California’s rivers are once again surging with winter runoff, a beautiful sight after several consecutive dry years. Sacramento-area water providers have been working together to capture as much of this excess water as possible for use during drier days. Yet, we could be doing so much more with additional support from state and federal decision-makers.
The additional storage that the state seeks is right in front of our eyes, or more specifically, right under our feet.
The City of Roseville, for example, captured surplus flows from Folsom Reservoir through our contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and stored this water in the groundwater aquifer using specialized Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells. Just a year ago, Roseville stored enough water to fill 160 Olympic-sized pools. Later in 2022, we delivered that water to customers, leaving water in Folsom Reservoir to benefit our environment.
Other water providers stored water underground through a strategic yet more indirect route that maximizes how our natural infrastructure already works. For example, the Sacramento Suburban Water District operates the region’s largest network of groundwater wells—70 of them—and does not have its own right to access river water. This winter, the district temporarily delivered treated river water to customers via our partnership with the City of Sacramento, which has surface water rights. The City of Sacramento also shut down some of its groundwater wells and delivered more river water to its customers. These actions allow our groundwater aquifer to recharge, resulting in banked water for future use.
All of this is part of what we call the Sacramento Regional Water Bank, our system of underground water reserves that we pump and refill—over and over—to serve capital-area water users. The aquifers underlying the Sacramento region have enough capacity to store twice the volume of water as Folsom Reservoir.
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Sean Bigley is assistant environmental utilities director for the City of Roseville. Dan York is general manager of the Sacramento Suburban Water District.