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Groundwater-Surface Water Interactions Workshop

On December 3rd Foundry Spatial’s Ben Kerr traveled down to Sacramento with research partner Sam Zipper from the University of Victoria to attend the Groundwater-Surface Water Interactions Workshop run by the California State Water Resources Board. Following the adoption of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, the state of California has been ramping up its efforts to implement the new legislation. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss surface water depletion caused by groundwater withdrawals and how these impacts can be managed to meet the objectives of SGMA. Foundry Spatial and UVic were invited to present solutions that could be utilized by the state government and local agencies.


The topic of groundwater and surface water interactions is not new to Foundry Spatial. Over the past 7 years, we have been furthering our understanding of the connectivity between surface water and groundwater. Projects and hydrological models developed for the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations and the BC Oil and Gas Commission, through the development of the BC Water Tool, have featured the relationship between surface water withdrawals and streamflow prominently. More recently, NSERC-supported research with the University of Victoria has focused on ways to incorporate groundwater pumping impacts on streamflow. In March 2018, Foundry Spatial and UVic co-organized a workshop with Stanford University, the Nature Conservancy, and the Environmental Defense Fund which focused on presenting leading edge tools and methods currently available to water management decision-makers to tackle the groundwater-surface water connectivity topic. In June 2018 we had an initial meeting with the California State Water Resources Control Board and were subsequently invited to participate in the December workshop and describe our approach to a broader public audience.

At the GW-SW Interactions Workshop in Sacramento, each presenter was given a hypothetical case study area with realistic water basin characteristics and an extensive list of local factors and parameters to incorporate. Foundry Spatial was assigned the Wine Club Plain, inspired by a small groundwater basin near Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, and given free reins to develop a water management strategy and to utilize tools and solutions of our choosing.

Diagram representing the Wine Club Plain Basin featuring land-use, Water infrastructure and geographical and geological features

The SGMA policy framework in California requires groundwater to be managed to prevent six undesirable outcomes. In our presentation, we focused on how the analytical depletion function approach we have developed addresses this issue, with a vision towards how it could be applied in a web-based decision support tool.

The six undesirable outcomes targeted by the SGMA water management Framework

The workshop was well-organized and executed, and we would like to thank Jessica Bean, Erik Ekdahl, Samuel Boland-Brien and the rest of the organizing team for the opportunity to participate.

We are excited about the next steps we will be taking in 2019 towards the development of a California Water Tool, to help regulatory bodies, water users and the general public to effectively use data to gain insight on the water management challenges in the state.

Access the presentation we gave during the workshop here.