Finite Resource: Connections of Groundwater and Surface Water

Finite resource

EDITOR: Congratulations to Staff Writer Bleys Rose and The Press Democrat for Tuesday’s story on pumping groundwater from previously inactive wells so that cities dependent on Russian River water do not have to really conserve. They reduce Russian River (water use by replacing it with groundwater. It may look like conservation, but what of the local groundwater resource? All of us who depend primarily on groundwater wells for our water were wondering when someone would point out that our annual rainfall replenishes our aquifers.

But the casual reader might have missed the important point that rivers and streams also replenish groundwater aquifers. When we over pump aquifers, water can be taken out of feeder streams to replenish the groundwater. Nothing can be done to stop that reaction to over pumping.

For example, from its study of the Sonoma Valley Basin, the U.S. Geological Survey reported in 2003 that a reach of Sonoma Creek, north of Kenwood, was feeding water into the ground. The effects of surface waters and groundwater are interactive. Abuse one and they both suffer.

And what about the effects of wells pumping ever more water from the already overdrafted Santa Rosa Plain? Could that have a draining effect on the Russian River? This possibility is unknown, and the U.S.G.S. report on the Santa Rosa Plain groundwater probably won’t be out until 2010.

So we have to stop acting as though there is unlimited water in our future. There is a tomorrow, and it might come in the form of another dry year. What will we do then?


Member, Sonoma Valley Basin Advisory