Ellen Hanak delivers four priorities for managing the implementation of SGMA in the San Joaquin Valley
The San Joaquin Valley is California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply, producing more than half of the state’s agricultural output. Irrigated agriculture is the region’s main economic driver and predominant water user.
However, the San Joaquin Valley is at a pivotal point. It is ground zero for many of California’s most difficult water management problems, including groundwater overdraft, contaminated drinking water, and declines in habitat and native species. The Valley has high rates of unemployment and pockets of extreme poverty, challenges that increase when the farm economy suffers.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires local water users to bring their overdrafted groundwater basins into balance by the early 2040s. With the largest groundwater overdraft in the State, the implementation of SGMA will have a broad impact on Valley agriculture in coming years, and will likely entail fallowing of significant amounts of farmland.
Attorney Eric Garner and EDF’s Christina Babbitt discuss adjudication and management under SGMA in a panel discussion moderated by Justice Ron Robie
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act explicitly states that nothing in the legislation will alter surface or groundwater rights under the common law. However, the legislation requires groundwater basins be managed to prevent the “undesirable results” caused by extraction of groundwater. This begs the question: how will these two seemingly-opposing provisions of the legislation be reconciled?
At the 2019 California Water Law Symposium, Eric Garner, managing partner of Best Best & Krieger, and Christina Babbitt, Program Manager for Groundwater at the Environmental Defense Fund discussed groundwater adjudications in the new age of groundwater management under Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in a panel discussion moderated by the Honorable Ronald Robie. This panel was organized by students from McGeorge School of Law.
Taryn Ravazzini, the Deputy Director for Special Initiatives and the Executive Sponsor of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Program at the Department of Water Resources, began the presentation by noting that on January 1st of 2018, the Department established the Sustainable Groundwater Management Office, which resides within the Executive Division under Ms. Ravazzini’s management. “This represents the Department’s commitment to SGMA implementation as a priority and does allow for nimble management and direct connection to DWR Executives, both of which are necessary to meet the demands of the aggressive schedule outlined in the Act,” she said.
Four essential policy reforms are needed to reduce the social, economic, and environmental costs of future droughts, says Dr. Mount
From Maven’s Notebook:
California’s climate is changing. Hotter temperatures, a shrinking snowpack, shorter and more intense wet seasons, rising sea level, and more volatile precipitation—with wetter wet years and drier dry years—are stressing the state’s water management system. Recent climate projections indicate that the pace of change will increase. To avoid unwanted social, economic, and environmental consequences, the water system will need to adapt to greater climate extremes and growing water scarcity.
Dr.Jeff Mount is senior fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California, Water Policy Center. At the Western Groundwater Congress, hosted by Groundwater Resources Association of California, he argued that managing groundwater resources sustainably is the most important climate adaptation measure that the state can implement, and discussed four essential reforms are needed to reduce the social, economic, and environmental costs of future droughts. … “
Data shows groundwater recharge in the region has declined by 1.1 MAF since 2000; storage remains at unhealthy levels
From Maven’s Notebook:
“At the October meeting of Metropolitan’s Water Planning and Stewardship Committee, Senior Engineer Matt Hacker updated the committee members on regional groundwater conditions, including groundwater production, recharge, and storage conditions.
There are 88 groundwater basins and subbasins within the Metropolitan service area. Groundwater provides over 1/3rd of the region’s water supplies. 89% of the basins within the Metropolitan service area either are adjudicated or managed. … “
Timothy Parker and Graham Fogg discuss the benefits and the challenges of Managed Aquifer Recharge, and how MAR can be key to water security in a changing climate
From Maven’s Notebook:
Groundwater is an essential water source, providing 35% of the fresh water used in California, and significantly more in drought years. However, when groundwater is used more rapidly than it is naturally replenished, actions must be taken to correct the imbalance, and one of the tools used by groundwater managers is managed aquifer recharge (or MAR).
Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) enhances the recharge rate by creating artificial streams and ponds where water trickles into the ground, or by using wells to directly inject water underground. MAR can also be used to improve groundwater quality and prevent some of the negative consequences of groundwater depletion, like ground sinking (subsidence) or the intrusion of salty groundwater from the oceans into coastal freshwater aquifers.
In an American Geosciences Institute webinar, Timothy Parker, principal hydrogeologist at Parker Groundwater, discusses managing groundwater storage and managed aquifer recharge in California. Next, Graham Fogg, from UC Davis discusses recharge and reservoir management and keys to water security.
“Flood-MAR is an integrated water resource management strategy that uses flood waters resulting from rainfall or snowmelt for managed aquifer recharge on agricultural lands and working landscapes. Flood-MAR can also be implemented at multiple scales, from individual landowners diverting flood water with existing infrastructure to using extensive detention/recharge areas and modernizing flood management infrastructure and operations.
With the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act as well as the effects of climate change necessitating changes in how water is managed in California, Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, or Flood-MAR, potentially presents a sustainable strategy that can simultaneously accommodate longer and deeper droughts along with more severe and frequent flooding.
In a July 2018 webinar, Kamyar Guivetchi, Manager of the Division of Statewide Integrated Water Management with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), discussed the importance of the Flood MAR concept and what DWR and other state agencies are doing to advance the concept. … “
“In 2014 California enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) which mandates that areas that depend upon groundwater achieve sustainability by 2040. Meeting the requirements of SGMA will mean a net reduction in groundwater overdraft of about 2 million acre-feet per year. The social, economic and environmental consequences—intended or otherwise—of this change in water policy are vast.
Dr. Jeffrey Mount is a Senior Fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center. In this keynote speech given at the Groundwater Resources Association’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan Summit, Dr. Mount argued that the state needs to take a comprehensive look at what it is going to take to achieve groundwater sustainability and develop pathways that minimize or mitigate unwanted effects. He also noted that his speech would draw on the work of his colleagues at the Public Policy Institute of California’s Water Policy Center who have been working on the San Joaquin Valley to envision a future for the Valley under SGMA and what the consequences would be. … “
“California depends on groundwater for a major portion of its annual water supply, and sustainable groundwater management is essential to a reliable and resilient water system. In recognition of this, the legislature passed a three-bill package known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that set in motion a plan to sustainably manage the state’s groundwater basins. The centerpiece of the legislation is recognition that groundwater management is best accomplished at the local level, and so SGMA requires the creation of groundwater sustainability agencies to develop and implement locally-developed groundwater sustainability plans, allowing 20 years to achieve sustainability.
The legislation explicitly states that it does not alter any water rights: the legislation adds Water Code section 10720.5(b) that states that nothing in the legislation “determines or alters surface water rights or groundwater rights under common law or any provision of law that determines or grants surface water rights.” However, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and project proponents must address such rights in groundwater sustainability plan development, projects to increase yield such as recharge projects, and reducing pumping to reach sustainability.
California’s structure of groundwater rights is notoriously complex, directly related to hydrologic conditions, and complicates the goal of sustainable groundwater management. At the McGeorge School of Law’s Executive Training on Water Rights in Groundwater: A Deep Dive into California Groundwater Rights, Professor Jennifer Harder and Hydrogeologist Derrik Williams discussed the convoluted world of groundwater rights as it exists in California. … “