In March of this year, the Secretaries of the Natural Resources Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Food and Ag tasked the California Water Commission with initiating a thorough and inclusive public dialogue to frame state considerations around shaping well-managed groundwater trading programs.
At the June meeting of the California Water Commission, the commissioners heard from a panel of speakers who discussed why groundwater sustainability agencies (or GSAs) might consider markets, what groundwater trading entails, its opportunities and limitations, and how it is connected to water accounting, allocations, and sustainable groundwater management.
Next, Steven Springhorn, the Acting Deputy Director of Statewide Groundwater Management at the Department of Water Resources, highlighted how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and related activities provide a framework and foundation to build off of to develop efficient and equitable markets and how those markets can help to collectively and successfully implement SGMA. He also discussed the assistance available from the Department for SGMA implementation that can facilitate local agencies working towards developing allocations and markets. You can read his presentation here: STEVEN SPRINGHORN: Water Trading & the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
The third presenter was Dr. Christina Babbitt, the senior manager of the Environmental Defense Fund’s California Groundwater Program. Her presentation focused on advancing well-designed water trading programs in California and included an example of EDF’s work with partners to develop a groundwater trading platform. You can read her presentation here: DR. CHRISTINA BABBITT: Advancing Well-Designed Water Trading Programs in California
At the Kern County Water Summit held last week, hosted by the Water Association of Kern County, Acting Deputy Director of the Department of Water Resources Statewide Groundwater Management Program Steven Springhorn provided an update on the Department’s progress on SGMA implementation, including the Department’s review of the submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plans and the existing and proposed SGMA-related assistance.
He began by noting the considerable amount of work that has been done the past six years since the law went into effect, includes establishing regulations for the forming Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (or GSAs) and for developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans (or GSPs).
“We are right now at a point where SGMA is hitting its full stride,” said Mr. Springhorn. “There is still a lot of work ahead of us in this next phase, which is full-scale plan implementation over the next 20 years. The local efforts of implementing plans and adaptively managing the groundwater basins will allow us to find solutions to the tough challenges that are out there in order to reach sustainability in 20 years and make measurable progress along the way.”
Dr. Graham Fogg and DWR’s Jenny Marr discuss the efforts underway to assess the potential for Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge (or Flood MAR)
At the April meeting of the California Water Commission, the Commission continued examining the state’s role in conveyance projects by hearing from two experts on flood-managed aquifer recharge, or Flood MAR. First, Dr. Graham Fogg, UC David professor emeritus of Hydrogeology, discussed scaling up Flood MAR and how that will likely present new conveyance needs. Then, Jenny Marr, Supervising Engineer at the Department of Water Resources, outlined the state’s approach to flood Mar.
GRAHAM FOGG: Flood-MAR Perspective: American-Cosumnes Basin Experience
Dr. Graham Fogg’s presentation gave the big picture perspective on Flood MAR and highlighted a case study underway in the American-Cosumnes basin as part of a UC Water initiative since 2014.
He began by pointing out California is not alone in having groundwater problems. Groundwater depletion is a global problem. Depleted aquifers are being increasingly written about all over the world. In some cases, it’s becoming an existential crisis in water security.
Why is that? Dr. Fogg noted that since we’ve been developing groundwater, which has only in the last 50-70 years at high amounts, we’ve concentrated mainly on pumping it.
“Typically, we pump the groundwater and hope for the best,” he said. “The alternative in terms of managing it, now we can pump groundwater, is that we can also do things that increase the groundwater storage; we can replenish the groundwater. So one way to look at it is we’ve worked a lot harder in the last 50 years or so in pumping groundwater than we have in replenishing it.”
Last year was a milestone year for SGMA, with the critically-overdrafted basins required to submit their first groundwater sustainability plans to DWR by January 31st of 2020. The Department is currently reviewing these groundwater sustainability plans and will release assessments of them this year. By statute, the Department has two years to complete an evaluation of the plans.
At the California Water Commission’s March meeting, the commissioners received an update on how the implementation of SGMA is going from staff from the DWR’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Office. Their presentation included the approach and timeline for releasing assessments of groundwater sustainability plans and the state’s planning technical and financial assistance supporting local SGMA implementation.
Abishek Singh, Ph.D., is Vice President of Intera’s Western Region based out of Los Angeles. His professional experience has focused on research and application experience in groundwater and surfacewater modeling, planning and decision analysis, risk and uncertainty analyses, optimization techniques, and temporal/spatial statistics. He has expertise in developing, calibrating, and applying hydrologic and data-driven models to support robust water-resources decision-making.
In a recent webinar presented by Intera, Dr. Singh gave a presentation explaining what groundwater models are, uses for groundwater models, how groundwater models work, and provided some case studies.
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.
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.
Kamyar Guivetchi, Manager of DWR’s Division of Planning has often referred to Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge (or Flood MAR) as a “moon shot” for recharging depleted groundwater basins, but just how much Flood MAR can contribute to groundwater recharge in a watershed is unknown. However, the Department of Water Resources’ Integrated Watershed Management staff is underway with a pilot study to look at the potential for Flood MAR in the Merced River watershed.
At the October meeting of the California Water Commission, Mr. Guivetchi and David Arrate, Senior Water Resources Engineer with the Department of Water Resources, gave a presentation on the study and shared some of the preliminary results.
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.
Guest commentary from Soua Lee, Program Manager of the Kings Basin Water Authority, on behalf of the IRWM Roundtable of Regions, posted at Maven’s Notebook:
How does a region integrate Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a program mandated by State legislation, with Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM), a voluntary collaborative effort, to implement regional water management solutions?
A question often asked, but with no definitive answer depending on who you ask. This article discusses how IRWM and SGMA share a similar approach that involves comprehensive management on a regional scale and provides examples of where the two programs are working together successfully.
WEBINAR: Successful collaboration between IRWM and SGMA
This webinar discusses the benefits of successful collaboration between groundwater sustainability agencies implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) planning efforts.
The speakers were:
David Orth, Principal, New Current Water and Land
Rob Swartz, Manager of Tech Services, Regional Water Authority and American River IRWM
Angela Islas, Community Development Specialist, Self-Help Enterprises
The panel was moderated by Lance Eckhart, General Manager of the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency.
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.