This is the 23rd National Groundwater Awareness Week, March 6-12, a week of awareness, education and advocacy focused on one of the country’s most valuable resources.
Groundwater is an essential resource for California’s drinking water supply, especially during periods of drought when it is used to support reduced surface water supplies.
South Lake Tahoe sits at one end of a large body of water, crossed by the Truckee River, but where does its drinking water come from?
Locally, groundwater has long been used as the main source of drinking water since the early 1900s, explained Shelly Thomsen of the South Tahoe Public Utility District (STPUD).
“Currently, more than 95 percent of the drinking water used in the South Tahoe area comes from groundwater pumped from public and private wells,” Thomsen said. The STPUD provides drinking water pumped from 14 wells to more than 14,000 homes.
California, as a state, depends on groundwater for nearly 46% of its public water, according to Dave Schulenberg, executive director of the California Groundwater Association.
“It also provides more than 1.4 million people with safe, clean water through their private water wells. The United States uses 79.6 billion gallons per day of fresh groundwater for supply public, private supply, irrigation, livestock, manufacturing, mining, thermoelectric power, and for other purposes,” Schulenberg said.
The exact number of wells in the South Lake Tahoe area is uncertain, however, based on state, county, and STPUD records, it is estimated that there may be as many as 500 drinking water wells , of which more than 300 have been confirmed to be currently active. .
Due to the Lake Tahoe region’s heavy reliance on groundwater for drinking water use, groundwater is recognized as an essential resource.
To help protect and manage this resource, STPUD is recognized as the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for most of our local groundwater basin. As GSA, the District is responsible for developing and implementing a sustainable groundwater management plan for all uses and beneficial users of groundwater in our groundwater basin.
For California residents who depend on private water wells, the Schulenberg’s Association encourages people to use Groundwater Awareness Week to test, maintain and treat your private water system. An annual inspection of wells and their water can not only save users thousands of dollars in potential damage, but can also protect the health of your family.
If you would like to learn more about groundwater in the South Lake Tahoe area, visit the groundwater page on the district’s website at https://stpud.us/groundwater/. There you will find the Groundwater Management Plan page for more information on public notices, documents and stakeholder workshops associated with our area groundwater management plan.