ICYMI: “Flush with rain, California plans to replenish drought-depleted groundwater with floodwaters”
The Californer/10233370

SACRAMENTO ~ The Los Angeles Times reported on March 11, 2023 that California is taking advantage of the recent torrential rains to replenish its drought-depleted groundwater. The State Water Resources Control Board approved a request by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to take more than 600,000 acre-feet from the San Joaquin River and send much of that water flowing to areas where it can spread out, soak into the ground and percolate down to the aquifer beneath the San Joaquin Valley.

This plan is intended to address potential flood risks, capitalize on California's near-record snowpack and capture some of the high flows from the latest extreme storms to store water underground. Governor Gavin Newsom said after three driest years in state history, "California is taking decisive action to capture and store water for when dry conditions return."

The Bureau of Reclamation manages the dams, reservoirs and canals of the Central Valley Project and sends water to contractors including large agricultural irrigation districts and other agencies. The state order allows for capturing "high flows that would otherwise go unused", easing pressures on flood-control infrastructure and helping to address chronic declines in groundwater levels.

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The amount of water set to be rerouted under this plan is more than the annual supply for Los Angeles city. Some of this water will also be routed to wildlife refuges along the San Joaquin River starting next week, officials said. Where water sinks into the ground and replenishes the aquifer, it could help address declines in water levels that have left families with dry wells in rural areas across Central Valley. Stabilizing these water levels could also help alleviate widespread problem of collapsing ground triggered by overpumping which has caused costly damage to canals and other infrastructure.

Governor Newsom's executive order last week makes it easier for capturing floodwater from storms in order to recharge and store groundwater following his February order which allowed State Water Project conserve 237,000 acre-feet of water while providing protections for Delta smelt as well as allowing U.S Bureau of Reclamation divert over 600,000 acre-feet of floodwaters for wildlife refuges, underground storage and recharge. Leveraging this captured and stored from recent storms has enabled state increase its deliveries expecting now deliver at least 1.4 million acre-feet of water local agencies serving 27 million Californians.

This plan is a major step forward towards addressing California's drought crisis as well as adapting climate change extremes with efficient use of available resources while protecting environment at same time

Filed Under: Government, State

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