What is Groundwater?

Right under your feet, millions of gallons of water exist between rocks, sand, and gravel. Those permeable bodies of rock and sediment that are saturated with water are called aquifers.  Much of the water in the world exists below the surface- in fact, there is twenty to thirty times more water in the ground than there is in all the earth’s rivers and lakes. During dry years like this one, groundwater fills up bodies of surface water and serves as a “critical buffer against the impacts of drought and climate change.” In some communities, it is the only source of drinking water. Groundwater also provides water for agricultural operations. But that’s not all.

Did you know?

💧 97% of all liquid freshwater on earth is groundwater. (Meaning- most freshwater that is not frozen in glaciers and is available to humans is groundwater.)

💧 Groundwater provides almost 40% of California’s total water supply, with that percentage increasing to 46% or more in dry years.

💧 CA’s Department of Water Resources estimates that the state’s 515 groundwater basins have a storage capacity of between 850 million and 1.3 billion acre-feet. This is an incredible amount when compared to the less than 50 million acre-feet that can be stored in all of CA’s major reservoirs.

Groundwater is essential to every facet of life in our state and region and has immense potential to increase our resilient water supply.

 

Sustaining Groundwater Supplies with Better Management

In the Central Valley this essential resource was being pumped from the ground faster than it could be replenished. Results of this include lower groundwater levels, which in some areas can cause the ground elevation to lower. This is called subsidence, which can cause damage to surface structures such as roads, building foundations, aqueducts, bridges, pipelines, and flood control structures.

When groundwater is not managed sustainably, water quality can also be impacted. Water quality can degrade due to over pumping, limiting its use for irrigation or drinking without expensive treatment.

Sustainable management of groundwater is needed to address these issues, in addition to avoiding the costs of energy expenses required to pump groundwater from greater depths, the expense of fixing damages caused by land subsidence, and subsequent indirect impacts such as higher food prices.

With these costs in consideration, it is evident that groundwater must be managed sustainability for the well-being of our Central Valley communities, agricultural operations, and economy.

 

Solutions at the Local Level

GSA map of the Kings and Tulare Lake Subbasins. Click image to find your GSA.

 

In 2014, California Governor, Jerry Brown passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. This piece of legislation is commonly known as SGMA. SGMA requires local governments and water agencies to bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge by 2040.

This led to the creation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), which are agencies that manage groundwater at the local level.

GSAs designed Groundwater Sustainability Plans, (GSPs), documents that outline the agencies’ detailed plans for achieving sustainability. GSAs work with local landowners and communities on implementing their GSPs. (We love our acronyms in the water industry!)

 

Measuring Groundwater Sustainability

Under SGMA, sustainability is measured using “sustainability indicators” which include: groundwater storage, groundwater levels, interconnected surface water, water quality, and land subsidence. The sixth indicator, seawater intrusion, is not applicable to the Central Valley GSAs. Learn more about each sustainability indicator through the following graphics:

 

 

Securing Groundwater for Future Generations

Meeting each of these measurable objectives and achieving sustainability in the Central Valley is not a job for one group, agency, or industry. Groundwater sustainability requires the collaborative efforts of landowners, farmers, residents, policy makers, advocacy groups, engineers, water providers, and more!

You are part of the solution. Connect with your local GSA, advocate for policies that promote groundwater sustainability, innovate recharge projects, and stay in touch with organizations like KRCD to receive regular updates on Central Valley groundwater.

As Leonardo Da Vinci said, “water is the driving force of all nature.” Together, we can ensure this powerful resource is available for generations to come.

 

Connect with KRCD on Twitter and Facebook! Get information on SGMA, groundwater, and more sent straight to your inbox by signing up for KRCD’s E-Newsletter.

ALSO! Mark your calendars for September 2021 as KRCD will be spearheading the first-ever Central Valley Groundwater Month to amplify voices in the Valley on groundwater! More details coming soon.

 

 

The Kings River Conservation District was awarded $300,000 by the California Department of Conservation (DOC) to fund two part-time watershed coordinator positions. The funding will allow important work to be carried out related to long-term drinking water solutions and groundwater quality in the Kings River region covering portions of Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties.

KRCD’s Watershed Coordinators will work to provide safe drinking water to residents, reduce nitrate contamination into groundwater, and identify ways to restore groundwater quality where reasonable and feasible.

The California Department of Conservation (DOC) received 26 competitive grant applications totaling $7.5 million with only $1.5 million of available funding. KRCD was one five watershed coordinator grants awarded by the DOC to organizations around the state to support regional sustainable groundwater management goals.

A watershed coordinator is a position the state funds for a local government or non-profit to work with local stakeholders and downstream beneficiaries. Their work is centered around the ability to leverage local relationships and understandings, to build broad and trusting coalitions across a watershed and to cultivate a shared vision of progress.

Click here to read the DOC press release.

KRCD is honored to continue building collaborative bridges between government, stakeholders, and communities to serve our landowners and residents and improve watershed health.

KRCD Joins Over 200 Water and Agricultural Organizations Urging Congress and the White House to Address Aging Water Infrastructure

A national coalition of over 200 agricultural organizations and urban and rural water districts urged President-elect Joe Biden and congressional leadership to address aging Western water infrastructure in any potential infrastructure or economic recovery package. Kings River Conservation District was among the organizations to sign on to the letter.

Click here for the letter to President-elect Joe Biden and click here for the letter to congressional leadership. Click here for a list of signatories to the letter.

The coalition includes organizations from 15 states that collectively represent $120 billion in agricultural production, nearly one-third of all agricultural production in the country, and tens of millions of urban and rural water users.

In separate letters to President-elect Biden and congressional leaders, the coalition said existing Western water infrastructure is in desperate need of rehabilitation and improvement. Most of the federal water projects in the West were built more than 50 years ago and were not designed with the present and future population demands and climate conditions in mind. Without immediate attention, the coalition said, the Western water system will quickly prove inadequate to meet the needs of urban and rural users and the environment.

The coalition encouraged the federal government to invest in a diversified water management portfolio that enhances water supply and quality for urban and environmental uses while keeping water flowing to Western farms. Beyond financial support, the coalition also called on the federal government to ensure the timely construction of water projects by streamlining the regulation and permitting processes.

KRCD’s service area is home to 1.2 million acres of irrigated agriculture, rural disadvantaged communities, and businesses all relying on a secure water supply. Investment in water infrastructure is needed to meet water demand while also working toward and maintaining sustainability of groundwater supplies. As hydrological conditions in the West change and populations continue to expand, failure to address water security has become increasingly critical.

The coalition letter was spearheaded by the California Farm Bureau Federation, Family Farm Alliance, Association of California Water Agencies, National Water Resources Association, and Western Growers.

KRCD Receives Over $1 million from Watershed Restoration Grant for Important Levee Work Along the Kings River

On November 13, Kings River Conservation District and our co-applicant Tulare Lake Resource Conservation District received $1,165,644 awarded by the California Department of Conservation for the Kings River Conservation District Channel Improvement Project. This funding was given to work with the California Conservation Corps Fresno to clear overgrown brush and remove invasive plant species along the banks and channels of the Kings River.

Overgrown brush and spreading of invasive species combined with illegal dumping of trash and debris that gets deposited into the river during flood events are a threat to communities and farmlands near the Kings River. That’s where this project comes in. The Department of Conservation shared details about the Kings River Conservation District Channel Improvement Project in their press release:

Work will include the removal of invasive species, like Arundo (false bamboo) along the river bank and channel.

The partners will remove invasive species and debris from the 2,500 acres of levees and riverbank along the Kings River, allowing efficient conveyance of flood water. Woody species cleared from the levee system will be chipped and applied as mulch, saving an estimated 1,610 tons of carbon emissions. Planting native species will provide flood protection to adjacent farmlands, help maintain river levees to protect farmland from inundation, and allow the efficient delivery of water to downstream users.

These conservation grants for watershed restoration and conservation projects are the first of their kind. Including KRCD’s award, grants totaling up to $2 million were awarded to three additional recipients in Marin, Sonoma, and Ventura counties. KRCD is honored and excited to use this funding to carry out this channel improvement project, protect our natural resources, and enhance the protection of surrounding communities and farmlands from flooding.