Video: Using vineyards to recharge California’s groundwater

Drought has become an issue in California, and one way to help that are vineyards. California Ag Net explains how researchers are using farmland to recharge groundwater.”

Watch video segment from RFD TV here: Using vineyards to recharge California’s groundwater

For more on groundwater recharge, visit the groundwater recharge page at the Groundwater Exchange by clicking here.

Mapping Ground Subsidence

Subsidence of land surfaces has increasingly become a greater concern around the world as groundwater has continued to be depleted due to increase water demand while surface water depletion means that populations increasingly look to use subsurface water.

The lowering of Earth’s land surfaces promises to be a major problem for urban and rural regions and mapping these threats accurately may prove important to plan, prevent, and minimize this threat.

Using a literature review and spatial analysis, it is evident that some 34 countries are at major risk in the coming decades for major subsidence of their land surface. In particular, a recent mapping effort that looks at every 30 arc seconds resolution across the globe identified that very flat areas with unconsolidated sediments accumulated in alluvial basins or coastal plains are the most vulnerable.

Click here to continue reading at the GIS Lounge.

SGMA in the news

Department of Conservation awards $1.5M in grants to support State’s Groundwater Management Plan

The California Department of Conservation (DOC) today announced five watershed coordinator grants totaling $1.5 million to support regional sustainable groundwater management goals. The grants will go to organizations around the state within medium- and high-priority groundwater basins.  “California’s world-class economy – its unparalleled agricultural sector, diversity, and abundance of industry and communities of all sizes and geographies — depends on water, and with the reality of climate change, that increasingly means groundwater,” DOC Director David Shabazian said. “Groundwater is a critical resource that we must manage more intently to meet today’s needs while also ensuring adequate water supply in the future. These grants, which support the goals of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), help us do that.”  … ”  Read more from the Department of Conservation here:  Department of Conservation awards $1.5M in grants to support State’s Groundwater Management Plan

Managing groundwater overdraft – combining crop and water decisions (without salinity)

” … This post summarizes some recent research examining conjunctive water management for agriculture integrating hydro-economic optimization models on two timescales, neglecting for now salinity effects on crop yield: an intermediate term 10-year stochastic model of water and crop management spanning dry and wet years, and a far horizon (100 years of 10-year stages) management model which embeds intermediate-term model to represent longer-term aquifer targets (Yao 2020). The modeling was applied for conditions similar to California’s San Joaquin Valley.  Integrated economically-driven optimization of permanent and annual crop acreages and water management for these two timescales identifies some economically-promising strategies considering both crop decisions and water management to mitigate groundwater overdraft. … ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Managing groundwater overdraft – combining crop and water decisions (without salinity)

Dusty barren fields or thriving farmland and habitat? This bill creates a better vision for California’s future

“[On Friday], Assemblymembers Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and vice-chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) introduced a bill, AB 252, to help farmers and rural communities adapt to more sustainable groundwater use while simultaneously creating new benefits for people and wildlife.  AB 252, sponsored by EDF, will help create opportunities on these previously irrigated agricultural land and ease the transition to sustainable groundwater management. It will create a new program through the California Department of Conservation to provide incentive payments to landowners who voluntarily and strategically repurpose at least some portion of their agricultural land to other less water-intensive uses for at least 10 years. … ”  Read more from EDF’s Growing Returns here: Dusty barren fields or thriving farmland and habitat? This bill creates a better vision for California’s future

SEE ALSO: Assemblymembers Robert Rivas and Rudy Salas introduce legislation to maximize benefits of Sustainable Groundwater Management requirements, from Benito Link

Water games: Madera farmers set to test market

Madera County farmers are getting ready to play what could be the “game” of their livelihoods.  The county groundwater sustainability agency will launch a groundwater market simulation, or game, next month as a way for growers to see if selling and trading their groundwater helps make the most of what will become a severely limited resource in coming years.  Groundwater markets have emerged throughout the San Joaquin Valley as potential tools to help reduce groundwater pumping per the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Water games: Madera farmers set to test market

GSA, Friant Water settle on subsidence payments

A major portion of funding to repair subsidence in the Friant-Kern Canal was secured last week in a settlement between the canal’s operator, the groundwater agency where subsidence is taking place and the irrigation district most affected by the lack of conveyance.  On Jan. 7, the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency (ETGSA) Board of Directors approved an agreement with the Friant Water Authority (FWA) and Arvin Edison Water Storage District where the GSA would pay up to $220 million to repair the section of the canal between Lindsay and McFarland where overdrafting groundwater has played a significant role in the subsidence of the canal, according to hydrological studies. The board reported the vote following a closed session on the settlement. ... ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here:  GSA, Friant Water settle on subsidence payments

Agreement between the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency and the Friant Water Authority will allow transitional pumping to continue

The agreement between the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency and the Friant Water Authority will provide additional funding for repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal.  But the agreement will also help the ETGSA meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act while allowing growers in the district to continue “transitional” pumping.  On January 7, the ETGSA Board approved the agreement with the Friant Water Authority, which oversees the Friant-Kern Canal. The ETGSA oversees the Groundwater Sustainable Plan to meet the requirements of the SGMA to reduce the use of groundwater by a certain amount by 2040. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Agreement will allow transitional pumping to continue

Kings River floodwater dispute goes to the state

A bid by Kern County farmers to take Kings River floodwater officially got underway Tuesday as state regulators hashed out procedures and next steps with the various parties.  An initial hearing had been set for April 15, but may now be pushed back to July, depending on how Administrative Hearing Officer Nicole Kuenzi rules.  Kuenzi discussed coming deadlines and other procedural issues with representatives of the Kings River Water Association, Semitropic Water Storage District and others during a pre-hearing conference Tuesday morning. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Kings River floodwater dispute goes to the state

Delano’s “big dig”

The state’s new groundwater law has prompted a lot of dirt movement in the Central Valley.  The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act passed in 2014 mandates that overdrafted water basins get their aquifers in balance — don’t pump out more than goes back in — by 2040.  In order to get there without massive farmland fallowing, most valley water managers have been adding as many acres of recharge ground as possible. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Delano’s “big dig”

Santa Clarita Valley Water calling for input on Saugus Formation Aquifer

Santa Clarita Valley community members are invited to provide input to SCV Water on the removal of hazardous substances that have been identified in the Saugus Formation Aquifer.  The water agency is aiming to keep its water safe for drinking water consumption through minimizing and mitigating the public health and environmental effects of hazardous substances that have been identified.  The public is invited to review and comment on the engineering evaluation/cost analysis dated January 2021 regarding SCV Water’s proposed non-time-critical removal action for the Saugus aquifer and the associated community involvement plan. … ”  Read more from the SCV Signal here: Santa Clarita Valley Water calling for input on Saugus Formation Aquifer

Kern County: Court approves Cummings Basin amended, restated judgment

A Kern County Superior Court judge recently approved an updated water management plan for the Cummings Basin groundwater west of Tehachapi. “The goal is to ensure that sufficient, safe and clean drinking water will be available for decades to come,” said TCCWD General Manager Tom Neisler. On Jan. 5, Judge Stephen Schuett approved the Cummings Basin Amended and Restated Judgment and Physical Solution, which was prepared and presented by the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District. … ”  Read more from the Tehachapi News here:  Court approves Cummings Basin amended, restated judgment

San Bernardino Groundwater Council featured on cover of CSDA magazine


The California Special Districts Association has featured the San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council as its cover story for the November-December issue.  Winner of the CSDA 2020 Award for Innovative Project of the Year, the Groundwater Council is an innovative, voluntary partnership among area water agencies and cities to work together to enhance local water storage in the region.  Record levels of water were captured and stored in the San Bernardino Basin in 2019, due in large part to the collaboration of the group. The ongoing collaboration of the council ensures continued recharge successes long into the future. … ”  Read more from the San Bernardino Water Conservation District here: San Bernardino Groundwater Council featured on cover of CSDA magazine

Western, EMWD partner to enhance water reliability for March Air Reserve Base

Western Municipal Water District (Western) and Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) entered into an interagency agreement this month to partner on efforts to enhance water supply reliability for March Air Reserve Base (March ARB).  The North Perris Groundwater Basin Program participation agreement between Western and EMWD supports a commitment to remedy and protect groundwater resources, providing a new local water supply for the area. ... ”  Read more from Water World here:  Western, EMWD partner to enhance water reliability for March Air Reserve Base

SGMA in the news

Small Farmers Shortchanged by SGMA

“When Governor Jerry Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) into law in September 2014, he said that “groundwater management in California is best accomplished locally.” With the first round of plans made available for public comment this year, it appears that, while the state certainly ceded control to local management agencies, those same agencies have prioritized the interests of big agriculture and industry over small farmers and disadvantaged communities.

A June 2020 paper from UC Davis published in the international journal Society & Natural Resources, as well as work done by the Fresno nonprofit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, have shed light on the procedural inequities. … ”

Read more from Estuary News here:  Small Farmers Shortchanged by SGMA

Citizens group begins deep dive in Napa Valley groundwater issues

A large citizens group has begun shaping a state-required plan to make certain Napa Valley groundwater serving world-famous vineyards and wineries is never sucked dry.  The Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee — 25 people appointed by the Board of Supervisors representing such interests as farming, wineries and the environment — was in action last Thursday with a Zoom meeting. …

Read more from the Napa Register here:  Citizens group begins deep dive in Napa Valley groundwater issues

Sonoma County: Healthy groundwater?

“Sonoma Valley has a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) that is working to produce a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) by January 1, 2022. The GSA is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) agency made up of the Sonoma County, the City of Sonoma, Sonoma Water, Valley of the Moon, Water District, North Bay Water District, and the Sonoma Resource Conservation District.  The GSA process was mandated by state law in 2015, by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. Sonoma Valley is a SGMA-defined high priority groundwater basin for multiple reasons, large dependence on groundwater, possible seawater intrusion, and that in some areas, withdrawals are exceeding recharge. … ”

Read more from the Sonoma Sun here: Sonoma County: Healthy groundwater?

All invited to Solano Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency Collaborative’s town hall

The Solano Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency Collaborative (Solano Collaborative) will host its first Virtual Town Hall, where updates will be given on the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in the Solano Subbasin.  Also offered will be background on SGMA; progress in developing the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP); information about groundwater science; and how the public can stay involved.  A question and answer session will be part of the program. …

Read more from the Vacaville Reporter here:  All invited to Solano Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency Collaborative’s town hall

East Tule GSA to charge farmers for pumping water

Farmers whose only access to water is pumping from their own well will get their first glimpse at what the state’s new groundwater management law will cost them next month.  On Oct. 1, the East Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency (ETGSA) will hold a public hearing to discuss a groundwater extraction fee for property owners who rely on groundwater to irrigate their crops. The meeting is open to the public, not just those affected by the fee or those within the boundaries of the GSA

Read more from the Sun-Gazette here: East Tule GSA to charge farmers for pumping water

“Madness and arrogance” blamed for one lawsuit against desert groundwater agency

Two lawsuits accusing the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority of ramming through a plan that ignores water rights and, according to one plaintiff, is intended to “destroy agriculture” were filed this week.  At issue is a controversial $2,000-per-acre-foot fee approved by the authority last month that would be charged to certain groundwater users over a five-year period. That money is intended to raise $50 million to buy Central Valley water and, somehow, bring it over the Sierra Nevadas to replenish the overdrafted desert aquifer. …

Read more from SJV Water here:  “Madness and arrogance” blamed for one lawsuit against desert groundwater agency

LEGAL ALERT: Supreme Court of California Weighs In on Blanket Categorization of Well Construction Permit Approvals as Ministerial

From JD SUPRA:

Key points in this legal brief:

      • A permitting agency’s blanket designation of an entire category of permit decisions as ministerial for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) may be held to be improper if the agency has the ability to modify or deny the permit based on any concern that may be examined under CEQA review.
      • Courts will afford a larger degree of deference to an agency’s designation of a single permit decision as ministerial on a case-by-case basis.”

Click here to read the full legal brief.

SGMA in the news

Why conserving water today means more groundwater for tomorrow

Groundwater is California’s water savings bank account that can be tapped during dry years when water in lakes and rivers are low. Conserving water helps preserve groundwater, which is important for plants, animals and people.  Groundwater comes from rain and melting snow that seeps down into the ground and is stored in aquifers. An aquifer is a body of porous rock or sediment saturated with groundwater. Groundwater can move through the aquifer and resurface through springs or be pumped to the surface using manmade wells. … ”  Read more from DWR News here:  Why conserving water today means more groundwater for tomorrow

Paso Robles subbasin stands to lose up to $458 million annually if water use is reduced, says economic impact study

A new study released by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is projecting the potential economic impact of water reductions in the Paso Robles region resulting from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  The study, The Economic Impact on the Local Economy of Irrigated Agriculture in the Paso Robles Area and Potential Impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, performed by Lynn Hamilton, Ph.D. and Michael McCollough, Ph.D. of CalPoly, estimates that reductions to irrigated agriculture could potentially cost the local economy hundreds of millions of dollars and the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. … ”  Read more from Wine Business here: Paso Robles subbasin stands to lose up to $458 million annually if water use is reduced, says economic impact study

Tainted valley groundwater could stymie banking deals

The big kahuna of California water — Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — has stopped taking supplies from one Kern County groundwater bank because the water is heavily tainted with a cancer-causing agent that is pervasive in Central Valley’s aquifers.  While only one banking program has been affected so far, the emergence of this issue could have huge implications for water storage and movement in the Central Valley.  Increased underground storage has been key for agricultural water districts scrambling to comply with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which mandates balanced aquifers by 2040. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Tainted valley groundwater could stymie banking deals

Ridgecrest Groundwater Replenishment Fee

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority wrestles 7,000-percent cost increase or state takeover

The long-awaited conflict between California’s ambitious laws to limit groundwater use and the people of California has arrived.  The front: the Mojave Desert.  Friday, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority is set to hold a protest vote of its water users to determine if it will adopt a “basin replenishment fee.”  The fee is an element of the Authority’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan, a key guiding document required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority wrestles 7,000-percent cost increase or state takeover

Ridgecrest: What if the state takes over the water basin?

What would state intervention with local water management look like?  Well, for a start, local groundwater extractors can likely look forward to forced reduction of water use and forced monitoring courtesy of the state water board. And state control would be exerted directly, rather than through the groundwater authority. New fees would also be assessed, since local users would be expected to foot the bill to pay for the temporary government oversight. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  What if the state takes over the water basin?

Ridgecrest: Groundwater basin replenishment fee passed

The basin replenishment fee was passed by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority with a vote of four to one Friday afternoon. IWV Water District Director Ron Kicinski was the sole no vote.  The IWVGA voted after the basin replenishment fee protest hearing Friday failed. The IWVGA did not announce the number of protest votes received, although County counsel Phil Hall said it would take roughly 9,900 protest votes for the protest hearing to be successful. IWV Water District Director/IWVGA Vice Chair Ron Kincinski mentioned 4,000 votes, but it was not clear if this was the number received or just a figure of speech. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Basin replenishment fee passed

Desert water basin hopes to dive into California water market

If you’ve got water for sale, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has $50 million to spend.  Or, it will once it starts collecting a controversial, five-year, $2,000-per-acre-foot pumping fee that was approved by the authority last week.  Specifically, the desert groundwater basin about 100 miles northeast of Bakersfield in the Mojave Desert, is looking to buy rights to 5,000 acre feet a year from an as-yet-to-be-determined Central Valley source.  How it will get the water from the valley over the Sierra Nevadas is another question without any answers so far. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Desert water basin hopes to dive into California water market

Ridgecrest: Replenishment fee passed. Now what?

The four-to-one approval Friday of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority basin replenishment fee has left many wondering what comes next. The fee was approved by a majority vote of the IWVGA after a protest hearing against the controversial fee failed. IWV Water District Director Ron Kincinski was the lone no vote on the groundwater authority.  In a delay from the original timetable, the new fee will be assessed starting January 2021. The estimated fee would be $24 a month for the average residential user presuming a five-year repayment period, according to Gleason.  The fee would reportedly collect some $50 million which would be used to purchase water rights for imported water, presuming the same users continue using the water at roughly the same rate. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Replenishment fee passed. Now what?

Ridgecrest: Groundwater Authority approves transient pool, fallowing program

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority last week voted unanimously to adopt a transient pool and fallowing program and also approve findings that the programs are exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (or CEQA) review — meaning the programs are not considered to have a significant impact on the environment.  The decision came down after an intense two-day meeting Aug. 20 and 21 culminating with an unsuccessful protest hearing against the IWVGA’s basin replenishment fee and the authority’s subsequent four to one approval of the fee. IWV Water District Director Ron Kicinski was the lone no vote on the replenishment fee. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Groundwater Authority approves transient pool, fallowing program

 

SGMA in the news

Groundwater sustainability moves from planning to implementation

The recent completion of groundwater sustainability plans for California’s most over-pumped basins was a major step toward bringing basins into long-term balance, as mandated by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). As these plans move through the state approval process, the next stage is implementation. We talked to Trevor Joseph—the first SGMA employee at the Department of Water Resources (DWR), and now a member of a groundwater sustainability agency in the Sacramento Valley—about next steps and possible pitfalls.  PPIC: You’ve been involved with SGMA since its inception. What has surprised you the most about how it has unfolded?  TREVOR JOSEPH: I’m pleasantly surprised that SGMA has gone relatively well to date. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Groundwater sustainability moves from planning to implementation

Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency proposes groundwater extraction fee

The Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency has proposed a groundwater extraction fee to be charged to property owners within its district.  The ETGSA board approved providing its water rate study for public review at its meeting on August 6. The proposed fee is included in that water rate study. A public hearing videoconference on the proposed fee will be held at 2 p.m. October 1. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency proposes groundwater extraction fee

This Madera County community is running out of water — and the only well might fail

Residents of Fairmead, California worry they are on the brink of losing water service, as the town’s only community well shows signs it may fail before a new one can be built.  After years of planning, the Madera County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an engineering contract to design and manage upgrades to the system, including a new well to serve more than 500 people connected to the community water system.  Construction won’t likely begin until 2021. Norma Bustillos, a longtime Fairmead resident, worries that will be too late. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  This Madera County community is running out of water — and the only well might fail

Paso Robles: SLO County and USGS ask landowners for help to study Adelaida groundwater

San Luis Obispo County and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are set to study the groundwater conditions in the Adelaida region of North County for the first time—and they’re asking local landowners for help.  The two agencies inked a partnership last year to undergo the study, which will collect and analyze data on the water supply, land uses, and groundwater flow over the mostly rural region west of Highway 101—north to Lake Nacimiento and south to Atascadero. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: SLO County and USGS ask landowners for help to study Adelaida groundwater

Ridgecrest: Replenishment fee, ag buyouts on the agenda for Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s basin replenishment fee public hearing at 10 a.m. Friday, August 21 at City Hall will be a virtual meeting, with the public unable to attend in person. The meeting will be live streamed on the city of Ridgecrest Youtube channel.  The public hearing will technically be part two of the regular IWVGA open session virtual meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, August 20. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Replenishment fee, ag buyouts on the agenda for Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority

Ridgecrest: Groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley: Replenishment fee — here are the FAQ

In our continuing series on groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley, here are some frequently asked questions about the upcoming Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority basin replenishment fee public hearing. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Ridgecrest: Groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley: Replenishment fee — here are the FAQ

SEE ALSOLetter to the Editor August 15 2020: Voting no on fee causes more problems than it solves

Ridgecrest: ‘Save Searles’ aims to save mineral plant from 7000 percent water fee hike

‘The “Save Searles” campaign was launched Tuesday, just three days before the IWV Groundwater Authority’s virtual public hearing intended to either approve or shoot down the controversial new replenishment fee.  The replenishment fee would increase water costs for Searles Valley Minerals by nearly $6 million a year, “pushing the company and the local community towards extinction,” according to the campaign’s announcement. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Ridgecrest: ‘Save Searles’ aims to save mineral plant from 7000 percent water fee hike

Carpenteria Valley Water District seeks drought proof supply

Although 2020 has presented many challenges, Carpinteria Valley Water District (CVWD) staff are working hard to keep making progress on many important matters while social distancing. The development of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) has begun and will help to ensure that we can manage the Carpinteria Groundwater Basin (CGB) sustainably, which is an important shared resource for the Carpinteria Valley.  … ”  Read more from the Coast News here:  Carpenteria Valley Water District seeks drought proof supply

SGMA in the news

Feinstein bill would fix San Joaquin Valley canals

Western Growers has announced its support for legislation by California Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein that seeks to address severe subsidence impacts that have substantially reduced the carrying capacity of the state’s water delivery system.  Feinstein’s Restoration of Essential Conveyance Act would 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. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Feinstein bill would fix San Joaquin Valley canals

Groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley: What is IWVGA? An overview

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s notice of an upcoming public hearing on a basin replenishment fee has attracted a lot of attention from water users in the valley, but not everyone understands what the IWVGA is.  In a nutshell, the IWVGA is a body charged with balancing the Indian Wells Valley groundwater basin (IWVGB). The key is achieving sustainability. This is similar to balancing a checkbook; the IWVGA has to come up with a way to balance the basin’s recharge with its annual outflow.  Here is where the problem begins: if the basin were a checkbook it would be severely overdrawn. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley: What is IWVGA? An overview

Valley farmers look to Kern River tributary to replenish groundwater

A Kern County water agency is facing a wall of opposition against its plan to harvest up to 12,000 acre feet of water from the South Fork of the Kern River above Lake Isabella and bring it to valley farms and homeowners in northwest Bakersfield.  Mountain residents fear the proposal by Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District will dry up their groundwater and turn the area into another Owens Valley. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Valley farmers look to Kern River tributary to replenish groundwater

Groundwater sustainability is a necessity more than ever, says Jose Pablo Ortiz Partida with the Union of Concerned Scientists

He writes, “The immediate emergency of COVID-19 has been a powerful reminder that the most valuable things in our lives are our families, friends, and the welfare of our communities. The current pandemic is a threat to those closest to us today in a way that presages what we will experience on an accelerating basis due to the climate emergency. In a place like California’s San Joaquin Valley (SJV), Latinos account for 70 percent of COVID-19 cases, even though they represent 42 percent of the population. Improving access to clean and affordable water even as the pandemic grows more urgent, is critical to reducing the types of burdens worsened by the COVID-19 crisis. Continuing the hard work on groundwater sustainability required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) could lessen the impact of future crises in the valley. The low level of preparation communities have experienced around the pandemic, echos what these same communities face for water management on a daily basis and will face with future climate change threats unless fundamental changes are made locally. … ”  Read more from the Union of Concerned Scientists here: Groundwater sustainability is a necessity more than ever

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