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Floodwater Use Equals Groundwater Recharge
Cal outline

As winter storms continue to bring rain and snow to California, Governor Gavin Newsom this past week issued an executive order that makes it easier to capture floodwater to recharge groundwater – temporarily lifting regulations and setting clear conditions for diverting flood stage water without permits to boost groundwater recharge storage.

The executive order will enable local water agencies and other water users to capture water from the latest round of storms to recharge state groundwater supplies.

The order suspends regulations and restrictions on permitting and use to enable water agencies and water users to divert flood stage water for the purpose of boosting groundwater recharge. The order includes wildlife and habitat protections, ensuring that any diversions would not harm water quality or habitat or take away from environmental needs.

“California is seeing extreme rain and snow, so we’re making it simple to redirect water to recharge groundwater basins. This order helps us take advantage of expected intense storms and increases state support for local stormwater capture efforts,” Governor Newsom said.

This executive order follows Governor Newsom’s order in February to protect the state’s water supplies from the impacts of climate-driven extremes in weather.

That order allowed the State Water Project to conserve 237,000 acre-feet of water while providing protections for Delta smelt and allowed the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to divert over 600,000 acre-feet of floodwaters for wildlife refuges, underground storage, and recharge.

California has bolstered supply and storage, including a combined 1.1 million acre-feet of water – enough for 2.2 million households’ yearly usage.

The State Water Board has authorized nearly 790,000 acre-feet in diversions for groundwater recharge and other purposes since late December 2022.

The State Water Board streamlined the permitting process for temporary groundwater storage permits to fast-track efforts to capture floodwater to recharge groundwater basins. So far this winter it has authorized 186,153 acre-feet for recharge under those processes.

Department of Water Resources, DWR, has awarded $68 million to 42 groundwater recharge projects that provide nearly 117,000 acre-feet of potential recharge capacity. Ongoing applications include 52 groundwater recharge projects worth $211 million.

Since 2020, the State Water Board has provided $1 billion for 13 projects to bring 88,000 acre-feet per year to the state’s water supplies.

In August, the Administration released “California’s Water Supply Strategy: Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future” calling for investing in new sources of water supply, accelerating projects and modernizing how the state manages water through new technology.

Leveraging the more than $8.6 billion committed by Governor Newsom and the Legislature in the last two budget cycles to build water resilience, the state is continuing to take aggressive action to prepare for the impacts of climate-driven extremes in weather on the state’s water supplies. In the 2023-24 state budget, the Governor is proposing an additional $202 million for flood protection and $125 million for drought related actions.