provided $180 million in assistance to help communities and another $200 million will be provided over the next four years.
In addition, DWR staff gathers and compiles data, creates guidance documents and reports, works with locals to install monitoring wells and stream gauges, measures subsidence, and more to help locals better understand their groundwater basins.
DWR’s regional staff members located throughout the state serve as points-of-contact for groundwater basins, building a state and local network to support an understanding of best available science, engineering, and innovation in groundwater management.
DWR offers grant and loan programs – including the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program – that support water management activities addressing environmental stewardship, water supply reliability, public safety, and economic stability. The grant programs fund planning, implementation, and disadvantaged community involvement in groundwater planning and management.
One of DWR’s complementary programs to SGMA is Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (Flood-MAR) which is a way to take excess floodwater and high snowmelt runoff and redirect and spread that water over farmlands to percolate down for groundwater recharge. Using working lands for recharge in wet years expands the State’s ability to store more water underground, and supports local agencies in water availability.
DWR also supports Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) efforts by working with local water managers to identify and implement water management solutions to increase regional self-reliance, reduce conflicts locally, and manage water to achieve social, environmental, and economic goals. Along with supporting regional scale solutions, DWR oversees the State’s Water Use and Efficiency Program to helps local agencies and individuals find efficient ways to conserve agricultural and urban water. This in turn helps preserve our state’s precious groundwater resources.
Additionally, the proposed improvements to DWR’s delta conveyance operations would allow for the transfer of excess seasonal water through the State Water Project, or California’s Aqueduct. This would help move additional surface water across the state where it could be used for groundwater recharge, water banking, or instead of groundwater.
DWR is working across its programs to engage with local agencies and communities across the state to ensure groundwater is available for use now and in the future.