two men wearing hats and holding devices gather around a well to take a measurement while a woman with a clipboard stands behind to record the dataWith California’s climate swinging from extended droughts to wet years with heavy rain and flood, the measurement of groundwater levels in our aquifers can vary widely from season to season and year to year. The only way to know this information for sure is to monitor water levels on a periodic basis, keeping track of this information. While the rains seem to recover most of our shallow aquifers after rain, those gains are not always showing up, especially in the deep aquifers or areas of chronic decline.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Last fall, neighbors in Bennett Valley got together and decided they wanted to know more about their groundwater levels. A few of them got together to organize an October groundwater monitoring day to help one another take measurements and keep track of the readings. They raised funds to purchase a shared measurement device and got some training on best practices for well readings.  They learned a lot that first time out, not just about groundwater levels but also about the logistics of a volunteer community program like this.

Chris is one of the neighbors who got the ball rolling first. She was personally motivated as someone who once years ago had a well run dry on her property and had to drill a new one at a significant personal expense. Chris shared that if she is going to effectively manage the groundwater on her property, she really needs to have as much information as possible. Knowing how much water she has in the well seasonally will help her make good water management decisions in her home and in the garden, and hopefully avoid another costly problem like a well gone dry. Since neighbors are all drawing from a connected underground water source, they concurred that it helps if everyone has collective sense of the water levels, too.

In April, they set out again to take their spring measurements, this time with several additional participants after word got around. More neighbors were interested in having information about how their water levels compared to the broader picture in the basin. A team of four volunteers navigated the route and visited 21 properties on a Saturday, using a sonic measuring device to check water levels and add the data to their logs. Then they add this information to a spreadsheet twice a year, every October and April.

Voluntary Groundwater Level Monitoring Program launching this summer in preparation for fall well measurements
Our three rogundwater sustainability agencies are going to help others in the area get involved in groundwater level monitoring too, with a new Voluntary Groundwater Level Monitoring Program. This summer we will offer community workshops for residential and agricultural well owners to get involved in this program, gain access to the tools to take the measurements, and then upload the data to an interactive map to see how the water levels compare at a high level across the basin (with parcel level privacy protected). Chris and the Bennett Valley group have already offered to share their collected measurements to the map, and are eager for more local people to get active in protecting our groundwater resources for now and the future.

Get Involved
Watch for upcoming Voluntary Groundwater Monitoring workshops and trainings both online and in person this summer to prepare for the October monitoring time period. Sounds interesting? Sign up to get involved here sonomacountygroundwater.org/voluntary-monitoring.