Minimum thresholds, measurable objectives, undesirable results: A panel of consultants discuss the specifics of how their GSAs determined sustainable management criteria
The passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 requires that groundwater basins be managed such that the use of groundwater can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results. In order to demonstrate sustainability, the Groundwater Sustainability Plan regulations require the development of locally-defined quantitative sustainable management criteria, including undesirable results, minimum thresholds, and measurable objectives.
At the second annual Groundwater Sustainability Agency Summit, hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association in June of this year, a panel of consultants discussed the process and the specifics of how they developed sustainable management criteria for their basins.
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.
SGMA requires groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) to manage groundwater to avoid six undesirable results, one of which is significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses of surface water. While this aspect of SGMA is clearly important, significant uncertainties exist regarding how GSAs will actually define and achieve this goal. At the 2019 California Water Law Symposium, a panel of experts discussed the structure of SGMA and how it addresses these water connections, particularly in relation to fisheries and the public trust doctrine.
Seated on the panel:
Rick Frank:Rick Frank is a professor of law at the UC Davis Law School. For many years, he was with the California Attorney General’s office and litigated a number of very important water and environmental cases.
Letty Belin: Letty Belin is an attorney who specializes in tribal water rights, water law, and other natural resource issues. Letty served as counsel to the Deputy Secretary of the Interior in Washington DC, most recently a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Water in the West program.
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. … “