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From March 5th to the 11th, we’re celebrating National Groundwater Awareness Week by calling attention to the importance of this vital source of drinking water. The issues surrounding groundwater are particularly important to California as we continue to battle a persistent drought. Hundreds of drinking water wells have gone dry, with even more susceptible to the same fate. Eighty-five percent of Californians rely on groundwater for some or all of their water supply.

Because of our leadership in protecting groundwater, Clean Water Action was invited to join the Department of Water Resources in Sacramento on Monday to kick off Groundwater Awareness Week. Our Water Policy Analyst, Ngodoo Atume presented on the importance of engaging and protecting vulnerable communities that depend on groundwater.

Ngodoo Atume presenting at California Groundwater Awareness Week conference

"Groundwater is not visible, so sometimes it tends to be forgotten." - Ngodoo Atume

During a typical year, approximately 40 percent of California’s total water supply comes from groundwater, with that number going up to 60 percent or more during dry years. As the extremes of climate and drought become more persistent due to climate change,  groundwater serves as a critical buffer against the ever growing impacts of climate change. California’s groundwater basins hold about 20 times as much water as our surface reservoirs.

There have been major steps regarding groundwater on both a state and national level. In 2014 California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) as a step in achieving sustainability to our state’s depleted groundwater reserve, and since then Clean Water Action in collaboration with other environmental justice organizations have worked tirelessly to ensure equity in the implementation of SGMA. Last week, the California Department of Water Resources failed 6 groundwater management plans in the San Joaquin Valley for lack of protection of groundwater users. The State will be taking over management of these plans.

There’s still much work to be done. We will continue to work with the state to ensure that all disadvantaged communities and drinking water users are protected from groundwater decline and contamination. We were pleased to see that Governor Newsom recently signed an executive order requiring all local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to create and execute plans focused on the equitable distribution of our groundwater.

This week Clean Water Action encourages you to learn more about the issues regarding groundwater so you can join the fight and become an advocate for sustainability in our most precious resource.

Ngodoo Atume tabling at CA Groundwater Awareness Week

SGMA and Underrepresented Farmers: Impact of Groundwater Sustainability Plans

Groundwater resources play a vital role in maintaining environmental sustainability in California, serving as a critical buffer against the impacts of drought and climate change. This report focuses on stakeholder engagement and projected impacts of groundwater decline on underrepresented farmers.

Groundwater Sustainability Assessments in California

California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) almost a decade ago as a step to bring the states’ depleted groundwater aquifers to sustainability. With increased droughts, the implementation of SGMA and protection of vulnerable communities dependent on small water systems and domestic wells is urgent. Over the last 2 years, Clean Water Action has reviewed and analyzed over 95 groundwater sustainability plans, in every groundwater basin covered by SGMA, closely evaluating the steps local agencies are taking to protect vulnerable communities.

CA Department of Water Resources Rightfully Rejects Six Inadequate Groundwater Plans, While Approving Other Faulty Plans That Leave Drinking Water Users At Risk

With a well drilling backlog of 1,600 dry domestic wells in California — and with households having to wait up to 20 years for relief — failing these plans was not only the right thing to do, but the only option. At the same time, we are disappointed DWR approved other plans that fail to protect drinking water users.