California sees historic year for groundwater supplies

May 13, 2024
California has its first year in reported groundwater storage since 2019.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the latest Semi-Annual Groundwater Conditions report on May 6, 2024.

The data in the report show that California achieved 4.1 million acre-feet of managed groundwater recharge during Water Year 2023. The report also states an increase in groundwater storage of 8.7 million acre-feet.

A press release states that Water Year 2023 is the first year since 2019 that there has been a reported increase in groundwater storage. A reduction in groundwater pumping in 2023 also contributed to the increase in groundwater conditions.

California’s groundwater basins have benefited from the last two rainy seasons. However, long-term groundwater still remains in a deficit of nearly 40 million acre-feet over the past two decades, due in part to years of pumping out more water than is being replenished. It would take five consecutive above average years, like 2023, to fill that gap.

“California is invested in preparing for weather extremes by maximizing the wet years to store as much water as possible in preparation for the dry years,” said Paul Gosselin, DWR deputy director of sustainable water management, in the press release.

“The impressive recharge numbers in 2023 are the result of hard work by the local agencies combined with dedicated efforts from the state, but we must do more to be prepared to capture and store water when the wet years come,” said Gosselin.

During the 2023 Water Year, more than 1.2 million acre-feet of groundwater recharge was permitted by state agencies, more than 400,000 acre-feet of flood water was recharged using the Governor’s Executive Orders, and millions more acre-feet of managed and naturally occurring recharge was achieved.