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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
David Orth is the principal of New Current Water and Land, which offers strategic planning, program implementation, and water resource development services. At the California Irrigation Institute’s 2020 Annual Conference, he gave his observations on how implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is progressing, having watched Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) form and develop their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) since the passage of the SGMA in 2014.
New Current Water and Land is a small strategic planning shop that combines experience in water engineering, finance, district management, and water law to create a strategic planning platform. Their clients are from the farming community, the investment community, and the lending community. They also work with one environmental NGO. Over the last several years, they have monitored over 60 GSAs on behalf on that client base in over 40 subbasins, including about 15 of the 21 subbasins that are considered critically overdrafted.
“Through the course of that, we’ve provided a general risk assessment for our clients by area so they can understand where they really need to pay attention as GSPs are developed in the policy engagement arena,” he said. “Then we extrapolated that into long-term forecasting of what individual ranch water budgets are going to look like upon full implementation of SGMA. This has assisted our ag clients in making decisions about redevelopment or acquisition or disposition in how to deal with the new variable that SGMA creates.”
ACWA/State Water Board webinar presentation outlines temporary and permanent options, including a new streamlined permitting pathway for standard water rights permits
Almost five years ago, in the midst of a historic drought, the legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA). The centerpiece of the legislation is the principle of local groundwater basin management, requiring the establishment of local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (or GSAs) and the preparation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (or GSPs) for groundwater basins statewide. The plans detail how the basin will be managed to avoid undesirable results, such as salt water intrusion or land subsidence, and to achieve sustainability managed basins over a 20 year planning and implementation horizon.
As many groundwater basins work to achieve sustainability, many if not most will look to groundwater recharge as a tool to help balance supplies and demands. At a webinar held at the end of last year, State Water Board staff discussed new permitting options for Groundwater Sustainability Agencies pursuing recharge projects.