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“ The use of … surface water , ASR wells and recycled water have , for the most part , eliminated Woodland ’ s use of native groundwater …”

Tim Busch Principal Utilities Civil Engineer , City of Woodland

Water is a complicated issue in California , and it ’ s no different in Woodland . The city has recently implemented an innovative system of storing water from the Sacramento River in a natural underground aquifer so that it can be used during times when river water is unavailable . This Aquifer Storage and Recovery program , known as ASR , is helpful in our long dry seasons — and particularly in times of drought . Though Woodland ’ s system is not entirely unique , it acts as a model for other California valley towns .

The Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency supplies Woodland with treated Sacramento River water ( referred to as surface water , as opposed to groundwater ) as part of the WDCWA ’ s water rights on the Sacramento River . These rights , however , include a California State Water Resources Control Board water right that is subject to curtailments due to variable flows from winter to summer and wetter to drier years .
Prior to its contract with WDCWA in 2010 , Woodland had been completely reliant on native groundwater and was suffering a declining water table and aging wells . The original plan with WDCWA was to use groundwater wells , primarily in summer , to offset reduced river supply during water rights curtailments . However , a better plan emerged .
“ Woodland ’ s native groundwater meets all ( Water Resources Control Board ) drinking water standards , but WDCWAsupplied surface water is better quality overall ,” says Tim Busch , principal utilities civil engineer for the City of Woodland and general manager of WDCWA . “ Therefore , we decided to construct the ASR wells to inject Sacramento River water into a natural aquifer during winter — typically times of rain and lower water demand — and extract it in summer during restrictions and higher demand .”
Busch designed an ingenious system that makes the most of this precious resource . When available , Sacramento River water is piped to a state-of-the-art water treatment plant on the east side of Woodland , where it is treated to drinking water standards . It is then piped to the ASR wells and injected into a natural sand-gravel aquifer approximately 500 feet underground , where it can be stored until it ’ s needed “ for use in homes , schools , businesses or other municipal needs ,” says Craig Locke , director of public works for the City of Woodland .
Construction started on Woodland ’ s three ASR wells in 2015 and the first water was injected through them into the aquifer in December 2017 . Over the past four winters , Woodland has injected more than 2 billion gallons of water , with the long-term goal of injecting approximately 600 million gallons each winter for use in summer months — and extreme drought .
“ This year , we are relying on the stored water for approximately 40 % of the city ’ s water supply ,” Busch says . “ This helps to maintain exceptional water quality in one of the driest years in history and avoid using native groundwater wells for a large portion of city water supply .”
To further protect its water supply , Woodland started a three-phase recycled water program in 2016 . Water from Phase I serves a power plant and a couple of parks , using approximately 500,000 gallons per day . Phase II is expected to add approximately 200,000 gallons per day of recycled water use in even more parks and landscaped areas . Phase III will extend recycled water service to the proposed Woodland Research and Technology Park near Spring Lake .
“ The use of WDCWA-supplied surface water , ASR wells and recycled water have , for the most part , eliminated Woodland ’ s use of native groundwater , which should help that groundwater be a bit more sustainable in Yolo County ,” Busch says .
Woodland is also creating a Community Rain Garden Demonstration Project , planned to open this month in Crawford Park , which will combine beauty , function and education . Conceptualized by Student Leadership in Green Infrastructure , an interdisciplinary club at UC Davis , the rain garden will divert runoff water from the hardscape to a retention swale ( a low-lying stretch of landscaping that encourages drainage ) and drought-tolerant plants . The city hopes this small area will have a big influence .
“ We want this rain garden to offer educational opportunities in how to create a sustainable garden that is beautiful and functional ,” says Sayetsi Sanchez , water conservation coordinator for the City of Woodland . “ Partnered with the Yolo Master Gardeners and the students who designed it , we envision educational workshops and community get-togethers to help maintain this garden . We want to inspire residents to apply these concepts to their own gardens to help retain rainwater and maximize its use .”
Jennifer von Geldern is a freelance writer who covers regional businesses , charities , events and the people who enrich our communities .
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