New executive order enables capture of floodwater for groundwater recharge
Order suspends regulations, restrictions on permitting, use
– California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order aimed at replenishing the state’s groundwater supplies by allowing water agencies and other users to capture floodwaters from the latest round of storms. The order suspends regulations and restrictions on permitting and use to enable water users to divert flood-stage water to boost groundwater recharge. The order includes provisions to protect wildlife and habitat, ensuring that any diversions would not harm water quality or habitat or take away from environmental needs. Governor Newsom said the order would help the state take advantage of expected intense storms and increase state support for local stormwater capture efforts.
This executive order builds on Governor Newsom’s February order to protect the state’s water supplies from the impacts of climate-driven extremes in weather. The state has taken several steps to bolster supply and storage, including the authorization of nearly 790,000 acre-feet in diversions for groundwater recharge and other purposes since late December 2022. The State Water Board has streamlined the permitting process for temporary groundwater storage permits to fast-track efforts to capture floodwater to recharge groundwater basins. The Department of Water Resources has awarded $68 million to 42 groundwater recharge projects that provide nearly 117,000 acre-feet of potential recharge capacity, with ongoing applications including 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. 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, with Governor Newsom proposing an additional $202 million for flood protection and $125 million for drought-related actions in the 2023-24 state budget.
“California is seeing extreme rain and snow, so we’re making it simple to redirect water to recharge groundwater basins,” said Newsom, “This order helps us take advantage of expected intense storms and increases state support for local stormwater capture efforts.”
A copy of the executive order can be found here.