Celebrating National Groundwater Awareness Week in the Sacramento Valley

Wednesday, Mar 10th, 2021

By David Guy

As we celebrate National Groundwater Awareness Week, the Northern California Water Association (NCWA) convened its groundwater management task force this week to help coordinate the various Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) in the Sacramento Valley and to advance groundwater sustainability throughout the region. Jim Mayer, the task force chair, also convened a conversation on groundwater sustainability with leading water resources managers and conservationists as part of the NCWA Annual Meeting that can be seen here. The emerging dry year is also bringing the importance of sustainable groundwater management into focus as it appears that surface water supplies may be limited this year throughout the region.

In the Sacramento Valley, the local GSAs are poised to advance the next generation of groundwater management in California through the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (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, conservationists and other interested parties.

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 and their consultants are meeting monthly to coordinate their respective GSP efforts this year.

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 since 2014-15 as you would expect following dry years 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. Recent dry years have 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.

Additional Resources:

  • See The State of Sacramento Valley Groundwater.
  • For a Department of Water Resources video primer on groundwater resources in California, click here.
  • To watch the NCWA annual meeting on groundwater sustainability, please click here.
  • For more information on groundwater awareness week, click here.
  • The Water Education Foundation has made Groundwater its Water Word of the Week. For more of the vibrant vocabulary of California water, be sure to check out Aquapedia, the free, vetted online water encyclopedia.
  • Groundwater Exchange – Sharing ideas and resources for successful implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

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