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SGMA-Based Domestic Well Replacement May 5, 2022

ConterraBy Chris Johnson

The State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) described six conditions that should be avoided or rectified, and one possible consequence of those conditions may be the need to address the loss of domestic well viability as a result of groundwater elevation declines allegedly tied to agricultural irrigation.

Several Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) have been assessing the possibility of creating funding opportunities to replace existing domestic wells that have gone dry or are on the verge of going dry.

Replacement domestic wells would need to be deeper, achieving at least the minimum threshold for depth as established by the local GSA, and deep enough to continue to provide reliable water supply for many years.  While deepening wells usually results in more water, two issues arise from this simple attempt at providing domestic well owners a new water source.

The first is the likely increase in pumping costs, from having a deeper pump setting, to the cost of a more powerful pump to provide adequate flow and pressure from this new, deeper well.  The higher energy costs must be considered when assessing the efficacy of this systematic replacement approach.Technoflo

Second, and more concerning, is the possibility that a deeper well will extract groundwater of a different quality, a quality that may be less acceptable from a drinking water standard perspective.  If the use of this new water supply is predicated on treatment, then that cost must be considered.

There are limited water quality requirements for domestic wells, many established by the presiding county, but some by State and Federal standards, relative to specific constituents of concern.  Some GSA monitoring networks may answer the question of deeper aquifer water quality, but in areas where there is not a representative monitoring well or existing public water well that can be used to obtain this data, and in the absence of other preexisting data, the GSA may want to consider water quality assessment before beginning to support new private wells.

GSAs should be considering these two concerns, and addressing them from the standpoint of what will the individual well owner face in the way of unintended costs?  Higher energy bills, for pumping and possibly treating the water, treatment system operation and maintenance, and the cost for testing this water routinely to ensure water quality standard compliance, should all be discussed.

An opportunity exists as GSAs enhance their groundwater monitoring networks with new groundwater monitoring wells.  It is possible that in those areas where replacement domestic wells are being considered, an emphasis is placed on water quality assessment.  New monitoring wells in the immediate area of replacement domestic wells can provide some indication of potential water quality, beforehand; and these same new monitoring wells can provide data regarding potential impacts to and from the new, deeper domestic wells.

Christopher S. Johnson, PG, CHg
Principal Hydrogeologist and Owner
Aegis Groundwater Consulting, LLC
1177 East Shaw Avenue, Suite 101
Fresno, California 93710
559.981.2313  chris@aegisgw.com

Mr. Johnson has nearly forty years of applied industry experience in groundwater assessment, hydrogeology, well design and construction, well rehabilitation, groundwater aquifer testing, geochemistry and hard rock aquifer assessments.  Mr. Johnson is a professional geologist, and certified hydrogeologist in the State of California.

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