Public Update for Drought Response Groundwater Basins with Potential Water Shortages and Gaps in Groundwater Monitoring
California Department of Water Resources (DWR) | June 30th, 2014
Year 2013 closed as the driest in recorded history for many areas of California. On January 17, 2014, Governor Brown signed a Proclamation of a State of Emergency in response to the drought. This Public Update addresses Order #11 of the Governor’s Proclamation and provides information regarding groundwater basins with potential water shortages and gaps in groundwater monitoring.
Groundwater is a vital resource in California providing close to 60 percent of the state’s water supply in a dry year. Drought conditions typically result in an increase of groundwater well activity and pumping to compensate for water supply shortages. Increased groundwater pumping can lead to adverse conditions including dry wells, subsidence, decreased water quality, saline intrusion, and stream depletion.
Evaluation of available data produced the following:
- Groundwater levels have decreased in nearly all areas of the state since spring 2013, and more notably since spring 2010.
- Since spring 2008, groundwater levels have experienced all-time historical lows (for period of record) in most areas of the state and especially in the northern portion of the San Francisco Bay Hydrologic Region, the southern San Joaquin Valley, and also for the South Lahontan and South Coast hydrologic regions.
- In many areas of the San Joaquin Valley, recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historical lows.
- The greatest concentration of recently deepened wells is in the fractured bedrock foothill areas of Nevada, Placer, and El Dorado counties.
- The Kaweah and Kings subbasins have the greatest numbers of deepened wells in an alluvial groundwater basin.
- Thirty-six alluvial groundwater basins that have a high degree of groundwater use and reliance may possess greater potential to incur water shortages as a result of drought. The basins exist in the North Coast, Central Coast, Sacramento River, Tulare Lake, and South Coast hydrologic regions.
- Of California’s 515 alluvial groundwater basins, 169 are fully or partially monitored under the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring (CASGEM) Program.
- Forty of the 126 High and Medium priority basins are not monitored under CASGEM. There are significant CASGEM groundwater monitoring data gaps in the Sacramento, San Joaquin River, Tulare Lake, Central Coast, and South Lahontan hydrologic regions.
- Although there are 4,122 CASGEM wells and 39,429 Voluntary wells in the Water Data Library groundwater level database, gaps in groundwater monitoring persist.
- Several areas of the state lack a current groundwater management plan that addresses all related requirements of the California Water Code.
DWR is contracting with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory for use of satellite-based radar data to measure subsidence in the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Department of Agriculture are developing an automated system for estimating fallowed agricultural acreage.