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.

Click here to read this article.

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.

 

 

GROUNDWATER 101: The basics

Dr. Thomas Harter provides a basic understanding of groundwater – what it is, how much groundwater is out there, how fast groundwater moves, and where it comes from and where it goes

Groundwater is an important part of California’s – and the nation’s water supply.   Nationwide, groundwater makes up on average 26% of the water supply.  In California, that number is significantly higher – groundwater provides nearly 40% of the water used by California’s farms and cities, and significantly more in dry years.  But what is groundwater?  In this post based on the first segment of the UC Davis shortcourse on groundwater, Dr. Thomas Harter, who is the Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair for Water Resources Management and Policy at the University of California, Davis as well as Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources (among many other things), provides a basic understanding of groundwater – what it is, how much groundwater is out there, how fast groundwater moves, and where it comes from and where it goes.

Click here to read this article.

Water resources management in the Pajaro Valley Basin

The Pajaro Valley is home to a billion-dollar agricultural industry, it’s rich, fertile soil providing fruits and vegetables for the nation and all grown with groundwater.  Located on the Central Coast, the Pajaro Valley has no connection to the State Water Project or to otherwise bring in imported water.

In 1980, the Department of Water Resources published Bulletin 118, identifying the Pajaro Valley as one of eleven basins in the state considered critically overdrafted.  Community leaders recognized that local management of the groundwater basin was necessary as seawater intrusion was already impacting agricultural water supplies as well as domestic wells; however, there was no single agency with authority to manage the entire basin which encompasses parts of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties as well as the City of Watsonville.  So in 1984, local legislators spearheaded the state legislation necessary to form the a multi-jurisdictional agency to manage groundwater which was subsequently approved by local voters.

Since that time, the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency has been working toward sustainable management of the Pajaro Valley’s water resources.  At the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, General Manager Brian Lockwood discussed the projects and programs the Agency is implementing as they work towards achieving groundwater sustainability.

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

WESTERN GROUNDWATER CONGRESS: Quantifying surface water depletion from groundwater pumping

Surface water commonly is hydraulically connected to ground water, but the interactions are difficult to observe and measure and have largely been ignored in water-management considerations and policies.  However, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), passed in 2014, is California’s first statewide law that explicitly reflects the fact that surface water and groundwater are frequently interconnected and that groundwater management can impact groundwater-dependent ecosystems, surface water flows, and the beneficial uses of those flows.  The challenge of quantifying these interactions has led to the development of several techniques.

At the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Gilbert Barth, PhD is an Associate and Senior Hydrologist with S.S. Papadopulos & Associates in their Boulder office, gave an overview of groundwater-surface water interactions and discussed some of the tools and techniques that he has helped develop. Dr. Barth provides quantitative assessments of groundwater resources to address questions associated with water planning, and specializes in model development and calibration with a focus on quantifying changes between surface water and groundwater systems.  He’s developed and applied models throughout the Western US for regional, interstate, and international deliberations.

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ERIC AVERETT: Water allocation strategies in the context of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

Eric Averett is General Manager with the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District, which is one of several water districts within Kern County.  Kern County is the largest basin in the state, is designated as critically overdrafted, and is arguably one of the most complex with respect to the number of water interests that are involved.  In addition, they have had to deal with approximately 500,000 acres of undistricted or ‘white land’ areas.  In this presentation from the Western Groundwater Congress, Mr. Averett discusses how his district and Kern County have been grappling with how to establish groundwater pumping allocations.

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WESTERN GROUNDWATER CONGRESS: Depletion of interconnected surface waters: Not that simple

Sierra Ryan is a water resources planner with the County of Santa Cruz.  In this presentation from the Groundwater Resources Association‘s 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Ms. Ryan tells the story of how the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency balanced the various perspectives, authorities, and interpretations of the DWR regulations in writing the portion of their Groundwater Sustainability Plan that pertained to the depletion of interconnected surface water (sustainability indicator or undesirable result #6). “I promise you that it was not as simple as we thought it was to begin with, so for those of you in the medium and high priority basins that have the 2022 deadlines, I hope you’re thinking about this now,” Ms. Ryan advised. Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.