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GAMA - Projects

The Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program includes several projects to meet the statutory requirements of Groundwater Quality Monitoring Act of 2001 and GAMA Program goals. As California’s most comprehensive and state-of-the-art groundwater research program, these projects inform citizens, community water systems, environmental groups, and state and federal agencies.

Priority Basin Project

The Priority Basin Project provides a comprehensive statewide assessment of groundwater quality to help identify and understand the risks to groundwater. The project started assessing public system wells (deep groundwater resources) in 2002 and shifted focus to shallow aquifer assessments in 2012. Since 2002, U.S Geological Survey (USGS), the projects technical lead, has performed baseline and trend assessments and sampled over 2,900 public and domestic water supply wells that represent 95% of the groundwater resources in California. »» More About Priority Basin Project.

Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER)

The SAFER program is a set of tools, funding, sources, and regulatory authorities designed to ensure Californians who currently lack safe and affordable drinking water receive it as quickly as possible. The SAFER program is supported by multiple divisions of the State Water Board. GAMA program staff provide estimates on where domestic wells and state small water systems are at potential risk of accessing groundwater that does not meet primary drinking water standards (methodology details are available from the splash screen of the Aquifer Risk Map web tool). Domestic wells (< 5 service connections) and state small water systems (5 to 15 service connections) are not regulated by the state, and therefore do not have comprehensive water quality or location data available.

The Aquifer Risk Map assesses the risk to these systems using existing water quality data to estimate contaminant concentrations. The Aquifer Risk Map is mandated by SB 200 (2019) and updated yearly by GAMA staff. In addition to the web tool, the location and number of at-risk domestic wells and state small water system is published in the yearly Needs Assessment Report.

The Domestic Well Water Quality Tool represents the first attempt to estimate drinking water quality in domestic wells as part of the Needs Analysis (SB 862, 2018). This map tool is a one-time static assessment of domestic well water quality created by GAMA staff in 2019. Users looking to access up-to-date information about domestic well water quality should refer to the Aquifer Risk Map. »» More about SAFER.

Special Studies Project

The Special Studies Project, with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) as the project technical lead, focused on specific groundwater quality studies, using state-of-the-art scientific techniques and methods that help researchers and public policy planners to better understand how groundwater contamination occurs and behaves. Since 2004, studies have focused on sources of nitrate, wastewater indicators, groundwater recharge, detection of pharmaceutical compounds and personal care products using low-level anthropogenic compounds as tracers, and isotopic composition as a contamination source tool. Special Studies Projects have recently been reduced in favor of performing additional shallow aquifer assessment studies for the Priority Basin Project. »» More About Special Studies Project.

Technical Hydrogeologic and Data Support

The GAMA Program has expanded to include technical hydrogeologic and data support for several Divisions and Programs at the State Water Board, the Regional Water Boards, other state agencies, and non-governmental organizations. GAMA staff is providing support for the following activities:

  • Hydrogeologic analyses to evaluate drinking water sources
  • Development of geothermal well and water well standards
  • Technical support for state actions involving groundwater
  • Hydrogeologic analysis for desalination projects
  • Technical assistance for developing standard operating procedures for grant projects
  • High-level GIS projects
  • Source water protection planning
  • Antidegradation in groundwater planning

Domestic Well Project

Between 2002 and 2011, the GAMA Program sampled over 1,100 private wells in six California counties (Yuba, El Dorado, Tehama, Tulare, San Diego, and Monterey) for commonly detected chemicals. The voluntary participants received analytical test results and fact sheets, and the water quality data was included in the GeoTracker GAMA online database. The Domestic Well Project is currently on hiatus. »» More About Domestic Well Project.

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State Water Resources Control Board
Division of Water Quality
Groundwater Ambient Monitoring & Assessment Program (GAMA)
1001 I Street, 15th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Telephone: (916) 341-5577
Fax: (916) 341-5463

GAMA Groundwater Information System

• The GAMA Groundwater Information System (GAMA GIS) integrates and displays water quality data from various sources on an interactive Google-based map. The system centralizes and increases the availability of groundwater information to the public and decision makers, a main goal of the GAMA Program. Analytical tools and reporting features help users assess groundwater quality and identify potential groundwater issues in California. The GAMA GIS contains approximately 78 million standardized analytical results from over 282,000 wells throughout the state. Data is compiled from multiple sources and includes well chemical data and depth to water measurements. Improvements and additions are continually added as system needs change. »» More About the GAMA GIS