As extreme drought gripping California continues to strain the state’s water system, property owners with groundwater wells are being urged to adapt. With areas of California experiencing land subsidence, or in layman’s terms, sinking, by up to two feet per year in recent times, experts are urging all private well owners in the state to have their wells checked for both mechanical and water quality issues.
Ben Frech is with the California Groundwater Association.
"What we see is when overall water levels drop your well starts pulling in water that is usually closer to the surface, and that's water that can oftentimes be more susceptible to contain the contaminants like pesticides, like nitrates that were on the surface." Frech said.
Sonoma County has over 40,000 privately-owned wells. That's the second most among all California counties. New regulations under the state's landmark 2014 groundwater law has prompted the creation of management plans for the underground aquifers in the Santa Rosa, Sonoma Valley, and Petaluma Valley areas.
The new regulations will see residents in the different areas, each with varying levels of available groundwater, pay annual fees for pumping from private wells to help pay to sustainably management those resources.
Frech said the regulations are inevitable, but so too, are new sustainable water use practices.
"As this drought continues, and everybody is struggling over this water sourcing problem, you are going to see more regulations, more issues with the private wells, private well levels, as well as limitations to how many wells can be drilled and how deep they can be drilled. So we expect that to be a trend that continues, but also then more localized answers because we expect to see more localized managed aquifer recharge, water recycling programs." Frech said.
Frech said for right now, the best thing well owners can do is schedule an inspection.
"So it's very important that at least once a year, you get a qualified water well technician out to inspect your well and also do a water level test." Frech said.