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.
“I wasn’t expecting to see egrets, herons and pelicans on my first trip to the San Joaquin Valley — a region in the southern part of California’s Central Valley known for its impressive agricultural production and scorching summer heat. I didn’t find these birds at one of the valley’s few wildlife refuges, but at a groundwater recharge facility designed to spread and infiltrate surface water into the ground below.
Recharge basins are becoming increasingly popular in overdrafted regions in California, where water managers are seeking solutions to balance groundwater supply and demand to comply with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). … ”
Groundwater managers across the state are looking to groundwater recharge as a potential solution to their community’s water challenges. However, there are concerns about how groundwater recharge in the age of SGMA actually works and how to ensure sufficient instream flows to protect those beneficial uses.
To address these questions, the Local Government Commission and the Clean Water Fund held a webinar to find out more about recharge, environmental flows, water rights, and permitting from a panel of experts. First, Stacey Sullivan from Sustainable Conservation talked about Flood MAR; next Sam Boland-Brien from the State Water Resources Control Board talked about the Environmental Flows Workgroup and permitting issues for groundwater recharge; and then Pablo Garza with the Environmental Defense Fund discussed policy issues related to groundwater recharge.
Read more at Maven’s Notebook here: GROUNDWATER RECHARGE: Balancing our depleted groundwater supplies and ecosystem needs
California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), signed into law five years ago, requires local leaders to balance groundwater demand and supplies for the first time. Groundwater is an important foundation of California’s water system, and SGMA is a crucial way of strengthening that foundation and creating a more resilient future for the state.
However, balancing groundwater budgets will not be easy. And this major challenge is further complicated by the fact that activities designed to increase groundwater supplies can unintentionally cause new groundwater quality problems or worsen existing contamination.
A new working paper that Environmental Defense Fund co-authored with Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; Green Science Policy Institute; and the Energy and Environmental Sciences Area of Berkeley Lab outlines how groundwater management activities can affect not only the quantity but also the quality of groundwater.
Click here to read more and download the report: Five years into SGMA, here are five important considerations for balancing groundwater quality and quantity
Christina Babbit writes,
“By this time next year, 21 critically over-drafted groundwater basins in California must submit plans to the state’s Department of Water Resources for how to bring their basins back into balance.
With this major deadline looming, it’s crunch time for water managers and their consultants – some of whom will begin releasing draft plans in the next six to eight months seeking required public comments.
The Jan. 31, 2020, deadline was set by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which the California Legislature approved in 2014. … “
Read more from the Growing Returns blog here: The clock is ticking for groundwater managers in California’s most over-drafted basins
“Even in the depths of winter it’s easy to bite into a plump blackberry or a delicate red raspberry, thanks to Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry company.
In late 2018, I traveled to the Pajaro Valley, west of Santa Cruz, for a tour of a Driscoll’s research facility, which provided an eye-opening view into how this family-owned company has become an agriculture leader selling berries every month of the year, and why they are so committed to water conservation. … “
Read more from the Growing Returns blog here: How Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry company, is becoming a leader in water conservation
From EDF’s Market Forces blog:
California’s landscape will transform in a changing climate. While extended drought and recent wildfires seasons have sparked conversations about acute impacts today, the promise of changes to come is no less worrying. Among the challenges for water management:
- The Sierra Nevada mountain range – an important source of water storage for the entire state – is expected to see a 60% reduction in total snowpack by the end of the century, along with earlier melting times.
- Average July temperatures in California’s Central Valley – an indispensable agricultural region – are expected to rise by up to 3.9 °F by 2050, reducing yields for many crops and stressing irrigation demand.
- Precipitation is expected to become less predictable throughout the state.
These changes will make water resources less reliable when they are needed most, rendering water storage an even more important feature of the state’s water system.
Continue reading at the Market Forces blog here: What California’s history of groundwater depletion can teach us about successful collective action
From the Environmental Defense Fund’s Growing Returns blog, Christina Babbitt and Daniel M. Dooley with New Current Water and Land write:
“Over the next two years, more than 100 groundwater sustainability agencies in California will have to hammer out a plan to make their groundwater basins sustainable.
But as mangers in many areas work to combat decades of over-pumping, they face a major dilemma: In dividing the groundwater pie to avoid overuse, they can’t change Byzantine groundwater rights that date as far back as 1903.
In a new working paper, “Groundwater Pumping Allocations under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” Environmental Defense Fund and New Current Water and Land – a California-based consulting firm – provide water managers with a recommended approach to navigate this challenge and develop plans that are more durable, and thus likely to succeed, under the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). … “
Read the full post at the Growing Returns blog here: The groundwater manager’s dilemma: How to comply with new California law without changing water rights
From Maurice Hall at EDF’s Growing Returns blog:
“The Cosumnes River is one of the last undammed rivers west of the Sierra Nevada. While not a large river, it flows year-round out of the Sierras, east of Elk Grove, south of Sacramento, and across the floor of the Central Valley before adding its modest flow to the Mokelumne River.
Every year, however, around the Fourth of July, the lower part of the Cosumnes River goes dry, even while the flow from the Sierras continues. The lower river stays dry until the first big rains come, sometimes as late as December or January, and resumes its high flow throughout the winter months.
How can a river be flowing and then disappear downstream? The explanation lies in the inevitable interaction between groundwater and surface water, which have been managed separately – until now. … “
From Christina Babbitt at the Growing Returns blog:
“Nebraska is one of the top producers of corn, soybeans and hogs in the country. With 91 percent of the state’s total land area dedicated to agricultural production, a lot of water is needed to support all of Nebraska’s farms and ranches.
Fortunately, the state sits atop one of the largest underground aquifers in the world. The High Plains Aquifer, commonly referred to as the Ogallala Aquifer, underlies parts of eight states from Texas to South Dakota, and is a vital resource to Nebraskan farmers.
But as farms have expanded and demand for agricultural products has grown, pressure on the aquifer has increased and groundwater levels have been in steady decline for decades. … “