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Long-Term Groundwater Sustainability Plan Secures State Approval

By July 27, 2023Uncategorized

Plan Identifies the Sacramento Regional Water Bank as a Key Management Action

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced today the approval of a long-term plan for protecting the groundwater aquifer underlying parts of Sacramento, Placer and Sutter counties.

The North American Subbasin (NASb) Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), required under the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, provides a roadmap for sustainably managing the groundwater subbasin through the year 2042 and beyond. Groundwater aquifers within our NASb are reservoirs you cannot see, running deep below our urban, agricultural, and natural environment. The aquifer is one of the Sacramento region’s primary sources for drinking water, especially during drought years, and also provides more than half of the water supply used for agriculture.

Developed by local groundwater agencies—called Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs)—after five years of scientific study and public input, the GSP was adopted in December 2021 before undergoing nearly two years of detailed state review. The GSAs have been working together to implement the plan since adoption, per state law.

“DWR’s approval of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan marks another chapter as we work together to sustainably manage the subbasin with an eye toward adapting our region’s water resources to climate change,” said Jim Peifer, Executive Director of the Sacramento Groundwater Authority, the lead agency in developing and managing the plan.

Groundwater levels in the North American Subbasin have been stable since the mid-1990s, according to the plan, even during a megadrought. This is thanks in large part to active conjunctive use—the coordinated management of surface water and groundwater—a proven practice to build climate resiliency.

One of the key management actions included in the plan is to enhance the region’s conjunctive use program via the Sacramento Regional Water Bank, which is considered to be a critical strategy to adapting the region’s water supplies to climate change.

The aquifer has enough unused capacity equal to twice the volume of Folsom Reservoir. During rainy years, when lakes and rivers are full, local water providers use more river water. This allows our groundwater aquifer to recharge. During dry years, they use more groundwater. This leaves more water in rivers to sustain the environment of the Lower American River and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and to help downstream communities.

The five Groundwater Sustainability Agencies that developed the GSP include: the Sacramento Groundwater Authority GSA, Sutter County GSA, South Sutter Water District GSA, Reclamation District 1001 GSA and West Placer GSA.

DWR’s determination letter is available here.

For more information on the North American Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan, visit