The California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply (CRWFS), a project of Ag Innovations, published Applying the Connectivity Approach: Groundwater Management in California’s Kings Basin in 2015. The report examines the Kings Basin of California’s San Joaquin Valley to discover and clarify opportunities for improved connectivity in groundwater management planning and implementation in the state. The report’s findings are grounded in the principles of the “connectivity approach,” a framework developed by CRWFS for resource managers, land use planners, and policymakers to discover the linkages, strengths, successes, potentials, and disconnects related to their particular resource stewardship issues.
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Water crises in California are not new. In recent times, however, record drought and climate change have strained the state’s water supply system and forced many farmers to become heavily reliant on groundwater reserves. CRWFS studied the processes used in the King’s Groundwater Subbasin (King’s Basin) of California’s San Joaquin Valley to reveal strategies for advancing groundwater sustainability within the context of watershed-scale, integrated water management. Several features of the Kings Basin make it a particularly important case study with lessons for California as a whole. Groundwater overdraft is generally considered the greatest water management challenge for this region, as it is for many other parts of the state, and this challenge has only been exacerbated during recent drought years. Managing a groundwater basin for sustained water supply and quality is a long-term and complex task requiring a systemic approach that recognizes human systems as a subset of larger ecosystems, and that promotes alignment between these systems. Recommendations are identified in four primary areas:
- Upper and lower watershed connectivity
- Surface and groundwater storage connectivity
- Alignment of governance structures and tools
- Improved public and stakeholder engagement