California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Friday aimed at removing administrative barriers to collecting rain and snowmelt from the latest storm to replenish the state’s groundwater supplies.
“This order helps us take advantage of expected intense storms and increases state support for local stormwater capture efforts,” Newsom said in a statement.
Experts say groundwater basins account for roughly 41% of California’s average annual water supply, but unlike above-ground reservoirs, they are not directly tied to mountain snowmelt and take much longer to fill.
California law typically requires that anyone seeking to divert water from streams and rivers to lands where it can “recharge” groundwater basins must obtain a water rights permit from the State Water Resources Control Board.
The order suspends that requirement until floodwaters recede.
“It is critical the State take certain immediate actions without undue delay to prepare for and mitigate the effects of the drought and potential flood conditions,” the order states.
There are still some limitations.
Among them, floodwater cannot be diverted onto dairy land or agricultural areas where pesticides or fertilizers have been applied within the past 30 days.
Water also cannot be diverted to “any area that could cause damage to critical levees, infrastructure, wastewater and drinking water systems … or exacerbate the threat of flood and other health and safety concerns,” the order states.
The latest atmospheric river is bringing intense rainfall to many parts of California. The National Weather Service forecasts four to nine inches of rain in some locations, prompting widespread Flood Watches and Flood Warnings.