Advancing Sustainable Groundwater Management in the Sacramento Valley

Thursday, Jan 30th, 2020

With Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) emerging from basins that are subject to critical conditions of overdraft to meet the January 31 deadline, this is a good time to reflect on sustainable groundwater management.

In the Sacramento Valley, local agencies have organized Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) and they are poised to advance the next generation of groundwater management in California through the GSPs that will be submitted by January 2022. The map below from the Department of Water Resources shows the GSAs and the collaboration across the entire Sacramento Valley floor, which includes ten counties and nearly 100 special water districts and companies working together with landowners and other interested parties.

Click on the map below for more details.

The GSAs are building upon the foundation that local agencies have developed over the past several decades, working with the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and others, to better understand and sustainably manage surface and groundwater resources in the Sacramento Valley. The GSAs meet quarterly to coordinate their efforts across the region.

Local agencies will be making major investments over the next several years to advance sustainable groundwater management as they further develop and refine GSPs that will be completed by 2022. Successful groundwater management is largely dependent upon the availability of affordable and reliable surface supplies and strong local leadership. Active conjunctive management of surface and groundwater has been key to sustainability in the region. Continuing this active management—both surface and groundwater–will be increasingly important in the Sacramento Valley to effectively serve water for multiple beneficial uses, including farms, cities and rural communities, fish, birds and recreation.

With respect to sustainability, groundwater levels in Northern California have risen in the recent wet years as you would expect and groundwater is generally in balanced conditions across the region, with a few pockets that are being watched very carefully. The GSAs are actively working to improve groundwater conditions as part of their GSPs, with a focus on recharge opportunities and other ways to assure sustainable groundwater levels in the region

Groundwater is a vital part of the Sacramento Valley’s water supply. The consecutive dry years in 2014-15 illuminated the pressures on Sacramento Valley’s water resources and the challenges we face in providing reliable and affordable water supplies for various beneficial purposes in the Valley, including farms, cities and rural communities, fish, birds, and recreation. Groundwater provides nearly 30% of the region’s water supplies, with this percentage greatly increasing during dry years and during sustained droughts.

For more information, see The State of Sacramento Valley Groundwater.

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