CA WATER COMMISSION: Update on implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

Last year was a milestone year for SGMA, with the critically-overdrafted basins required to submit their first groundwater sustainability plans to DWR by January 31st of 2020. The Department is currently reviewing these groundwater sustainability plans and will release assessments of them this year.  By statute, the Department has two years to complete an evaluation of the plans.

At the California Water Commission’s March meeting, the commissioners received an update on how the implementation of SGMA is going from staff from the DWR’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Office.  Their presentation included the approach and timeline for releasing assessments of groundwater sustainability plans and the state’s planning technical and financial assistance supporting local SGMA implementation.

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SGMA IN ACTION: Challenges and opportunities, Environmental justice considerations, and first lawsuits over GSP plans

Critically overdrafted groundwater basins submitted their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) in January 2020, and high and medium priority subbasins will be submitting their GSPs in 2022. At the Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite, a panel provided an update on Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation, including issues being litigated in first impression lawsuits across the state. Best practices for groundwater allocation and trading, and incorporation of environmental justice concerns into GSPs.  How agencies address CEQA compliance for GSA Project and Management Actions were also discussed.

The panelists:

Eric Averett, general manager of Roseville-Rio Bravo Water Storage District: Since 1991, Eric has been actively involved in evaluating and resolving water supply and quality challenges facing Kern County. Eric Averett serves as president of the Kern River Watershed Coalition. He sits on the board of directors for the Water Association of Kern County and the Association of California Water Agencies.

Camille Pannu, a visiting clinical law professor at the Community and Economic Development Clinic at UC Irvine School of Law: Prior to joining UC Irvine, she served as the inaugural director for the Water Justice Clinic at UC Davis School of Law, the first clinic of its kind in the country. Her practice uses administrative advocacy, strategic research, and transactional legal tools to address the impact of racial and economic inequality on access to clean, safe drinking water in California’s low-income communities.

Tom Lippe, public interest environmental law attorney:  He has been actively involved since 1987 in cases dealing with land use, CEQA, NEPA, surface water, groundwater, coastal protection, and endangered species. Mr. Lippe’s practice has included many cases involving the effects of land-use changes on groundwater resources and the effects of groundwater consumption on streamflow and endangered salmonids. Mr. Lippe is currently litigating two cases challenging groundwater sustainability plans adopted under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act for the Eastern San Joaquin and Delta-Mendota groundwater basins.

The panel was moderated by Natalie Stork, chief of the Groundwater Management Program at the State Water Resources Control Board, which is responsible for the board’s implementation of SGMA.

Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.

Developing groundwater allocations: Findings and recommendations

From Maven’s Notebook:

As groundwater sustainability agencies prepare their plans to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), they will likely utilize a variety of tools to achieve sustainability.  In many subbasins, groundwater overdraft conditions will require GSAs to impose reductions in pumping in order to achieve sustainable conditions in the subbasin. To do this, GSAs will need set a limit or “cap” on the overall amount of groundwater that is removed from the subbasin, assigning portions of this capped amount to groundwater pumpers in the form of a pumping allocation.

Making pumping allocation decisions will be a difficult task for GSAs, as it will require restricting access to groundwater resources upon which the agricultural community, cities and towns, and others depend.  Adding further complexity to the task, SGMA explicitly states that it does not alter water rights, which means groundwater sustainability agencies have to carefully navigate between the confines of water rights and SGMA requirements in developing and implementing their groundwater sustainability plans.

At the 3rd annual Western Groundwater Congress, hosted online by the Groundwater Resources Association of California in September of 2020, Dr. William Blomquist, a Professor of Political Science and more at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, gave a presentation of ongoing research he is doing with Dr. Christina Babbitt, California Groundwater Manager at the Environmental Defense Fund looking at how other groundwater basins have developed groundwater allocations.

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A Craigslist for water trading? Learn how this new water management platform works

Eric Averett is general manager of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County, California, which is one of 21 regions required by the state to balance groundwater demand and supply within 20 years under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Rosedale is home to approximately 27,500 acres of irrigated cropland and 7,500 acres of urban development. Groundwater demand there exceeds supply by approximately 5,000 acre-feet per year. To inform landowners about their water budgets, Rosedale partnered with EDF, Sitka Technology Group, WestWater Research and local landowners to co-develop a new online, open-source water accounting and trading platform. We asked Eric to answer a few questions about how the platform will help local landowners and how it can be expanded to other parts of the Central Valley.

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How water justice groups view groundwater sustainability planning

Over-pumping of groundwater has caused domestic wells to go dry in the San Joaquin Valley. Yet many of the first round of plans prepared to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) do not yet propose ways to address this problem. We explored groundwater planning with three members of the environmental justice community—Angela Islas of Self-Help Enterprises, Justine Massey of the Community Water Center, and Amanda Monaco of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

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Q&A: Elevating NGOs and Community Groups in Groundwater Decision-Making

From the Water Foundation:

Through the NGO Groundwater Collaborative, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Tribes, and California residents share information and resources to help each other participate in the state’s groundwater management programs. We spoke with Jennifer Clary, California Director for Clean Water Action California, and Emily Finnegan, Project Manager for Local Government Commission’s water programs, about the collaborative and what’s coming up for the group.

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GSA SUMMIT: Addressing environment, disadvantaged communities, and domestic wells in the 2022 Groundwater Sustainability Plans

The groundwater sustainability plans that were submitted to the Department of Water Resources in January of 2020 were the first of the groundwater sustainability plans to be completed.  Public review of these plans has revealed some important lessons to be learned to be considered for those preparing the plans that will be due in January of 2022.  At the 3rd Annual Groundwater Sustainability Agency Summit hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association online in June, a panel of NGOs that had completed a review of the plans summarized their findings from the perspective of underrepresented beneficial users and with respect to stakeholder engagement, providing insights and recommendations for the upcoming plans.

Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.

GSA SUMMIT: Lessons learned from the 2020 GSPs: Perspectives from the critically overdrafted basins

The implementation phase of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act has now begun for the basins designated as critically-overdrafted. Getting to this point has been an unparalleled journey as communities, farmers, water suppliers, and others navigated through uncharted territory to develop local solutions for sustainable groundwater management. At the Groundwater Resources Association Third Annual Groundwater Sustainability Agency Summit held online in June, a panel of managers from four of the critically overdrafted basins reflected on the hard work of developing and adopting a groundwater sustainability plan.

Seated on the panel were Gary Petersen from the Salinas Valley Basin GSA; Eric Osterling from the Mid Kaweah GSA; Deanna Jackson from TriCounty GSA; and Patricia Poire from the Kern Groundwater Authority.  Collectively, these GSAs are having to deal with all six of the undesirable results, from subsidence to groundwater levels to seawater intrusion, and they overly five of the 21 critically overdrafted basins.

Each panelist then discussed the process that they went through in developing their plans, the lessons they learned, and their advice for those developing the plans that will be due in January of 2022.

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GSA SUMMIT: Reflections on the 2020 GSP process

At the end of January of this year, the state’s critically overdrafted groundwater basins submitted their adopted groundwater sustainability plans (or GSPs), meeting an important deadline in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act; the remaining basins subject to SGMA will be submitting their plans in January of 2022.  The Department of Water Resources will now have two years to review the plans to determine their adequacy.

At the Third Annual GSA Summit, Craig Altare, chief of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan section at the Department of Water Resources’ Sustainable Groundwater Management Office or SGMO, reflected on the GSPs and how the implementation of SGMA is playing out.

Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.

 

 

WATER WRIGHTS: San Luis-Delta Mendota WA, Semitropic WSD, Kern Water Bank, Friant WA, Westlands, and more …

A recap of what’s recently been posted at Water Wrights, a website that covers Central Valley water meetings:

Click here to read all articles at WaterWrights.net.