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California Rain Welcome, But Not Enough To Keep Up With Groundwater Demand

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — State and local agencies have different views when it comes to the drought in California. On a local scale, heavy rains are making an immediate impact, but across the state groundwater is being pumped faster than it can be replenished.

Robert Swartz with the Sacramento Groundwater Authority walked through the bushes behind a giant water tank at the dead end of Northrop Ave.

He lifted the metal cap on the well monitor and lowered the measuring tape into the earth.

"So it's 26.6 feet to water," said Swartz

Typically, the water table at this well station is at 35 feet.

Since the drought in 2012 ground water levels in Sacramento have slipped slightly. Heavy rain the last two months has lifted the water table, causing a jump at the Northrop Ave well by 10 feet.

"In a typical year we might see these levels vary by one foot," said Swartz, "so it's a substantial response."

Swartz says groundwater management has gotten better in the Sacramento region over the past decade.

"Even during the significant drought that we just went through, we only saw water levels drop by about two feet and they're already recovering," Swartz explained.

Swartz says the high flowing rivers recharge some of the ground water. Not all of the runoff makes it's way to the ocean. Plus, people are using less.

So are we out of the drought?

"Locally, we consider ourselves out of the drought," said Swartz.

On a state level, it's a different story.

"The ground water system certainly isn't coming out of a drought," said Trevor Joseph with the State Department of Water Resources, "there are major concerns and issues."

According to figures from DWR, 57 percent of monitored wells have dropped more than 10 feet in the last decade.

"Even though these conditions took decades to occur, you can't turn it around overnight," said Joseph.

Joseph says there is still a statewide need for prudent management, conservation and a rain storm here and there.

"It might take weeks, months, or even years for us to see the positive effects of all this surface water," said Joseph.

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