PPIC: Creating Collaborative Recharge Partnerships in the San Joaquin Valley

Bringing the San Joaquin Valley’s groundwater basins into balance by the early 2040s is going to be challenging, but two neighboring groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) in Madera County are collaborating to move the process forward.

The PPIC spoke with one engineering consultant and one general manager—Joe Hopkins of Aliso Water District Groundwater Sustainability Agency and Sarah Woolf of the Triangle T Water District—to hear about their agencies’ efforts to comply with the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

Click here to read this article from the PPIC.

PPIC: Improving California’s Water Market

How Water Trading and Banking Can Support Groundwater Management

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act mandates that local groundwater users bring their groundwater basins into balance by the 2040s, a process that will ultimately help individual users and their communities build resilience in an era of climate change.

As groundwater sustainability agencies and others face a future of pumping reductions and subsequent land fallowing, water banking and water trading may prove important tools to help manage this transition.

However, a combination of aging infrastructure and complex, conflicting regulatory structures currently hinders the expansion of banking and trading. Multiple actors can drive reforms to streamline these practices.

 

PPIC Fact Sheet: California’s Water Market

From the PPIC:

Water marketing is an important tool for managing scarce supplies.

    • In California’s water market, buyers and sellers trade water through short- and long-term leases as well as permanent sales of their water rights. Trading enhances flexibility in water management.
    • Short-term transfers lessen the economic impact of shortages during droughts by shifting water to activities and places where the lack of water will be more costly. Long-term and permanent transfers accommodate geographic shifts in water demand as the economy changes and the population grows.
    • Today, most trading involves surface water. Some groundwater trading occurs within specially managed basins; this is likely to expand as groundwater users in other basins implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

Click here to read/download the full fact sheetTambién disponible en español.

PPIC Fact Sheet: Groundwater Recharge

Groundwater recharge is an important water management practice in California.

    • Recharge occurs when water seeps into the ground to replenish underground aquifers. Although some recharge happens incidentally—water flowing into the ground from rivers, unlined canals, or excess irrigation—intentional recharge can restore groundwater levels and store water for later use.
    • In coastal areas, intentional recharge prevents salty ocean water from entering freshwater aquifers. Recharge can also help prevent impacts from groundwater pumping, such as dry wells or sinking lands, while providing wetland habitat for birds, reducing flood risk, and storing water for droughts.
    • Active recharge is a longstanding practice in much of urban Southern California and parts of the Bay Area, Central Coast, and Central Valley.

Click here to view/download fact sheetTambién disponible en español.

Finding a balance between supply and demand to get to groundwater sustainability

From the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC):

“The San Joaquin Valley has begun to grapple with implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Figuring out the math of balancing water supply and demand in ways that cause the least economic harm to farmers and local economies is challenging, and difficult tradeoffs are inevitable. We talked with Emmy Cattani, a fifth-generation farmer from Kern County, about some options.

PPIC: Talk about ways that agriculture can reduce land fallowing in implementing SGMA.

EMMY CATTANI: More supply is critical. The biggest opportunity is to figure out how to capture water in big flood events, which are expected to become more common with climate change. … ”

Continue reading at the PPIC here: Finding a balance between supply and demand to get to groundwater sustainability

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.

Click here to read this article.

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.

Click here to continue reading at the PPIC.

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