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Watching water: State lays out priorities including planning for dry periods

January 27th, 2014 | by Ian James | Comments
Water flows toward percolation ponds on the outskirts of Palm Springs that help replenish the aquifer. Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun

Water flows toward percolation ponds on the outskirts of Palm Springs that help replenish the aquifer. Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun

State officials have released a final version of their water “action plan” describing broad goals for addressing California’s water problems, and one of their top objectives will be preparing for dry periods like the current drought.

The 19-page document includes some revisions, such as an expanded section on the state’s drought response, following the release of an initial draft in October. The portion about groundwater is also likely to be given greater attention given the record dry spell, which has led to dramatic drops in reservoirs levels in many areas of the state.

“Water supply reliability is critical to maintaining California’s economy,” the state’s plan says. “Temporary shortages caused today by extended, severe dry periods will become more frequent with climate change. Effective management of water resources through all hydrologic conditions will reduce impacts of shortages and lessen costs of state response actions.”

The document lists several policy aims relating to groundwater, including providing adequate data to “enable sustainable groundwater management.” Some water experts have recommended that the state improve the collection and sharing of groundwater data in order to better spot areas where water tables are falling.

State officials are also calling for other steps including boosting efforts to recharge aquifers and updating a state groundwater plan known as Bulletin 118. That plan hasn’t been updated since 2003.

The document opens with a quote from Gov. Jerry Brown, who earlier this month declared a statewide drought emergency. Brown said in his Jan. 22 State of the State speech that “water recycling, expanded storage and serious groundwater management must all be part of the mix.”

For more on the issue of groundwater depletion, read the recent series Aquifer at Risk and a follow-up article about the the problem of declining groundwater levels in many areas of California.

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