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Managing Groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain


Managing Groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain

On October 7th the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors adopted a Groundwater Management Plan (Plan) for the Santa Rosa Plain (Plain). The Plan sets a framework to locally and voluntarily manage groundwater resources.

“This is a well thought out plan that was developed by a diverse group of stakeholders,” said Efren Carrillo, Water Agency Director. “The voluntary measures of the plan promote groundwater management to support all beneficial uses in an environmentally sound, economical, and equitable manner.”

The Plan was developed by the Basin Advisory Panel (Panel), a balanced stakeholder group. A comprehensive study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey that found that the Plain is experiencing an average annual loss of stored groundwater, which, if not modified, could lead to issues such as declining or dry wells, reduced water flows in creeks and streams, and a loss of water supply flexibility. The Plan promotes activities and programs that aim to create sustainable groundwater levels in the Plain.

“The drought underscores the need to manage our groundwater sustainably, and right now we’re using more than we can sustain,” emphasized Water Agency Director Shirlee Zane. “We’ve been talking about the need for integrated water management for a long time, and this is a step in the right direction for collecting data and creating successful management practices.”

One of the first actions of the plan is to better characterize groundwater conditions by increasing streamflow measurements and voluntary groundwater level monitoring. This data will be used to prioritize groundwater sustainability projects and programs, such as rural water use efficiency programs and groundwater recharge projects.

“This data driven plan puts Sonoma County ahead of the curve when it comes to creating sustainable groundwater levels which will benefit generations of residents,” added Mike McGuire, Water Agency Director. “Climate change is real and we have to be prepared for longer, dryer times.”

Studies, projects, and programs conducted under the Plan may be implemented by one or more organizations, following input or guidance from the Panel. For example, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District will use information from the Plan to support future prioritization of land acquisitions in the Santa Rosa plain – including actions to conserve groundwater recharge areas while providing multiple additional benefits, such as protecting agricultural and open space lands from development.

“Implementing this plan will increase coordination between county departments that can create successful-benefit projects,” said David Rabbitt, Chair of the Water Agency Board of Directors. “Increasing data on groundwater levels will help us make better decisions when it comes to using water supply wisely.”

“This plan gives us the framework to develop conservation programs and best management practices for all groundwater users, including rural and agricultural well users,” said Water Agency Director Susan Gorin. “The increased opportunities for funding these programs will help expand educational programs that aim to bring our groundwater basin into a sustainable balance.”

In mid-September the Governor signed new statewide groundwater legislation. The new legislation requires the Santa Rosa Plain to have a groundwater management plan within the next five years, otherwise the State may intervene. The adoption of the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Management Plan significantly advances the region’s ability to comply with these regulations and increases the likelihood for local decision makers to retain the ability to manage the water resources of the Santa Rosa Plain moving forward.

To view a copy of the Plan or find ways you can be involved email Project Manager Marcus Trotta at or visit

Managing Groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain