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California to Restore Groundwater in the Central Valley


The California State Water Resource Control Board has approved a recommendation by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert 600,000 acre-feet of water from the San Joaquin River to the Central Valley and adjacent wildlife refuges.  The projected volume of water is equivalent to the annual demand by Metro Los Angles with a population of 12.5 million.


The state maintains that this action will save water that would otherwise be unused and is required to replenish aquifers. As a result of a three-year severe drought wells in the Central Valley have run dry and ground subsidence has resulted in damage to buildings and canal infrastructure.


The proposed action under the direction of Governor Gavin Newsom has generated opposition from activist groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Their objections appear to be based on the fact that “Big Ag” will benefit at the expense of smaller landowners downstream along the San Joaquin River.  In response a representative of the State Water Resources Council stated, “The amount of water that will be diverted is relatively low compared to the volume of water that will flowing through the system.”


Governor Newsom has stated his intent to recharge groundwater each year by 500,000 acre-feet to offset losses by abstraction for irrigation and livestock.  Depletion of groundwater in the Central Valley has totaled 36 million acre-feet over the past 20 years, far in excess of the rate of recharging.