California's Department of Water Resources has announced 20 grants to local agencies totaling $150 million for water efficiency, groundwater recharge, monitoring wells and other projects.
The money has been awarded to regional agencies through the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant program through the 2021 state budget.
“Groundwater is a critical lifeline for millions of Californians and that is especially true during severe droughts like the one we’re experiencing right now,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. "This first round of grant funding will help strengthen groundwater management, improve the reliability of those supplies statewide and ensure access to safe and clean water for all Californians.”
The agencies receiving grants are responsible for managing critically overdrafted groundwater basins throughout the state as called for in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which was passed in 2014. In all, 119 projects will be funded, with 102 benefitting underrepresented or severely disadvantaged communities including Native American tribes, according to the DWR.
The grants include more than $40 million for projects within the San Joaquin Valley. Projects include:
- In Kings County, the Mid-Kings River Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s Corcoran Irrigation District’s North Reservoir Project will construct new reservoirs for water storage and recharge basins. The project will directly benefit the Tulare Lake Subbasin by increasing groundwater availability and stability by recharging the aquifer, reducing groundwater pumping, and increasing groundwater quality.
- In San Joaquin County, the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District’s North System Improvement Project will direct excess surface water, when available, to recharge the subbasin through an approach known as Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (Flood-MAR).
- In Tulare County, the Lower Tule River Irrigation District’s Allensworth Project will divert flood waters in wet years from the White River to an 80-acre recharge basin, while also creating wildlife habitat and a recreational park.
- In Stanislaus County, the Del Puerto Water District will conduct three projects: the Los Baños Creek Recharge and Recovery Project, the Flood Water Capture Project, and the Cottonwood Creek Recharge Project, that will capture and recharge stormwater to support basin sustainability. The projects will capture peak flows while creating a seasonal habitat during known periods of migration along the Pacific Flyway.
Outside of the San Joaquin Valley, projects located in the cities of Paso Robles and San Miguel, once completed, will deliver approximately 5,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water from wastewater treatment plants to use as irrigation for parks and agriculture. An acre-foot is enough water to serve an average household for a year.
A critical resource
Groundwater accounts for about 40% of the state’s water use in a normal year and up to 60% during dry years. Groundwater is the only water supply for approximately a third of California residents, and many municipal, agricultural, and disadvantaged communities rely on groundwater for all of their water supply needs.
The Legislature passed SGMA as a multiyear drought was worsening the overpumping of groundwater that led to a variety of negative effects including reduced groundwater levels, seawater intrusion, and degraded water quality. It has also led to subsidence, or land sinking, which causes damage to critical water infrastructure.
As of March, only eight of the 20 California watersheds most critically affected by subsidence had had their groundwater sustainability plans approved by state water officials, according to testimony before a state board. The other 12 – most of which are in the San Joaquin Valley – had their plans marked “incomplete” by state water regulators and face a July deadline to fix their deficiencies.
A University of California, Berkeley study concluded that up to 1 million acres of California farmland could be fallowed over the next few decades as a result of reduced groundwater and surface water availability.