State Finalizes Groundwater Management Principles and Strategies Addressing Drought Impacts on Drinking Water Wells

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Groundwater replenishment facility in Coachella Valley.

Image of groundwater replenishment facility in the Coachella Valley.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board today issued final groundwater management principles and strategies to help protect drinking water wells from the  impacts of drought.

Developed in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s drought state of emergency proclamation in April, the principles and strategies provide a framework for state actions to proactively address impacts on groundwater-dependent communities as droughts become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change.

These principles and strategies incorporate hundreds of public comments received earlier this fall, including written comments submitted to DWR and feedback at public workshops and webinars.

“Ultimately, sustainable groundwater basins will help Californians manage through drought – especially those dependent on domestic wells. But we’re simply not there yet. These principles will help state agencies, local governments and communities address very real domestic well outages that are starting to occur,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “A big thank you to the members of the public who shared their insights with DWR. We are ready to implement.”

“We are in a severe drought that, with declining groundwater levels, threatens drinking water wells and makes harmful contaminants become more concentrated in certain areas,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “Articulating clear principles and strategies to manage groundwater, while protecting drinking water, improves the drought resilience of our rural and often disadvantaged communities, who are most burdened and impacted by deteriorating conditions.”

The final principles and strategies provide a shared policy framework of near-term drought response and long-term resilience actions by state agencies for those that rely on groundwater for drinking water. The strategies build upon existing programs and newly enacted laws, such as the 2021 drought planning legislation (Senate Bill 552), the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), and the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund for Equity and Resilience (SAFER). Following these principles will result in increased coordination and engagement with non-government organizations, Tribes, water agencies, groundwater sustainability agencies, and other local entities to ensure state resources and action support state and local needs. California is committed to increasing the frequency of forecasting data and tools, such as the recently released California’s Groundwater Live website, which supports data-informed decision-making and helps prioritize funding for emergency and long-term projects to support communities with drought resilience.

The framework prioritizes protection of public health and safety, as well as preparation and mitigation for the effects of drought conditions over the long term. Six principles describe how to address drinking well water impacts, and include strategies to achieve drinking water resiliency, integrate equity, identify underlying challenges, use best available data, build trusted relationships, and implement lasting solutions.

For more information and to find the final documents in both English and Spanish, please visit the Drinking Water Wells Principles webpage. To learn more about current drought conditions and the state’s response, as well as dry well resources, visit www.drought.ca.gov.

 

Contact:

Mary Fahey, Information Officer, Public Affairs, Department of Water Resources

Mary.Fahey@water.ca.gov


Blair Robertson, Information Officer, Office of Public Affairs, State Water Resources Control Board

Blair.Robertson@waterboards.ca.gov