As California’s Groundwater Free-for-All Ends, Gauging What’s Left

From Water in the West:

“Most areas of California farm country have a significant lack of information about their groundwater use. The water managers responsible for putting California’s depleted aquifers on the path to sustainability now need to get the data to do the job. Running the new agencies created under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, these managers must first decide what they need to know, and how to get the information.

The measuring gauges they need would ideally give two different views of groundwater reality. First, account for withdrawals by identifying who is taking the water, then control the withdrawals to ensure sustainability, now required in 109 of the state’s 517 groundwater basins. Second, monitor the overall health of the aquifer to ensure it is not trespassing over the various boundaries of unsustainability now carved into state law. … “

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Avoiding ‘Adverse Impacts’ of Groundwater Pumping on Surface Waters

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

“Local agencies in critically overdrafted groundwater basins in California have less than a year and a half to draft their plans to achieve sustainable groundwater management. These Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), formed under California’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), will need to avoid six specified “undesirable results” ranging from seawater intrusion and degraded water quality to land subsidence.

A new report by Water in the West visiting scholar Letty Belin guides these agencies through how to understand and comply with the requirement that GSAs must not cause “significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses of surface water.” … “

Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: Avoiding ‘Adverse Impacts’ of Groundwater Pumping on Surface Waters.

Why we can’t just suck it up: The challenges of groundwater recharge in California

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

“California is on track to have the wettest water year in the 122-year period of record and replenishing our drought-stricken groundwater basins is a critical part of California’s vision for a sustainable water future. However, the state’s ability to take full advantage of this precipitation to recharge our depleted aquifers remains limited.

One of the many tools designed to help agencies and water managers comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is groundwater banking or any effort to retain or place water in an aquifer that would not otherwise occur. This effort can take various forms including: conjunctive use—the substitution of surface water for groundwater to reduce pumping); in-lieu recharge—the supply of surface water to users who otherwise rely on groundwater; and managed aquifer recharge (MAR)—the active recharge of groundwater with surface water through dedicated infiltration basins or injection wells. Maximizing these tools, however, will require rethinking both water management and infrastructure. … “

Continue reading at Stanford’s Water in the West here:  Why we can’t just suck it up: The challenges of groundwater recharge in California

Local Management Plans May Not Protect California Groundwater from Climate Change Risk

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

“While hundreds of local agencies across California draft their plans to ensure the sustainability of groundwater basins, water experts say in a white paper released today that these state-mandated plans need to incorporate climate change impacts to be sustainable. The paper is intended to serve as a resource to help agencies do just that. The white paper was published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Stanford University’s Water in the West program.

“Many water managers are not trained in the climate science needed to understand how best to estimate the future impacts of climate change on their water resources,” said Geeta Persad, Ph.D., post-doctoral scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford and co-author.” Yet the law requires them to incorporate climate change into their plans, which is extremely difficult to do on the scale of a groundwater basin, even with more funding and expertise. This white paper aims to help them navigate the process of incorporating climate change projections appropriately,” she said. … “

Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: Local Management Plans May Not Protect California Groundwater from Climate Change Risk

California’s groundwater basins get new “pilots” – and in some cases, several

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

“Imagine trying to fly a plane while it’s still being built. Impossible, right? Yet, this is how one presenter at a recent Groundwater Resources Association meeting described the challenge that lies ahead for many newly formed agencies responsible for managing groundwater basins in California.

For local agencies involved in managing groundwater, the past few years haven’t been easy ones. But not just because the state was gripped by extreme drought. A new state law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014, required local agencies, in consultation with groundwater users, to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) before June 30, 2017. Otherwise, the state could step in. … “

Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here:  California’s groundwater basins get new “pilots” – and in some cases, several

San Mateo Plain Groundwater Subbasin: A Local Case Study

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

“Prior to the passage of the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, groundwater withdrawals in California were largely unregulated. As part of initial compliance with this Act’s requirements, groundwater basins designated by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) as high or medium priority must form new agencies—Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs)—by June 30 of this year. These agencies will be responsible for developing and implementing plans to ensure that each basin is managed sustainably within 20 years of plan adoption.

DWR estimates that the 127 high and medium priority basins account for 96 percent of groundwater pumping in the state. However, basins like the San Mateo Plain Subbasin (Basin) that are not currently used as a primary water supply source (and thus have been categorized as low and very low priority and not subject to SGMA regulations), are increasingly being looked at to serve as a supplemental water supply. This blog post follows the public process that the County of San Mateo initiated last year to better understand the Basin. … “

Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: San Mateo Plain Groundwater Subbasin: A Local Case Study