Five years into SGMA, here are five important considerations for balancing groundwater quality and quantity

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), signed into law five years ago, requires local leaders to balance groundwater demand and supplies for the first time. Groundwater is an important foundation of California’s water system, and SGMA is a crucial way of strengthening that foundation and creating a more resilient future for the state.

However, balancing groundwater budgets will not be easy. And this major challenge is further complicated by the fact that activities designed to increase groundwater supplies can unintentionally cause new groundwater quality problems or worsen existing contamination.

A new working paper that Environmental Defense Fund co-authored with Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; Green Science Policy Institute; and the Energy and Environmental Sciences Area of Berkeley Lab outlines how groundwater management activities can affect not only the quantity but also the quality of groundwater.

Click here to read more and download the report: Five years into SGMA, here are five important considerations for balancing groundwater quality and quantity

Sacramento Valley Watersheds: Regional Collaborative Approaches to Maintaining and Improving Groundwater Quality for Multiple Benefits

Vicki Kretsinger Grabert writes,

“Understanding the status of California’s surface water and groundwater availability and sustainability are key goals of many programs. Sacramento Valley’s water resources managers and communities are proactively and collaboratively engaged in identifying and implementing strategies that support water resources sustainability. This includes protecting groundwater quality for multiple beneficial uses, which is being addressed through the following programs … ”

Read more from the NCWA blog here:  Sacramento Valley Watersheds: Regional Collaborative Approaches to Maintaining and Improving Groundwater Quality for Multiple Benefits

New GAMA Program Online Tools for Groundwater Quality Data

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

The GAMA program team has made California’s groundwater quality data more easily available to you. This announcement summarizes some recent developments to the GAMA Program website and to GAMA Groundwater Information System.

Updates to the GAMA Groundwater Information System (https://gamagroundwater.waterboards.ca.gov/gama/gamamap/public/Default.asp)

  • A capability to filter data based on well screen interval: this filter is up and running, and we are in the process of adding well construction data into the database
  • User-selected “comparison concentration” chemical level(s) tool
  • Ability to download search results in KML format for display in Google Earth
  • Ability to filter data by Groundwater Sustainability Agency boundaries
  • Public water system well screen information download tool

We also have added several tools to help users evaluate groundwater data in real time https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/gama/online_tools.html

  • A groundwater vulnerability tool using relative groundwater age allows the user to explore relative groundwater ages in California groundwater. Areas with relatively younger water indicate recent recharge and potential vulnerability.
  • A web map showing California’s inventory of Salt and Nutrient Management Plans.
  • The “Is My Property Near a 123-TCP Impacted Well?” application allows users to input their address and locate impacted wells within a 2-mile radius. An update to the nitrate tool is also available.
  • Other web-based tools including a source water protection data hub, a trends tool, and a large set of digitized well construction records are coming soon. Stay Tuned!

Visit the GAMA Program website at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/gama/ today!

Is U.S. Groundwater Quality Getting Better or Worse? It’s Hard to Say

“After nearly three decades of groundwater monitoring, the federal government’s foremost Earth science agency has collected enough data to begin identifying long-term pollution trends in the country’s largest aquifers.  A few trends, that is, but not many.

Two clear patterns that the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Quality Assessment found are that concentrations of chloride and sodium are climbing nationally, while in farm regions in California and southern Georgia, nitrate levels have increased. … ”

Read more from Circle of Blue here:  Is U.S. Groundwater Quality Getting Better or Worse? It’s Hard to Say

Camp Fire effect on groundwater, wildlife still uncertain

From the Daily Democrat:

“The immediate, physical impact of the Camp Fire is plainly obvious to anyone who lost one of the nearly 14,000 homes in the blaze, or who sees the blistered remains of buildings that once made up the town of Paradise.

But less immediately visible are the scars wildfire can inflict on the local environment, including surface water, groundwater and the wildlife population. … “

Read more from the Daily Democrat here:  Camp Fire effect on groundwater, wildlife still uncertain

California’s Plan to Store Water Underground Could Risk Contamination

From KQED:

“As California begins handing out $2.5 billion in state funds for several new water management projects, a shift is taking place in the ways officials are considering storing water. To contend with the likelihood of future extreme droughts, some of these new strategies rely on underground aquifers — an approach far removed from traditional dam-based water storage.

While diversifying the toolbelt of water management strategies will likely help insulate the state against loss, a group of researchers at Stanford University are drawing attention to a risk they say has long ridden under the radar of public consciousness: the introduction of dangerous chemicals into California groundwater, both through industrial and natural pathways. … “

Read more from KQED here: California’s Plan to Store Water Underground Could Risk Contamination.

Toxic Trap: Groundwater Overpumping Boosts Arsenic in California Aquifer

From Water Deeply:

In California’s agricultural heartland, the San Joaquin Valley, excessive pumping of groundwater has resulted in subsidence, damaging crucial infrastructure, including roads, bridges and water conveyance. A study last year from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, found overpumping of groundwater since the 1920s had caused parts of the San Joaquin Valley to sink as much as 28ft.

But groundwater overpumping may have another serious side effect, according to a study published June 5 in the journal Nature Communications. Researchers found that recent groundwater pumping caused an increase in the concentrations of arsenic in the aquifer. … “

Read more from Water Deeply here:  Toxic Trap: Groundwater Overpumping Boosts Arsenic in California Aquifer