How water justice groups view groundwater sustainability planning

Over-pumping of groundwater has caused domestic wells to go dry in the San Joaquin Valley. Yet many of the first round of plans prepared to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) do not yet propose ways to address this problem. We explored groundwater planning with three members of the environmental justice community—Angela Islas of Self-Help Enterprises, Justine Massey of the Community Water Center, and Amanda Monaco of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

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How to Address Groundwater Planning Gaps

Ellen Hanak and Jelena Jezdimirovic write:

In these extraordinary times, managing groundwater for long-term sustainability may not seem like a top priority. But in the San Joaquin Valley—where groundwater supplies have been declining for decades—excess pumping is a critical problem, with major implications for public health, jobs, the environment, and local economies.

The state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires groundwater planning and actions to sustain this vital resource. Agencies from California’s 21 “critically overdrafted” basins—including 11 large basins that span most of the San Joaquin Valley floor—submitted their first groundwater plans in January.

As part of our long-term work to build shared understanding of water challenges and solutions in the valley, the Public Policy Institute of California reviewed the 36 plans developed for these basins to see how well they tackle some key issues.

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Got Surface Water? Groundwater-only Lands in the San Joaquin Valley

Jelena Jezdimirovic, Ellen Hanak, and Alvar Escriva-Bou write,

“The San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest agricultural region—has the largest groundwater deficit in the state. However, water scarcity is not experienced equally across the valley.

Some areas receive abundant surface water to support cropland irrigation and drinking water supplies. Most others supplement their use with groundwater. Still others have no surface water access and depend entirely on groundwater.

Water users in these groundwater-only areas are particularly vulnerable to pumping restrictions under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)—the state-mandated effort to balance groundwater basins. … ”

Read more from the PPIC blog here:  Got Surface Water? Groundwater-only Lands in the San Joaquin Valley

A winning approach for managing groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley

Alvar Escriva-Bou, Ellen Hanak, and Josué Medellín-Azuara write,

“The San Joaquin Valley is in a time of great change. Decades of groundwater overuse have caused drinking water and irrigation wells to go dry, increased the amount of energy required to pump water, harmed ecosystems, and reduced the reserves available to cope with future droughts.

Groundwater overdraft has also caused land to sink, damaging major regional infrastructure, including canals that deliver water across the state.  These problems spurred the enactment of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which requires local water users across California to bring groundwater use to sustainable levels by the early 2040s.

With California’s largest groundwater deficit, the San Joaquin Valley is ground zero for implementing SGMA. … ”

Read more from the PPIC blog here:  A winning approach for managing groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley

The Connection between Groundwater and Surface Water

From the PPIC Blog:

“When the California Legislature created the “modern” water rights regulatory system more than a century ago, it focused exclusively on surface water, exempting groundwater from the permitting system. Yet in most watersheds, surface water and groundwater are closely linked. Actions that change one often have an impact on the other. The arbitrary legal divide has made it harder to manage the state’s water. But a recent law and a new court decision have done a better job of connecting surface water and groundwater.

When rain falls or snow melts in the foothills and mountains of California, water follows several pathways downhill and into rivers and streams. Some water moves across the land or through deep soils and weathered bedrock, arriving in rivers hours to weeks after rain or snowmelt. And some percolates deep into the ground, becoming groundwater. … “

Read more from the PPIC blog here: The Connection between Groundwater and Surface Water

Four Ways to Foster Cooperation over Groundwater

From Ellen Hanak and Jelena Jezdimirovic at the PPIC Blog:

“Last summer, some 250 local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) were formed―the first step in meeting the requirements of California’s historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  Now these agencies face the difficult task of developing and implementing plans to bring their groundwater basins into balance over the next 20 years.

A recent event by the Groundwater Resources Association of California explored groundwater governance, and laid out ways that locals will need to cooperate to manage groundwater for long-term sustainability. Here are four key takeaways. … “

Continue reading at the PPIC blog by clicking here.

How Much Water Is Available for Groundwater Recharge?

From Alvar Escriva-Bou at the PPIC Blog:

“The wet winter of 2017 brought an opportunity to test groundwater recharge—the intentional spreading of water on fields to percolate into the aquifer—as a tool for restoring groundwater levels and helping basins comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). This is especially important in the San Joaquin Valley, which has the biggest imbalance between groundwater pumping and replenishment in the state.

A key question for many valley water managers is how much water will be available for recharge in the long term. By law, only river flows in excess of what is required for environmental purposes and to supply existing water-right holders are available for recharge. A recent report by the PPIC Water Policy Center estimated how much water would be available in the San Joaquin Valley over the long term. Two earlier studies—one by two scientists at UC Davis and the other by the Department of Water Resources—estimated a maximum of about half a million acre-feet on average, which is about a quarter of the valley’s estimated deficit. The PPIC study updated these estimates in the context of current conditions and concluded that an average of more than a million acre-feet of San Joaquin River flows may be available. … “

Read more from the PPIC Blog by clicking here.

 

Three Water Challenges for Almonds

From Ellen Hanak at the PPIC Blog:

“California is a force of nature when it comes to almonds. The state’s farmers produce virtually the entire US almond crop and dominate the international market. As the market has grown, almonds have become California’s largest single crop—now accounting for about 12% of irrigated acreage, with more than 1.2 million acres harvested in 2016. Availability of water is clearly a major issue for the industry, since the trees must be irrigated throughout the long spring and summer dry season. At a May event on water issues organized by the Almond Board of California, I was asked for some thoughts on the water realities almond growers must grapple with in coming years. Here are three key takeaways. … “

Continue reading at the PPIC Blog by clicking here.

Expanding Groundwater Recharge in San Joaquin Valley Cities

From Jelena Jezdimirovic at the PPIC Blog:

“The San Joaquin Valley is ground zero for groundwater management challenges. While agriculture is the region’s predominant water user, its cities are more likely to rely on groundwater as their primary source of water. For this reason, the urban sector will need to play a bigger role in the regional effort to balance groundwater use and replenishment.

Our recent research indicates that cities in the valley lag behind agricultural districts in the intentional recharge of groundwater. That’s primarily because most have limited access to two things necessary for storing more water underground: extra surface water and unpaved land on which to spread it so it can percolate into the ground. But some cities have had success with recharge activities. Here are three methods that can serve as models. … “

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The Yuba Accord: A Model for Water Management

From Ellen Hanak at the PPIC Blog:

“Last week a diverse group of stakeholders celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Lower Yuba River Accord—a historic agreement to improve conditions for the river’s endangered fishes, maintain water supplies for cities and farms, and reduce conflict over competing uses for water. Here at the PPIC Water Policy Center we frequently refer to the Yuba Accord as a model for modern water management in California. Here are three reasons why. … “

Continue reading at the PPIC Blog by clicking here.