March/April 2022 - 15

SGMA also allows for the creation of new water supplies
as an alternate path to bringing basins into balance, and
although most people think that means building new dams,
or undertaking more water banking and recharge activities,
there are lots of other ways to create new water supplies in
each basin by converting " bad " or impaired water sources
into new fresh water supplies.
The most important thing to realize is that while we may
be running out of fresh water - water where total dissolved
solids (TDS) levels are under 500 ppm - we are definitely not
running out of water itself. There are huge potential reserves
of brackish groundwater or otherwise contaminated water
sources across the state that can now be turned into new
water supplies in cost effective ways due to disruptive new
water technologies that are just now coming to market.
This is in part thanks to the focused efforts of a federally
and state-funded effort called the National Alliance for
Water Innovation ( This
organization is bringing together water researchers and
business partners from all across the country to " develop a
portfolio of technologies that enable 90% of nontraditional
water sources to be treatable at a levelized cost comparable
to today's marginal water supplies. " The good news is that
some of these research efforts are already actually bearing
fruit - with breakthrough new desalination technologies
now coming into the marketplace - just in time to create the
substantial new water supplies needed under SGMA.
To understand the potential of being able to use these
nontraditional or " impaired " water supplies, let's consider
California's overall yearly water deficit. The figures across
all the water basins in the state appear to suggest that the
combined state deficit is around an average 3 million
acre-feet per year. That figure seems huge.
However, Stanford University's Water in the West
recently published a report estimating that California
has perhaps as much as 24 billion acre-feet of brackish
groundwater across the state.
Twenty-four billion acre-feet is enough to cover our 3
million acre-feet per year deficit for the next 8,000 years!
As just one example, there are huge, very shallow quantities
of brackish groundwater down the west side of California's
Central Valley. But these brackish groundwater reserves -
because they have not been usable up until now - are
essentially invisible in most basins' SGMA planning
processes. And this is in spite of the fact that many of these
brackish groundwater reserves are actually growing, unlike
freshwater reserves that are shrinking.
And then, along the coast, we have significant seawater
intrusion in many, many places - Ventura County, Morro
Bay and Salinas, just to name a few. Seawater intrusion in
Salinas extends over 5 miles inland now at certain points,
with many agricultural wells becoming unusable. Now,
according to a profound new hydrological modeling study
just recently carried out in Ventura County, these impacted
areas could actually be turned into major new sources
of area water, with the modeling showing that this new
approach would simultaneously halt the further progression
of seawater intrusion inland.
Another source of potential new water supply is

March/April 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March/April 2022

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