Governor Newsom's executive order allows storing water underground amid heavy precipitation
SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom is taking steps to make it easier for the state to save the precipitation that has been slamming California this winter.
On Friday, he issued an order that will allow water to be stored underground, in an effort to help capture some of the excess water.
The executive order eases some of the permitting requirements for water agencies to divert high runoff and intentionally flood land so that the water will naturally seep into the ground. Places like wildlife habitat areas, farms, and other open spaces will be used for this purpose.
"Allowing us to bank water underground will allow us to save water for a day when we experience dry times and droughts again," said Jim Peifer, with Sacramento's Regional Water Authority.
Water officials say this type of rainy day savings can really help during drier years. "40 percent of our water supply is from groundwater in California," Peifer said.
The executive order does have environmental protections in place. Water cannot be diverted onto dairyland or farms that have recently used pesticides or fertilizer. Additionally, it cannot jeopardize levees or drinking water.
The Sacramento region is already banking water underground and is seeing groundwater levels rise even during the drought. Places like Roseville have been successfully capturing excess storm runoff and pumping it underground for several years.
Just this week, state water regulators approved allowing 600,000 acre-feet of water to be diverted for groundwater recharge. That's more than the amount of water currently being stored in Folsom Lake.
"Six hundred thousand acre-feet could be enough water to supply 1.8 million homes over the course of a year," Peifer said.
The move is a step in the right direction, according to some experts. However, critics argue that it does not go far enough to protect the environment. Nonetheless, it represents a new effort to help store all that snow and rain that has been seen across California this winter.
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