The video recording of the Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) Forum is now available on the department’s website.
DWR hosted the Forum on March 21, 2019, as part of its assistance role in the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
The Forum brought representatives from GSAs and stakeholders from across the state together to highlight their efforts, facilitate the exchange of ideas, establish professional networks, and foster successful stakeholder engagement.
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New report finds at least half a million acres of farmland will need to be fallowed to balance groundwater use with supply
The San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply, is on the brink of a major transition as it seeks to balance its groundwater accounts.
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—will bring great change to the valley’s agricultural sector, regional land use, and the local economy.
The pace of groundwater pumping accelerated during the 2012–16 drought. Over the past three decades, the valley’s annual groundwater deficit has averaged nearly 2 million acre-feet—or about one Don Pedro Reservoir’s worth of water a year.
Only about a quarter of this deficit can be filled with new supplies at prices farmers can afford. Ending overdraft could require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of production.
These are among the key findings of a report released today by the PPIC Water Policy Center.
The new report breaks the issues into three key areas and presents priority actions for tackling them: balancing water supply and demand, addressing groundwater quality challenges, and fostering beneficial solutions to water and landuse transitions.
“The large and complex scope of the changes coming to the valley will require cooperative solutions that bring multiple benefits and get more ‘pop per drop’ from scarce water supplies,” said Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center and a coauthor of the report.
One promising solution is to increase water trading, which can significantly reduce the impacts of ending groundwater overdraft by allowing farmers to maintain the crops that generate the most revenue and jobs. If farmers can freely trade water within their basin, it will reduce the costs of this transition by nearly half. And if they can also trade more broadly across the region, it will cut their costs by nearly two-thirds.
In addition to water shortages, the valley must respond to serious water quality problems. More than 100 rural communities have persistently contaminated tap water. Valley farmers must also meet new requirements for protecting groundwater from the buildup of nitrate and salts. The most promising tool for augmenting supplies—groundwater recharge—poses some tradeoffs with water quality goals if not managed properly.
“The solutions to the valley’s water quality problems don’t fall neatly into traditional political and institutional boundaries―and with 120 new groundwater agencies, it’s gotten even more complex,” said Sarge Green, a coauthor of the report and director of the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State. “Many players will need to be involved in devising long-term solutions to these complex problems.”
The lands fallowed to achieve groundwater balance could be converted to uses such as solar energy, groundwater recharge, and restored habitat. Getting the greatest benefit from idled lands will require new levels of planning and cooperation.
Governor Newsom focused on the valley’s groundwater, water quality, and poverty problems in his recent State of the State speech and included funds to address safe drinking water problems in his first budget.
The PPIC report recommends key areas where state leadership could help—including providing clarity on how much water is available for recharge, establishing a reliable funding source for safe drinking water challenges, and supporting broad planning processes, among others.
“Leadership from state and federal partners will be critical,” said Hanak. “But the valley’s future is in the hands of its residents. The stakes are high—but the costs of inaction are higher.”
The report, Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley, was supported with funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the TomKat Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Water Foundation. In addition to Hanak and Green, it was authored by Alvar Escriva-Bou, a research fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Brian Gray, a senior fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Thomas Harter, the Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair in Water Management and Policy at UC Davis; Jelena Jezdimirovic, a research associate at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis; Josué Medellín-Azuara, associate professor at UC Merced; Peter Moyle, associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis; and Nathaniel Seavy, a research director at Point Blue Conservation Science. A public event on the report’s findings will take place at Fresno State on February 22.
From the Department of Water Resources:
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced final decisions for groundwater basin boundary modifications requested by local agencies as part of the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Draft results were released in November 2018 and finalized after a public comment period, a public meeting, and a public presentation to the California Water Commission. The final basin boundaries incorporate comments received during this period and resulted in the revision of three of the original draft decisions.
“SGMA is a central feature of the sustainable water future of California and the department is working with locals to successfully implement this landmark legislation,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “These final decisions on basin boundaries move local water agencies forward as they work to bring their basins into balance.”
Under SGMA, basin boundaries define the geographical area included in each groundwater basin. Once basin boundaries are finalized, the basins are then prioritized to determine which will be required to develop groundwater sustainability plans.
Of the 517 groundwater basins and subbasins in California, local agencies submitted 43 requests for basin modifications for either scientific or jurisdictional reasons. Scientific modifications are based on geologic or hydrologic conditions, while jurisdictional modifications change boundaries to promote sustainable groundwater management.
DWR staff reviewed all information provided with the requests and approved modifications that met the requirements of the Basin Boundary Regulations. In the draft decision, DWR approved 33, denied seven, and partially approved three modification requests. In the final decision, 35 requests were approved, four were denied, and four were partially approved. Partially approved means some portions of the modification requests were adequately supported by the information provided and were approved, while other portions were not and were denied.
AQUAOSO™ Technologies, PBC, a Public Benefit Corporation and a leader in water risk management with massive water data and expertise on California’s water supply, officially launched a free digital water map of California water districts, GSAs and groundwater basin priority levels.
The free digital water map is a joint effort between AQUAOSO and California Chapter, ASFMRA, whose members are active in appraisal and management of agricultural properties and who provide consulting for agribusiness.
“Much of this information is publicly available, but does not always exist in the same place, making it hard to identify the relationships between various geographical regions,” said Christopher Peacock, CEO/Founder of AQUAOSO. “After extensive discussions with leaders in the agricultural economy, and based on our existing research into California agricultural water risk, it was obvious we should launch a free version of this map.”
JoAnn Wall, ARA, President of California Chapter, ASFMRA added, “This free resource is a natural extension of the information we have been providing to the agribusiness community for years and is one of the many benefits we can bring to our members.”
Early sponsors of the digital water map includes AgriFinancial, Golden State Farm Credit, Hortau, Pearson Realty, Schuil and Associates, Terra West Group and WaterWrights. Mr. Peacock states, “We are fortunate to have such a great group of early supports in our efforts to deliver new resources to the broader community.”
AQUAOSO will be providing additional data to the free map in the coming months as they continue to assist the agricultural economy in identifying, understanding, monitoring and mitigating water related risks. They currently support some of the largest agricultural lenders, appraisers, brokers and agricultural investors in California to identify water risk at the parcel level. This is in addition to their broader loan and land portfolio tools they provide that includes extensive public and private datasets, including parcel level information, water district deliveries, crop types, soil, and more.
Earlier this month, AQUAOSO launched its innovative Programmatic Assistance with Water Data program to help smaller non-profits with their water data needs. “We are constantly looking for ways in which we can leverage our corporate footprint to have a positive social impact,” Mr. Peacock continued.
For more information about the free digital water map, check out https://research.aquaoso.com/register.
AQUAOSO Technologies, PBC is a Public Benefit Corporation with a mission to build a water resilient future. AQUAOSO provides advanced water risk management and mitigation tools for the agricultural economy. Farmers, brokers, appraisers, lenders, insurers and water managers use our tools daily to identify, understand and mitigate water related risks. www.AQUAOSO.com
From the Department of Water Resources:
The Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Office today released updates to the 2018 Draft Basin Boundary Modifications decisions. Based on clarifying comments received during the public comment period, three draft decisions were revised for Shasta Valley, Paso Robles Area, and Kern County basins.
For additional information, please refer to the Basin Boundary Modifications webpage.
The 2018 Draft Basin Boundary Modifications decisions, including these updates, will be presented to the California Water Commission on Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
The California Energy Commission has funded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to survey municipal and agriculture water suppliers on the challenges of reducing energy associated with pumping groundwater. If you are at least 18 years of age, work for either a retail or wholesale water supplier, or a water supplier that delivers water for irrigation purposes, please click on the appropriate link below to take the anonymous survey. The survey ends Friday, February 1, 2019.
From UC Water and the Groundwater Resources Association:
There are only two ways to reduce groundwater overdraft: decrease pumping or increase recharge.
While addressing California’s overdraft will certainly require both actions, we convened a meeting of water management experts around groundwater recharge. The goal of the “Recharge Roundtable” was to address California’s severe groundwater overdraft problem through actions that would produce substantial increases in recharge in the next five years.
As a collaboration between the Groundwater Resources Association of California and the University of California Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative, we aimed to motivate focused actions that effect large quantities of recharge and produce regional benefits. The Recharge Roundtable participants and organizers produced a call to action, organized around six key questions and related action steps:
- How much water is hydrologically available for recharge?
- How much water can be recharged in different hydrogeologic environments?
- What are the legal and regulatory bottlenecks, and how can they be eliminated or reduced?
- How can hundreds to thousands of recharge projects be incentivized?
- What changes in reservoir reoperation and conveyance are needed?
- What are the water quality benefits and concerns for recharge?
It is increasingly obvious that tantalizing possibilities for increasing recharge to California’s aquifers exist, yet state and local water agencies and stakeholders are not sufficiently prepared to capitalize on those possibilities. This call to action is intended to help our state prepare.
Download the Call to Action:Recharge Roundtable Call to Action: Key Steps for Replenishing California Groundwater (Updated January 2019)
From the Department of Water Resources:
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) [last Friday] announced final basin prioritization for the majority of groundwater basins in the state as required under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
Today’s announcement finalizes the prioritization for 458 basins, identifying 56 basins that are required to create groundwater sustainability plans under SGMA. For most basins, the results are a confirmation of prioritizations established in 2015. Fifty-nine basins remain under review with final prioritization expected in late spring.
“Prioritizing groundwater basins is a critical step along the path of ensuring sustainable groundwater supplies for future generations of Californians,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “Groundwater management is a big, complicated endeavor for California, which is why DWR is investing heavily to provide local planning entities with technical assistance to be successful.”
SGMA requires local agencies throughout the state to sustainably manage groundwater basins. Basins identified as high- or medium-priority are required to adopt groundwater sustainability plans beginning in 2020. DWR is required to reassess groundwater basin prioritizations any time it updates basin boundaries. This prioritization for 458 basins incorporates the basin boundary modifications finalized in 2016. Prioritization is based on factors such as population, irrigated acreage, and the number of wells in the basin. Changes in prioritization generally reflect changed conditions or new information about existing conditions.
Today’s prioritization reflects updates based on new requirements under SGMA, including adverse impacts to habitat and streamflow, adjudicated areas, critically over drafted basins and groundwater related transfers.
Twenty-one basins were changed to ‘very low’ because they are covered by adjudicated areas with existing governance and oversight in place. Adjudicated areas are not required to prepare groundwater sustainability plans and are instead required to submit annual reports to DWR on their groundwater management and monitoring.
Draft prioritizations were announced in May 2018. These finalizations come after a 94-day public comment period and four public meetings that resulted in 500 individual comments and related datasets leading to some revisions in basin prioritization.
From the Department of Water Resources:
On January 14th, please join us at a Flood-MAR Agricultural Community Listening Session to share your insights into potential barriers and challenges to implementing voluntary Flood-MAR projects in the Central Valley.
In the fall of 2017, the State Board of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), with support from the Department of Water Resources (DWR), convened a public forum on Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR). Participants identified a number of barriers and challenges to implementing Flood-MAR projects, such as permitting challenges and insufficient data and tools for identifying recharge potential and impacts to crops.
A key component in expanding Managed Aquifer Recharge is the willing participation of land owners. As potential implementers and beneficiaries, understanding the experiences, concerns, and questions of landowners within the agricultural and rural communities is critical to informing State and local agency planning and assistance, such as through DWR’s Flood-MAR program. This “Listening Session” will be an opportunity for farmers and landowners to:
- Share personal experiences or concerns about Flood-MAR implementation
- Engage with and learn from farmers who have participated in pilot Flood-MAR projects
- Advise on what incentives might encourage you to implement a Flood MAR project on your land
- Learn about how State agencies are supporting the expansion of MAR
Date and Time: January 14, 2018 12:30 PM – 4:00 PM
Location: University of California Cooperative Extension
2145 Wardrobe Ave, Merced, CA 95341-6445
And please participate in our Landowner Experiences survey that will inform our conversation on January 14th: https://csusaccce.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cHEzFu0uxLRpdrf
From the Department of Water Resources, Sustainable Groundwater Management Office:
- ArcGIS tool designed to work with USGS MODFLOW models.
- ArcGIS tool designed to work with Department of Water Resources IWFM models.
- Second Order Correction tool, designed to help correct for shifts in monthly timing and annual volume of streamflow in watersheds where the Variable Infiltration Capacity Model is used.
To view existing climate change resources plus the new desktop tools, click here.
For more information, contact Tyler Hatch at Tyler.Hatch@water.ca.gov.