By Jim Mayer, Chair, NCWA Groundwater Management Task Force; and Board Member, Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District
Groundwater awareness week is a time to reflect on the important role that groundwater serves in the Sacramento Valley and the concerted efforts underway to carefully manage groundwater resources for communities and farms while keeping an eye toward longer-term regional sustainability of our water resources. We were pleased to join the California Department of Water Resources and many others this week to celebrate groundwater awareness week in California. A recording of the presentations is available at: Groundwater Awareness Week Event – YouTube.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) provides important opportunities for local agencies to manage water resources in a sustainable manner. The experience in 2014-15 and 2020-22 with dry years and scarcity (lack of surface water supplies) has brought groundwater management into focus, with additional wells, increased water demands, and water quality issues throughout the Valley. Now that local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs), the NCWA Groundwater Management Task Force, in coordination with GSAs and their consultants throughout the region and the Department of Water Resources, have developed a Pathway for the Future: Sustainable Groundwater Management in the Sacramento Valley.
The objective is to support GSAs (counties, cities, water agencies and other special districts) and landowners throughout the region to help them create stronger local institutional capacity for GSAs while implementing the foundational GSPs for the Sacramento Valley, including coordinating efforts across the Valley floor, providing education, and fostering mutual respect among agencies. Active management by GSAs through the GSPs across the entire Sacramento Valley floor will be essential for regional sustainability by 2042.
The priorities that have emerged from our recent scenario planning discussions, which is described in A Pathway for the Future: Sustainable Groundwater Management in the Sacramento Valley, includes:
- Ensure safe drinking water for communities
- Advance groundwater recharge opportunities
- Better understand and manage surface water and groundwater interaction.
- Help coordinate effective well permitting programs across the region; and
- Align state and federal priorities with local and regional needs.
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This document offers a path forward for groundwater sustainability in the Sacramento Valley and calls upon the leaders in the region to utilize our extensive and valuable natural infrastructure, including the groundwater aquifers and recharge areas, as part of a healthy landscape necessary for a functional Sacramento Valley and greater water supply resilience. Our sessions also renewed our focus on conjunctively managing our resources and deploying nature-based solutions to achieve sustainability.
The Northern California Water Association is working to bring the region together to actively manage our water resources—both surface and groundwater—for multiple benefits that ensure sustainable water supplies for cities and rural communities, farms, fish, birds, recreation, and hydropower. In managing water from the ridgetop to the river mouth, we fully appreciate and embrace the Sacramento Valley’s groundwater aquifer systems and their importance to this region.
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