Butte County Groundwater Levels Ebbing

Feb 24, 2015

The invisible reservoir deep below the Sacramento Valley is being depleted to levels unseen since the epic drought of 1976-1977, and short of praying for rain, there’s little officials plan to do. 


Nearly 60 percent of the water wells that Butte County officials have long measured have fallen within range of the lowest levels ever recorded. Those historic lows were documented back in the 70s, during the most severe drought in California’s recorded history. County officials say the levels are about what they’d expect after four consecutive dry winters.  


The details are included in a report scheduled for presentation at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s hearing in Oroville, where no official action is expected. 


Vickie Newlin, assistant director of the county’s Department of Water and Resource Conservation, said officials are concerned about falling water levels, but that there’s nothing they plan to do. Newlin said that considering the length of the ongoing drought, water levels are about where they were expected.


Meanwhile, demand for well permits is up sharply. In 2011, 102 permits for either a new or deeper well were requested. Last year, officials received nearly 350. There are currently about 14,300 wells of various types in the county. Newlin said that as surface water grows scarcer, more people are turning to wells. 


In other board action Tuesday, the body is set to consider a proposal that would roll back garbage rates for trailer parks and apartments with individual service in unincorporated areas and one that would impose new regulations on those holding special events, such as wedding receptions in unincorporated areas.