March 14, 2023 – California’s Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order last week to make it easier to capture floodwater from storms to recharge and store groundwater.
According to the Governor’s website, the executive order follows an earlier order issued in February that allowed the State Water Project to conserve 237,000 acre-feet of water while providing protections for Delta smelt. Last month’s order also allowed the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert over 600,000 acre-feet of floodwaters for wildlife refuges, underground storage, and recharge.
State water regulators have approved a plan to divert floodwaters from the San Joaquin River to refill the groundwater that has been drained by heavy agricultural pumping during three years of record drought. This plan involves taking more than 600,000 acre-feet of water from the river and sending it to areas where it can soak into the ground and replenish the aquifer beneath the San Joaquin Valley. The aim of this plan is to address flood risks, capture some of the high flows from recent extreme storms and maximize groundwater recharge in a way that has never been done before. The plan could help stabilize water levels, alleviate collapsing ground caused by over pumping, and provide water for irrigation districts and other agencies. It will also benefit wildlife refuges along the San Joaquin River. The plan is part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s strategy for adapting to more intense water extremes with climate change.
Leveraging water captured and stored from recent storms, the state is increasing water deliveries and expects to deliver at least 1.4 million acre-feet of water to local agencies that serve 27 million Californians.
Meanwhile, another atmospheric river event is dropping excessive rain and snow on the state this week, with CNN reporting, “Forty of the state’s 58 counties are under a state of emergency declaration ordered by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and crews positioned across the state are bracing for more overflowing rivers, floods, mudslides and impassable roads.”