Masters Thesis

California, a case study: the efficacy of Semitropic Water Storage District's Water Banking Program and how it affects its stakeholders

nderground water storage has now beco m e an essential element in meeting C alifornia’s future water needs. The traditiona l method to capture and store water for later u se was to simply dam a river. However, for C alifornia the days of damming a major river t o procure a new source of fresh water are in t he past. Dams have become cost prohibitive i n their construction as well as in their pot ential for negative environmental impact. Nor are inexpensive water sources a vailable in quanti ties large enough to sup port California’s f uture needs; this has resulted in rapidly rising water cost s (Saliba, 1987). C alifornia’s water purveyors are now i mplementing large-scale groundwater projects to meet their customers’ needs at t he lowest possible cost. This technique for storing water is still in its infancy, and Calif ornia is in the forefront in developing such projects. Like other Western states, Califor nia’s development depends on two sources of w ater: surface (I.e. streams, rivers, and lakes), and groundwater. At the beginning of the 2 0 t h century, California’s groundwater basins were abundant and widespread. The ease of a vailability to groundwater was the forerunner t o establishing California’s agriculture and urban growth. Its dependence on potable groundwa t er has grown ever since. Unfortunately, C alifornians pump more water annually than can be replenished naturally. For Californians t o have sustainable sources of both ground an d surface water, the time has come for new w ater polices to be considered (Associat i on of California Water Agencies, [ACWA], 2 011). The importation of surface water to sustain groundwater supplies is not a new w ater management tool in California. In t he late 1920s, the Santa Clara Valley Water District adopted one of the first conjunctiv e management programs (ACWA, 2011). H owever, what has recently changed is th e size of groundwater banking programs. The S emitropic Water Storage Dist ricts (SWSD) groundwater bankin g program is an example of the growth in this area of conjunctive use. Created in t he 1990s, SWSD can store a total of 2.15 million acre feet (MAF), one of the largest, groundwater banking programs in the w orld. (SWSD, Groundwater Banking, para.1). For most Californians this growth has g one unnoticed. T his policy analysis will examine the ever increasing interdependence between C alifornia’s limited surface a n d ground water supply. A critical element to sustaining C alifornia’s future water need s will come through conjuncti v e use. Conjunctive use is a p olicy implementation which calls for the in t egrated use of both imported surface and groundwater resources to maximi z e the availability and reliab ility of water supplies in a s pecific region (ACWA, 2011).

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