SJ well prepared for the state's new groundwater regulations

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Governor Brown signed a bill in Sacramento Tuesday regulating management of the state's underground water supply. The new groundwater management law will take years to implement, but one Bay Area water won't have to scramble to comply.

Ten reservoirs and a network of recharge ponds were created in Santa Clara Valley to prevent depletion of groundwater as growers and farmers tap wells and use powerful pumps to irrigate their crops.

San Jose learned the hard way a century ago about what happens if you don't recharge the ground.

"Downtown San Jose sank 14 feet," Joan Maher, Valley Water Deputy Operating Officer said. "The ground elevation sank 14 feet because of the overdraft, and one reason why in the early 1900s the reservoirs were built."

The drought has brought that lesson back to life in the Central Valley where roads have developed ripples from overdrafting. The ground has ruptured from sinking, a phenomena called subsidence, a change in terrain that can be slowed but not restored.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District started to address the problem 75 years ago with business and agriculture working together. The state's new water management plan will take years to implement and doesn't have universal backing.

For example, the Bay Area Council, a business group, supports it, but the California Farm Bureau opposed it.

Pumps draft groundwater and deliver it to local water retailers; however, the Valley Water District decided in the mid 1990's to store some of its groundwater hundreds of miles away in Kern County. Because of the current drought, it's about to move some of its water north from the Semitropic Water Bank.

"When Semitropic pumps water into the California Aqueduct, that water then is pumped over four different check dams upstream so that it can be served to the Central Valley Project service area, and then it's exchanged with Central Valley Project water and delivered to us."

That project will cost about $3.3 million.
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