UPDATED TOOL: New features added to Water Tracker, a tool that displays the distribution of surface water across the Central Valley

From Point Blue Conservation Service:

With summer in full swing, it may be time to begin evaluating plans for the coming fall and winter seasons. If you are interested in learning more about the distribution of surface water across the Central Valley both in the past and in near real-time, we invite you to explore some exciting new features at Water Tracker – www.pointblue.org/watertracker

Explore wetland vegetation. Recent work by USGS provides annual maps of wetland vegetation across the Central Valley.

Two layers are available:

Wetland vegetation type, aka moist soil seed plants (swamp timothy, watergrass, cocklebur, etc.)
Habitat structure (tall emergent, open water, bare ground, etc.)

These data (2007-2017) are now available for viewing and downloading from the Map Viewer in Water Tracker. Learn more about from a recent publication led by Kristin Byrd at USGS.

Summaries of water from custom areas. You can now upload a shapefile or draw a custom spatial area and then, both download the data, AND get a summary of water in that area over time with interactive time-series plots. See an example here.

Coming soon. In the next several months we plan to make more data layers available including fallow fields (2000-2017), bird distribution/suitability (4 shorebirds, 4 waterfowl), giant garter snake distribution/suitability, groundwater recharge (based on Basin Characterization Model) and more!

What do managers need?

At the Central Valley Wetland Managers meeting in March, we shared spatial data we are currently developing, including fallow fields, wetland vegetation and types, groundwater recharge potential, bird and snake distribution/suitability maps, as well as some of the forecasting tools (within-year and long-term) in development.

A survey of participants in the meeting resulted in helpful feedback:

(1) most wetland managers’ first priority is their wetland complex
(2) for data to be most helpful for decision-making it should be made available in February/March and July/August, and
(3) visualizations and semi-custom summaries and/or reports appear to be the most appealing at this point.

We want these data and technologies to be useful and help wetland managers do their jobs, so we will be working to make sure that Water Tracker can deliver on these needs for wetland managers. Any feedback from the community is welcome. Email us at watertracker@pointblue.org to let us know what you need.

How is 2020 looking so far?

Overall, based on data from Water Tracker, the first 5 months of 2020 had, on average, 10% lower open water than the 2013-2019 average for these months. Only April had more open on the landscape water than the previous 7-year average and February had the lowest with a 17% reduction from average conditions. This is not surprising given the dry spell this winter. The estimated extent of open water in seasonal wetlands was also lower (-5%) across the first 5 months of 2020 compared to the recent 7-year average.

What is Water Tracker?

As a reminder, Water Tracker uses Landsat satellite imagery to update the distribution of open surface water in the Central Valley. It’s refreshed every 16 days. Water Tracker displays where open surface water is in the Central Valley in map form and also provides data summaries.

Anyone can quickly and easily get a picture of where the water is and isn’t, now and in the recent past. Data are available starting in 2013 (as far back as 2000 can be requested). Data can also be downloaded directly from Water Tracker.

There are a multitude of ways these data can inform decisions. Recent examples include 1) using the tool to decide on the best places to add water for the millions of waterbirds that rely on the Central Valley, and 2) to better understand the impacts of extreme drought on waterbird habitat availability.

Tell us how you are using Water Tracker

Please share your stories with us about how you are using Water Tracker at watertracker@pointblue.org. The best way for us to support this free, open-source resource is through understanding and highlighting how it is most useful.

Thank you for using and sharing Water Tracker in an effort to work towards meeting the water needs of both wildlife and people.

Click here for the Water Tracker Tool.

SGMA in the News

Farmland values hinge on future water availability:  “Availability of water and the impact of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act continue to be a main focus when California agricultural appraisers determine land values, particularly in water-short regions.  During a business conference held virtually last week, the California Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers also touched on other issues affecting land values, including supply-and-demand dynamics for various crops and market conditions, especially under COVID-19. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Farmland values hinge on future water availability

Dairy’s shrinking water footprint: a key piece of the SGMA puzzle:  “The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and other anticipated water restrictions pose major challenges for California agriculture. Without effective solutions, economists have estimated that up to one million acres of farmland will be fallowed, resulting in a revenue loss of $7.2 billion per year. As the state’s top agricultural commodity, dairy farming is an important part of the SGMA challenge. Fortunately, dairy farmers have an excellent track record for water savings and are continuing to adopt innovative strategies to advance environmental sustainability and help meet the water conservation challenges ahead. … ”  Read more from Water Wrights here: Dairy’s shrinking water footprint: a key piece of the SGMA puzzle

Sacramento region plans to store water underground as a climate change adaptation strategy:  “The Sacramento region is preparing for the long term impacts of the climate crisis when it comes to water supply. Central to the plan is a groundwater storage program with two to three times the space of Folsom Lake.  As the climate warms it’ll likely become harder to fill up reservoirs, because the snowpack could be small for multiple years. Think of the nearly empty reservoirs across California during the most recent drought.  “We’re expecting in the future to have more severe droughts and potential for Folsom Reservoir to not fill up with the frequency that it does,” said James Peifer, executive director of the Regional Water Authority.  ... ” Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Sacramento region plans to store water underground as a climate change adaptation strategy

Proposed changes to Paso Robles Groundwater Basin boundaries draw anger and skepticism from landowners:  “After seven years of water restrictions over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, San Luis Obispo County is redrawing the basin’s boundaries, which will subject hundreds of new property owners to a moratorium on irrigating and other rules.   The revised map is part of a package of changes to the county ordinance that regulates the 684-square-mile aquifer in North County. Passed in 2013 amid an ongoing drought, the ordinance was recently extended to 2022 to buy time for the Paso Groundwater Sustainability Plan—which is currently being reviewed by the state—to get implemented. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here:  Proposed changes to Paso Robles Groundwater Basin boundaries draw anger and skepticism from landowners

Fillmore: Groundwater recharge capturing project completed:  “According to the state, this year is the 11th driest snowpack on record since 1950 and with the State Water Project announcing it will deliver only 20% of requested water supplies in 2020, projects like the Piru Stormwater Capture for Groundwater Recharge Project are critical to Ventura County’s important water supplies. This project will provide a sustainable source for recharge of the Piru Groundwater Basin and improve water quality in Piru Creek. … ”  Read more from the Fillmore Gazette here: Groundwater recharge capturing project completed

SGMA in the news

Groundwater plans could cause up to 12,000 drinking water wells to run dry:  “If all goes according to plan — actually 26 groundwater sustainability plans — between 46,000 and nearly 130,000 Central Valley residents could be out of water by 2040, according to a new report released by the Water Foundation.  Those sustainability plans are supposed to bring the valley’s depleted aquifers into balance, per the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  But, the Water Foundation report asserts, groundwater sustainability agencies, governed mostly by members of agricultural water districts, are planning for water tables to decline to the point they could dry up between 4,000 and 12,000 domestic wells over the next 20 years. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Groundwater plans could cause up to 12,000 drinking water wells to run dry

New USGS geonarrative pinpoints domestic well locations in United States:  “A new U.S. Geological Survey geonarrative illustrates where domestic (private) water wells are located and how many people are using them, based on the results of a 2019 USGS study. Nearly 40 million people in the United States rely on a domestic well for their drinking-water supply.  The geonarrative displays interactive maps that allow the user to view the number of people who rely on domestic wells per square kilometer, and the number and percentage of people by state using domestic wells. Users can zoom in on any area, although the maps are not intended to be used at the scale of a single house. … ”  Read more from the USGS here: New USGS geonarrative pinpoints domestic well locations in United States

Groundwater accountability sparks clash of Central Valley ag titans:  “Two giant Central Valley farming companies are slinging serious mud at one another over groundwater.  And, in a rare break with tradition, they’re doing it in public.  The fight has spilled out in public comments on the Tulare Lake Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan, which covers most of Kings County.  The titans behind the comments are J.G. Boswell Company and Sandridge Partners, owned by John Vidovich. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Groundwater accountability sparks clash of Central Valley ag titans

Napa County taps citizens to plan groundwater sustainability plan:  “Napa County’s annual groundwater “snapshot” for 2019 depicts a subbasin under the floor of world-famous wine country that isn’t being sucked dry by wells.  Water users pumped 18,005 acre-feet of water from the Napa Valley subbasin last year. That is within the annual sustainable yield of 17,000 to 20,000 acre-feet, according to the Luhdorff & Scalmanini consulting firm. ... ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: Napa County taps citizens to plan groundwater sustainability plan

SGMA in the news

Mendocino City Community Services District creates special groundwater committee:  “At the monthly Mendocino City Community Services District meeting, the board discussed rain levels and a newly formed groundwater management committee.  As of May 19, rainfall totals for the current rain year are 50 percent of normal. Mendocino has received 20.32 inches during the current water year. The forty-year average for this time of year is twice that at 40.04 inches. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Beacon here: Mendocino City Community Services District creates special groundwater committee

Central Valley water districts take aim at each other’s groundwater plans:  “There is no tougher playground than California’s water world.  Just take a look at the zingers flying back and forth between water districts on one another’s groundwater sustainability plans posted on the Department of Water Resources’ website.  “It’s like a giant game of dodgeball,” said Dana Munn, General Manager of Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Central Valley water districts take aim at each other’s groundwater plans

 

MONITORING WELLS: DWR Helps Locals by Installing ‘Eyes Underground’

From the Department of Water Resources:

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, passed in 2014, requires locally formed groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) to create 20-year plans, called groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs). These plans map out how GSAs will manage their groundwater for long-term sustainability, which can be challenging when there isn’t a clear understanding of the movement, depth, quantity, quality, and interaction of groundwater with surface water in a basin.

To help fill in this missing information, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) works with local water agencies to install groundwater monitoring wells. Unlike water production wells, monitoring wells do not remove groundwater, but instead use one or more small diameter pipes placed anywhere from 50 feet to 2,000 feet deep. The pipes house electronic equipment that continuously measures groundwater level information. Groundwater samples can also be manually collected from these wells to check for water quality.

Read more from DWR News here:  Monitoring Wells: DWR Helps Locals by Installing ‘Eyes Underground’

WANT TO KNOW MORE?  Check out DWR’s Technical Services, which includes monitoring well installation, geophysical logging, geologic logging, groundwater level monitoring training, borehole video logging, and other field activities – and can even be at no cost to qualifying GSAs.  Go to this page and click on the Technical Services tab.

SGMA in the news

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Mendocino City Community Services District Board adopts groundwater ordinance, contingency plan:  “The Mendocino City Community Services District Board held a special meeting May 18 to vote on their groundwater extraction permit and water shortage contingency plan ordinances.  The vote followed familiar lines, with Board President Harold Hauck, Vice President Jim Sullivan and board member Jean Arnold voting yes, and board member Otto Rice voting no.  Rice said that he agreed with the concept of managing groundwater and sharing resources but remained unhappy about the process the board has taken. The process is dictated by California Water Law. The reason the ordinances were voided last year is that the law was not followed when the ordinances were passed over a decade ago. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Beacon here: Mendocino City Community Services District Board adopts groundwater ordinance, contingency plan

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Feds say Tule groundwater could continue to sink:  “Without the construction of the 152-mile Friant-Kern Canal in 1951 at the cost of $61 million, many of the best producing ag areas along the east side of the San Joaquin Valley would be out of business. That’s because farmers had pumped themselves dry by the late 1940s. Productive citrus growing areas like Orange Cove, Lindsay and Terra Bella have little groundwater available to this day.  The canal serves farms and communities from Chowchilla in the north to Arvin Edison near the Grapevine in the south. Its waters boost the area’s economy to the tune of millions of dollars.  As the Valley moves forward on sustainable groundwater monitoring plans and proposed pumping restrictions by district, the gravity-fed canal that is key to survival for 15,000 east side farms continues to be impacted by subsidence. ... ” Read more from the Foothills News-Gazette here: Feds say Tule groundwater could continue to sink

ENVIRO DOCS: A look at the Friant Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project:  “On May 8, the Bureau of Reclamation and Friant Water Authority released a draft environmental impact statement/environmental impact report for the project to repair a 33-mile stretch of the Friant-Kern Canal in the eastern San Joaquin Valley which has been damaged by subsidence. This has reduced capacity of the canal, resulting in a reduction of water deliveries of up to 300,000 acre-feet in certain water years. The Friant Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project would restore capacity from the current estimated 1,600 cfs to the original design capacity of 4,000 cfs.  The release of the documents starts a public comment period that will end at 5 p.m. on June 22. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Friant Water Authority will host an online public meeting on June 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to collect public comments. ... ”  Continue reading at Maven’s Notebook here:  ENVIRO DOCS: A look at the Friant Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project

Feinstein introduces bill to restore San Joaquin Valley canals, improve water supply:  “Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act, a bill to authorize $800 million in federal funding to repair critical canals in the San Joaquin Valley damaged by land sinking from overpumping of groundwater, known as subsidence, and for environmental restoration.   If the canals are not restored to their original capacity, 20 percent of the farmland – approximately 1 million acres – might have to be retired in a region that produces $36 billion in crops annually, including a third of the nation’s produce.  Representatives Jim Costa and TJ Cox (both D-Calif.) have introduced similar legislation in the House. ... ”  Read more from Maven’s Notebook here: Feinstein introduces bill to restore San Joaquin Valley canals, improve water supply

NRCS partnership to enhance San Joaquin Valley water efficiency:  “The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with American Farmland Trust (AFT) to help enhance San Joaquin Valley water efficiency.   The San Joaquin Valley Land and Water Conservation Collaboration is being made possible through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program from NRCS, in coordination with state and local partners.  “We’re going to over the next five years, have some pretty sizable achievements,” said AFT California Regional Director Kara Heckert. “To protect our agricultural land in the valley to ensure resilience to climate change through healthy soils, high-quality surface and groundwater supplies, and environmentally sound habitats for fish and wildlife.” ... :  Read more from Ag Net West here: NRCS partnership to enhance San Joaquin Valley water efficiency

Ripon OKs groundwater JPA with SSJID, Escalon:  “The City of Ripon is now part of the South San Joaquin Groundwater Sustainable Agency.  The Ripon City Council recently approved the Joint Exercise of Powers Agreement, partnering with the South San Joaquin Irrigation District and City of Escalon.  “The State requires we provide groundwater sustainability,” said City Administrator Kevin Werner on the Groundwater Sustainability Agency as a Joint Powers Authority at the May 12 meeting. ... ”  Read more from the Ripon Advance here: Ripon OKs groundwater JPA with SSJID, Escalon

Nut of the Future? With droughts inevitable, more farmers are switching from almonds to pistachios, but not everyone is happy about it:  “Rain scarcely fell in the San Joaquin Valley in 2013, the second year of California’s five-year drought and one of the driest years in the state’s recorded history. For Sarah Woolf and her family, growers of tomatoes, vegetables, grapes and almonds, these unprecedented conditions, coupled with new restrictions on groundwater pumping, prompted a shift of gears: They would plant drought-hardy pistachios. … ”  Read more from Comstock’s Magazine here:  Nut of the Future?

ONLINE COURSE: Introduction to Groundwater, Watersheds, and Groundwater Sustainability Plans

Registration just $100 and includes textbook; reduced rates for state agency employees, GSAs, and those attending GRA’s GSA Summit

Understanding groundwater and watersheds and how we monitor, assess, and sustainably manage these resources is critical and integral to California Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) and other water management programs.  Private citizens, professionals, decision makers, executives, agency employees, and stakeholders with diverse backgrounds and in a wide variety of private, non-profit, and government responsibilities are increasingly engaged in the sustainable management and assessment of groundwater and surface water.

This online short course will review the fundamental principles of groundwater and watershed hydrology, water budgets, water quality, and water law and regulation in an intuitive, highly accessible fashion. Through real world examples, participants learn about the most common tools for measuring, monitoring, and assessing groundwater and surface water resources. We then review the key steps and elements of planning for groundwater sustainability.  Case studies are used so participants learn about

  • development of conceptual models, water budgets, and GSP sustainability criteria;
  • designing minimum thresholds and operating targets (measureable objectives) for GSPs and how to link those to monitoring networks;
  • methods for addressing climate variability and climate change;
  • recharge as a tool to enhance groundwater supplies;
  • local Groundwater Sustainability Agency governance; and
  • available online planning resources.

Click here to register.

Who Should Attend?

The course is specifically geared towards an audience that is or will be involved in the management, assessment, and protection of groundwater and surface water resources under California’s SGMA or similar programs.  The course will also be useful for those who engage with, e.g., source water assessments, urban water management plans, and integrated regional water management plans. Course attendees, who may have some experience with but no formal training in hydrology or related engineering or science fields, will benefit from the basic and intuitive, yet comprehensive approach of this course.

Date:

Thursdays
May 21 and 28, June 4, 18, and 25
9 a.m. – 12 p.m.  PDT (GMT-0700)
This shortcourse will be provided online using Zoom.

Cost:  $100 / $60

Reduced fees ($60) are available to state agency employees, members of California Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (board, staff, advisory committees) and to participants of the GRA Groundwater Sustainability Planning Summit, June 10-11, 2020.

Scholarships are available for attendees in financial need.

Click here for more information and to register.

SGMA in the news

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Supervisors agree to form groundwater agency for Eel River Basin:  “The last item on the agenda, following a lengthy closed session, was a public hearing to consider forming a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for the Eel River basin.  Hank Seemann, the county’s deputy director of environmental services, explained that local officials don’t really want to form such an agency because they don’t believe one is really necessary. County staff had submitted a Groundwater Sustainability Plan Alternative, in lieu of a full plan, to the California Department of Water Resources, arguing that the precious groundwater in that basin is not at risk of drying up under the current uses and conditions. … ”  Read more from the Lost Coast Outpost here: Supervisors agree to form groundwater agency for Eel River Basin

SAN JOAQUIN BASIN

How reliable are Groundwater Sustainability Plans? Earlier this year, the first local Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) were submitted to California’s Department of Water Resources for basins with the most severe groundwater overdraft.  To comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, these plans must address any “significant and unreasonable” impacts of groundwater overdraft that occurred after January 1, 2015, including lowering groundwater levels and other “undesirable results.” The math for ending overdraft is simple: groundwater basins must balance their budgets, by increasing groundwater recharge and reducing pumping.  In principle, evaluating the adequacy of these plans to achieve sustainability should also be simple: Does the anticipated reduction in pumping plus increase in recharge equal or exceed the basin’s long-term rate of overdraft? ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: How reliable are Groundwater Sustainability Plans?

Farmers hijack community water access despite groundwater act, activists say:  “When a fire started on the property next door to Ray Cano’s home, the neighbors used Cano’s hose and well to fight the flames. Running the pump at full throttle, they managed to control the blaze until the fire department arrived. Then, the well’s pump sputtered to a stop.  Cano later called a well inspector, who did some basic probing and discovered the problem: The well had run dry, causing the pump’s motor to overheat. Cano had the man install a new pump and run the line about 40 feet deeper.  “He said that would last me another three or four years,” said Cano, a mailman who lives with his wife in Tombstone Territory, a cluster of homes in central Fresno County surrounded by orchards.  That was in May 2015 ... ”  Read more from KCET here:  Farmers hijack community water access despite groundwater act, activists say

Tulare County: Deadline extended for second round of GSP comments:  “As Groundwater Sustainability Agencies continue implementing their plans, the state has extended the deadline for the second round of public comments, citing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Eric Osterling, the general manager of the Greater Kaweah GSA, said that despite the pandemic, GSAs are continuing to work and implement their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP).  We can’t stop. It seems like so much has stopped, but we don’t have the luxury to stop,” Osterling said. “We have deadlines that we still have to meet and we have to show what work we’ve put in during our annual report.” … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Deadline extended for second round of GSP comments

VENTURA COUNTY

The Fox Canyon water market: a market-based tool for groundwater conservation goes live:  “Ventura County, California, is an agricultural powerhouse. In 2017, its revenues from agriculture were an estimated $2.1 billion. It also faces extraordinary population pressure, with nearly 450 people per square mile – about five times the average population density of the United States. Both agriculture and infrastructure are dependent on, and impacted by, the availability of water – which has itself been impacted by California’s rapidly-diminishing groundwater reserves. … Following passage of SGMA, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) applied for and received a $1.8 million Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop the Fox Canyon Water Market. ... ” Read more from the Department of Agriculture here: The Fox Canyon water market: a market-based tool for groundwater conservation goes live

ESSAY ON RESOURCE GOVERNANCE

Resource governance in the American West: Institutions, information, and incentives: “The American West is a peculiar place. Depending on the location, the West can be drier, wetter, hotter, colder, or more rugged than the eastern United States. Much of the West receives only five to fifteen inches of precipitation each year, compared to thirty to fifty inches in eastern states. Regional variation is also much greater in the West. … Drawing from the insights of Ostrom and others, this chapter explores the emergence of various institutions governing the management of natural resources in the American West, both past and present, and discusses modern challenges associated with natural resource governance. It concludes by exploring policy reforms that would enable more cooperative, bottom-up solutions to today’s resource management challenges in the American West. … ”  Read more from PERC here:  Resource governance in the American West: Institutions, information, and incentives

SGMA in the news

Droughts exposed California’s thirst for groundwater. Now, the state hopes to refill its aquifers:  “California’s Central Valley—one of the richest agricultural regions in the world—is sinking. During a recent intense drought, from 2012 to 2016, parts of the valley sank as much as 60 centimeters per year. “It isn’t like an earthquake; it doesn’t happen, boom,” says Claudia Faunt, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. But it is evidence of a slow-motion disaster, the result of the region’s insatiable thirst for groundwater. … ”  Read more from Science Magazine here:  Droughts exposed California’s thirst for groundwater. Now, the state hopes to refill its aquifers

Allocating floodwaters to replenish groundwater basins:  “How can floodwaters reduce groundwater overdraft?  Water users have two options for bringing overdrafted groundwater basins into balance: reduce pumping or increase groundwater supplies. In many places, recharging basins with floodwaters from winter and spring storms is one of the most promising supply-side approaches. With SGMA, interest in capturing this water is at an all-time high. In the San Joaquin Valley, 28 of the 36 groundwater sustainability plans propose recharge projects. Total demand for floodwaters is so high that it outstrips what is likely to be available. Competition could be fierce. ... ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Allocating floodwaters to replenish groundwater basins

Water availability for San Joaquin Valley farms: a balancing act: “Why does surface water access matter for groundwater sustainability?  Although the San Joaquin Valley has the largest groundwater deficit in the state, water resources vary considerably within the region. A few areas receive abundant surface water. Most others supplement with groundwater. Still others depend entirely on groundwater. In many areas, groundwater is being used at unsustainable rates and pumping will need to be cut to bring basins into balance. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here:  Water availability for San Joaquin Valley farms: a balancing act

Dairy operators strike balance to protect groundwater:  “Over the last 20 years, University of California research has shown that dairies in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys of California are potentially major contributors of nitrate and salts in groundwater, and to maintain groundwater quality, the California Water Resources Control Board has ramped up regulations to ensure that dairy manure and wastewater application isn’t contaminating the aquifer.  University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisor Nick Clark is helping farmers in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties of California work through the process and continue producing crops sustainably now and in the future. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Dairy operators strike balance to protect groundwater

SGMA Through the Lens of an Agricultural Lender:  Jerred Davis, Conterra Ag AVP Relationship Manager writes:  “Surface water supplies and weather conditions in California lack predictability. Over time the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range has shown a boom and bust pattern. The one constant historically relied upon by agricultural operations, and those financing them, was groundwater, either as a primary or supplemental supply. Entire operations may have depended on 100 percent groundwater, and that method was not considered high-risk.  As many aquifers, especially within the San Joaquin Valley and some coastal areas continued to be over drafted due in large part to regulatory constraints in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and other key watersheds, subsidence, water quality issues and other issues arose again. It was to resolve these issues (among other reasons) that the Federal and State surface water projects were developed decades ago. … ”  Read more from Water Wrights here: SGMA Through the Lens of an Agricultural Lender

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Water District board hears updated water solution alternatives:  “The IWV Water District updated its presentation regarding alternative water sources to it has explored over the years during a virtual board meeting Monday night.  The meeting, held via a Webex meeting app, was full of first-time glitches, including a lot of feedback from microphones and speakers, delays in speakers presenting and difficulty registering verbal public comment.  Consulting engineer Chuck Krieger went over some of the basic alternatives the water district had considered in the past, including the ideas of acquiring and following agricultural land in the basin, recycled water alternatives, and Searles Valley Mineral’s ability to become self-reliant. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Water District board hears updated water solution alternatives

Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board kicks Mojave Pistachios off committees:  “Mojave Pistachios, one of the largest agricultural operations in the Indian Wells Valley, was removed from the IWV Groundwater Authority’s two advisory committees following nonpayment of a pump fee on Thursday.  The decision came following a lengthy discussion and eventual 4-1 vote by the board of directors. Ron Kiciski, representing the IWV Water District, was the lone no vote.  “If we give [Mojave Pistachios] a pass, we will have to give a pass to (IWV Water District) ratepayers,” Geason said. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board kicks Mojave Pistachios off committees

SGMA news from around the state

STATEWIDE NEWS

With sustainability plans filed, groundwater agencies now must figure out how to pay for them:  “The bill is coming due, literally, to protect and restore groundwater in California.  Local agencies in the most depleted groundwater basins in California spent months putting together plans to show how they will achieve balance in about 20 years.  Now, after submitting those plans to the state in January, groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) must figure how to pay for them. Protecting, preserving and restoring critically overdrafted groundwater basins takes money — to administer the plan, and eventually for the brick-and-mortar groundwater projects that will help keep large swaths of San Joaquin Valley agriculture in business. Passing those costs to the people pulling water from an aquifer could be complicated. ... ”  Read more from Western Water here: With sustainability plans filed, groundwater agencies now must figure out how to pay for them

Groundwater sustainability planning undeterred by COVID-19:  “COVID-19 has forced many of us to find creative ways of working together while sheltering in place. For California’s new groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs), that means bringing together diverse groups of stakeholders in virtual forums to develop and implement state-mandated groundwater sustainability plans. We talked to Dave Ceppos—who, as managing senior mediator at Sacramento State’s Consensus and Collaboration Program, is working with many GSAs—about how the pandemic is affecting the complex public outreach process required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). … ”  Read more from the PPIC here:  Groundwater sustainability planning undeterred by COVID-19

A low snowpack makes it imperative to better manage groundwater supplies. Here’s how.  “Despite the much-needed April showers we saw this week, our normally wet January and February were bone dry in most of California. So it came as little surprise when the annual April 1 snowpack measurement in the Sierras came in low, at about 53% of average statewide. It’s another important reminder of how California’s weather, and consequently our water supplies, are swinging to greater extremes.  The low snowpack and extreme weather it signals make it more imperative than ever to carefully manage another part of our water system: underground water supplies. … ”  Continue reading at the Environmental Defense Fund here: A low snowpack makes it imperative to better manage groundwater supplies. Here’s how.

Groundwater might be newest cash crop for Valley farmers:  “San Joaquin Valley farmers may soon have another crop to sell along with almonds, tomatoes, and peppers — the groundwater beneath their land.  Proposed groundwater markets have popped up in just about every groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) filed with the state Jan. 31.  One such market is about to launch its first phase within the next week in Kern County.  The proposed markets are being touted by some as a way to limit groundwater pumping while still allowing farmers the flexibility to optimize their resources.  Others are worried groundwater markets could devastate disadvantaged communities and small farmers who don’t have the resources to compete with giant farming companies such as Wonderful and Boswell. … ”  Read more from GV Wire here: Groundwater might be newest cash crop for Valley farmers

California groundwater wells receive grades for improvement and degradation:  “In California, groundwater is a major source for drinking and other uses. Identifying where groundwater quality is getting better or worse is essential for managing groundwater resources.  A new study conducted by a team from the California Water Science Center, led by Research Hydrologist Bryant Jurgens, assessed areas of improving and degrading groundwater-quality by using a new metric for scoring. The scoring was based on how high chemical concentrations were and whether they were getting better or worse and how rapidly or slowly they were changing. This work was conducted in nine hydrogeologic provinces throughout California. The location of the provinces generally corresponded to groundwater basins identified by the California Department of Water Resources. ... ”  Read more from the USGS here: California groundwater wells receive grades for improvement and degradation

NORTH COAST

Mendocino:  Groundwater management hearings set for late April:  “Registered voters that live in Mendocino have the opportunity and responsibility to decide the direction of groundwater management in Mendocino at two upcoming Mendocino City Community Services District Public Hearings scheduled for April 16 and 27.  The purpose of the April 16 hearing is to consider the adoption of Resolutions of Intention to adopt an amendment to the Groundwater Extraction Permit, re-adopt the Water Shortage Contingency Plan and its accompanying Ordinance.  … ” Read more from the Fort Bragg Advocate here:  Groundwater management hearings set for late April

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

What’s the plan to end groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley? SGMA requires water users to bring their groundwater basins into long-term balance over the next two decades. Although there are no easy solutions, the math is simple: bringing these basins into balance will require expanding water supplies, reducing water demands, or a combination of these two approaches.  Our in-depth study of water solutions for the San Joaquin Valley found that about a quarter of the region’s 1.8 million acre-feet (maf) of annual overdraft could be filled with new supplies at a cost that local water users can afford. Among supply options, by far the most promising approach is expanding groundwater recharge: storing more of the runoff from large storms in underground aquifers. Filling the remaining three-quarters of the gap will likely require demand reductions. Since agriculture is the predominant water user, this will entail taking some farmland—at least 500,000 acres—out of production. Giving farmers the flexibility to trade water—so it can be used on the most productive lands—can reduce the costs of ending overdraft by two-thirds. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here:  What’s the plan to end groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley?

Price of reclaimed water still too high for ag:  “If you’re a Central Valley farmer and haven’t yet been hit up by someone about reusing crummy water for irrigation — just wait.  Companies are springing up all over with the latest gizmo they believe will take nasty, salty water, mostly from shallow aquifers on the valley’s west side or oilfield produced water, and make clean “new” irrigation water.  It’s true, there are ways to clean even the worst water.  … Each has its pros and cons, but two big questions always remain: What about the waste? What’s the energy cost? … ”  Continue reading at SJV Water here: Price of reclaimed water still too high for ag