California's DWR completes groundbreaking mapping program

(UI) — California's Department of Water Resources (DWR) has concluded its groundwater mapping initiative, offering crucial insights into the state's underground water reservoirs. The Statewide Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) Survey Project, employing cutting-edge helicopter-based technology, has conducted surveys across all high-and-medium-priority groundwater basins in California.

The California Department of Water Resources Statewide Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) Surveys holds an event to learn about AEM surveys, the innovative technology used to conduct them, and how the information gathered supports the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). (Image source: DWR)

Spanning from December 2021 to November 2023, the project collected nearly 16,000 miles of AEM data, revealing subsurface aquifer structures up to depths of 1,000 feet. This comprehensive dataset, now accessible to the public, aids in identifying optimal locations for groundwater recharge projects critical for water storage during dry periods.

Local agencies, guided by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), leverage this data to expedite the development of groundwater recharge projects. By pinpointing suitable areas for recharge, they ensure efficient allocation of resources toward sustainable water management.

California's groundwater basins serve as vital water sources for over 15 million residents, particularly in drought-prone years when surface water supplies dwindle. Recognizing groundwater's increasing importance amid climate change, the state invests in advanced technologies like AEM to enhance water management strategies.

As the state approaches the 10-year milestone of SGMA, DWR advances into the Basin Characterization phase, utilizing AEM data alongside other sources to refine understanding of aquifer structures. This collaborative effort, facilitated through a Basin Characterization Workgroup, fosters coordination among various stakeholders to promote effective groundwater management.

To ensure broad access to this valuable data, DWR has developed online AEM Data Viewers, enabling both public and technical users to interact with the data seamlessly. These tools enhance understanding and inform decision-making related to groundwater resources.

DWR's ongoing efforts, including forthcoming Semi-Annual Groundwater Conditions Updates, underscore the commitment to comprehensive groundwater management in California. Through continued research and collaboration, the state aims to address water challenges and promote long-term sustainability in groundwater management.

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