The Challenge: Why Recharge Fresno

Fresno Needs New Water

Groundwater Overdrafting

We continue to pump more water from the ground than is put back each year, and groundwater levels have continued to drop. With the current rate of depletion and drop in groundwater levels, groundwater will be harder and more expensive to reach. The City currently spends approximately $8 million per year on energy to pump water from the ground. Future cost of pumping groundwater will continue to increase.


Below Fresno is a groundwater “aquifer.” The City of Fresno has relied on this aquifer as its main water source for decades.

The City of Fresno’s groundwater has dropped more than 100 feet over the last 100 years.

Over the last 80 years, groundwater levels have dropped more than 100 feet. As groundwater levels drop, quality of water can also diminish as deeper aquifers tend to have higher concentrations of naturally occurring contaminants.

This is not only a problem for the City of Fresno, but also for much of the San Joaquin Valley. In an effort to reduce the region’s reliance on groundwater, the State of California mandated an end to groundwater overdrafting and is requiring action by water utilities to reduce water usage and manage groundwater supplies in a more sustainable way.

Implementing all of the Recharge Fresno projects will enable us to capture and use surface water in order to reduce our reliance on groundwater and sustainably balance use of our water supplies.

Groundwater Quality

As we drill deeper to access groundwater, energy costs increase and water quality decreases. In addition, Fresno faces more stringent federal and state groundwater quality standards that will make some of our wells unusable. While the City of Fresno continues to provide clean, safe drinking water to meet all state and federal regulations, anticipated and more stringent water quality standards for 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP) could affect 30 percent of Fresno’s wells (water quality). If treatment is required, it would cost between $170 million to $300 million.

Recharge Fresno will reduce dependence on groundwater and provide flexibility should some wells need to be shut down.

Wells Potentially Impacted by TCP

Aging Infrastructure

In Fresno, we have some pipelines that are more than 75 years old. To ensure Fresno’s system is well maintained, we will continue to assess aging pipes and strategically plan for pipeline replacements as part of the Recharge Fresno Program.

2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

In September 2014, the State of California enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) – sweeping legislation aimed at stopping overuse of groundwater supplies and achieving unprecedented sustainable groundwater management. The City of Fresno is located in the large, “high priority” area spanning from Stockton to Bakersfield. High priority areas are those that demonstrate significant groundwater overdraft conditions and require immediate corrective actions.

Fresno is actively participating in regional efforts to meet the SGMA through implementation of Recharge Fresno projects to capture and treat surface water. Without these or other projects to eliminate groundwater depletion, Fresno will fail to address the requirements of the SGMA and the State of California or other agencies will step in to take control of the issue.


Facing our Challenges

New state laws and regulations make our current situation even more serious. Our priorities are to:

  • Comply with new laws and regulations
  • Implement surface water treatment, as has been recommended for the last 25 years
  • Continue to maximize water conservation to reduce the amount of water we need to produce, treat and deliver
  • Continue rehabilitation and replacement of existing infrastructure to avoid expensive failures and maintain the system reliability
  • Continue groundwater recharge to take advantage of surface water access