GUEST COMMENTARY: Significant progress being made in implementing the state’s groundwater law

Guest commentary by Geoff Vanden Heuvel, Director of Regulatory and Economic Affairs, Milk Producers Council:

“I remember being surprised when attending a local Groundwater Sustainability Agency meeting and I first saw a schematic that visually depicted the various levels of groundwater underneath one of the Central Valley’s numerous subbasins. There was a horizontal line going across the chart that said “base of freshwater”.  Beneath the freshwater line there was another line labeled “top of basement”.  I asked the subbasin hydrologist about what occupied the space between those lines and he explained that it was ancient salt water that occupied the lowest depths of the aquifer.  He said a study done decades ago had identified that the salt water was there, but they were now guessing about exactly where, because other than that one study done many years ago, no one had a reason to drill down into it to attempt to characterize it.  Why does this matter? If you are going to estimate how much fresh water is contained in a groundwater basin, you need to know how deep it is.

This story is just one example of what has been going on in the Central Valley over the past few years since the adoption of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) by California in 2014. … ”

Click here to continue reading this guest commentary at Maven’s Notebook.

SGMA News from around the state

STATEWIDE NEWS

DWR awards $47 million in grants for groundwater sustainability:  “The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today awarded $47 million in grant funding to 53 applicants to support local agencies in development of plans to manage groundwater basins for long-term sustainability. These grants will support various projects including facilitating community outreach efforts, preparing feasibility studies for proposed actions to restore groundwater supplies, and installing monitoring wells to oversee groundwater levels.  This funding will provide important assistance in successful local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which establishes a framework for managing the state’s groundwater resources. ... ”  Read more from DWR here: DWR awards $47 million in grants for groundwater sustainability

Groundwater management is a team effort at DWR:  “In California, groundwater is a precious resource that supports the health of our communities, the economy, and the environment.  Groundwater is critical to ensuring a more resilient water future for California, explained Taryn Ravazzini, Deputy Director, Statewide Groundwater Management, with the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Not only does it represent more than half of the state’s water supply in dry years, it is the only source of drinking and irrigation water for many communities, she added. … ”  Read more from DWR News here: Groundwater management is a team effort at DWR

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Central Valley groundwater markets emerging under SGMA:  “Central 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 a 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. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Central Valley groundwater markets emerging under SGMA

SGMA to dry up one-fifth of irrigated SJ Valley farmland:  “The cost of fallowing upwards of one million acres of farmland across California will be measured in the billions of dollars to the state’s economy as an estimated 85,000 jobs are lost and farm income declines by more than $7 billion annually, according to a university report.  An economic analysis of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a law passed by the Legislature in 2014 to make groundwater supplies sustainable after decades of over-pumping, paints a grim economic picture for California as the first hurdle towards groundwater sustainability was reached earlier this year. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  SGMA to dry up one-fifth of irrigated SJ Valley farmland

San Joaquin Valley: District sues to stop salty water exchange:  “The James Irrigation District in western Fresno County has sued the Westlands Water District over its plan to let farmers pump salty groundwater into the Mendota Pool in exchange for water from the San Luis Reservoir.  The lawsuit could scuttle Westlands’ plans to create a certain supply for its farmers as they, and farmers throughout the Central Valley, adapt to new water uncertainties under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a measure to restrict groundwater pumping. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  San Joaquin Valley: District sues to stop salty water exchange

EASTERN SIERRA

Owens Valley Groundwater Authority board grows, learns parameters of “sustainability”:  “The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority board took the bulk of last week’s meeting discussing the addition of members within a format established in the Joint Powers Agreement that all members signed nearly three years ago.  The thorny topic: adding a representatives from area tribes, mutual water companies and what are defined as interested parties.  ... ”  Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley Groundwater Authority board grows, learns parameters of “sustainability”

Owens Valley Groundwater Authority shrinks, major players pick up the financial slack:  “The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority board will need a much smaller table to seat the six remaining members when it meets this afternoon in the Bishop City Council chambers. But, that number could change with the addition of organizations that have been eager for a place at the table.  Tri-Valley Groundwater Management District and Wheeler Crest Community Service District were the latest to drop out of the Authority. The districts won’t participate in the OVGA, but will still have to comply with the sustainability plan. … ”  Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley Groundwater Authority shrinks, major players pick up the financial slack

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority approves metering standards, requirements:  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority signed off on an ordinance and related resolution officially requiring all major pumpers needing metering on all groundwater extraction facilities and pumps during a board meeting on Thursday.  The board met in mostly empty council chambers, fielding questions and comments from a small crowd or remotely due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak to help curb the outbreak. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority approves metering standards, requirements

CENTRAL COAST

Sustaining Pajaro Valley’s Water:  “The Pajaro Valley enjoys a temperate microclimate, in part because it is situated at the hip of Monterey Bay. It lays like an east-west-oriented horseshoe, with the open end settling around the coastal plains of Elkhorn Slough and its various tributaries and side sloughs. Rimmed by the Santa Cruz Mountains to the north, the Gabilan Range to the south, and the San Andreas Fault at its head, the Pajaro Valley is a unique place in California.  Marks from the state’s past — traces of the indigenous creekside camps to the Mission landmarks and Gold Rush-era place-names — tell part of the valley’s story. Unlike in neighboring areas that have embraced the commuting car culture, the endless lines of perfectly aligned row crops reveal that this valley is still very much a working landscape. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Sustaining Pajaro Valley’s Water

VENTURA COUNTY

Casitas pulls out of mediation talks over Ventura River water adjudication:  “An Ojai Valley water district has pulled out of mediation talks with the city of Ventura and others after months of negotiation over water rights.  Those talks started after the city of Ventura filed a cross-complaint in response to a 2014 lawsuit over its own pumping from the Ventura River. Santa Barbara Channelkeeper had filed the lawsuit, alleging the city of Ventura was taking too much water from the river, hurting habitat for steelhead trout and other wildlife. ... ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Casitas pulls out of mediation talks over Ventura River water adjudication

SGMA in the News

‘Surviving is a real question’: can small farms endure under California’s landmark water law?  “Nikiko Masumoto began her farming career in the summer of 2011, just as California was entering its worst drought in recorded history.  Masumoto is the fourth generation of her family to farm this land in Del Rey: 80 organic acres of stone fruit in eastern Fresno county in California’s fertile Central Valley, its most perfect peaches bound for the epicurean Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley.  For four years in a row, the farm survived only on the water it could draw from underground. And as the drought persisted, the perfect peaches grew less perfect – smaller, malnourished. The farm lowered its wells and pumped more so Masumoto could keep the trees alive.  The farm made it through by way of grit and preparation. But even with plenty of both, said Masumoto, “surviving is a real question.” … ”  Read more from The Guardian here:  ‘Surviving is a real question’: can small farms endure under California’s landmark water law?

Willits: LACO, City seek input from residents regarding Groundwater Management Plan:  “Representatives from LACO Associates and the City of Willits held the first of two Little Lake Valley (LLV) Groundwater Plan public workshops on Feb. 20 at City Hall. Willits City Council recently approved the development of a Groundwater Management Plan (GWMP) for the LLV Groundwater Basin in order to fulfill the commitment required to receive Proposition 1 funds. Once the required GWMP is completed, the California Department of Water Resources will supply $500,000 to help the City bolster its water supply, which could be threatened in times of drought, fire and other natural disasters.  The purpose of the public workshops is to garner stakeholder participation in order to help develop and establish groundwater management opportunities, concerns and objectives. … ”  Read more from Willits News here:  Willits: LACO, City seek input from residents regarding Groundwater Management Plan

State refuses to accept groundwater plans for the Madera subbasin: “In the first indication of how strict state officials will be with new groundwater sustainability agencies, the Department of Water Resources has refused to accept groundwater plans covering the Madera subbasin because one of those agencies did not sign a coordination agreement.  The DWR has not posted the submitted groundwater sustainability plans on its website and notified all the GSAs that it is talking with the State Water Resources Control Board — the state’s enforcement arm — about the issue. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: State refuses to accept groundwater plans for the Madera subbasin

Kern County: Price of water going up as the snowpack shrinks:  “Another block of water has been offered for sale in Kern County at $950 per acre foot.  With a dry January and extremely dry February, California’s water outlook has worsened.  And that has bumped the price of water for those who have it to sell.  Buena Vista Water Storage District on the western edge of the valley in Kern already sold 4,500 acre feet of water at $770 per acre foot, said General Manager Tim Ashlock.  And this latest block of 4,000 acre feet at $950 per acre foot is going fast. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Price of water going up as the snowpack shrinks

Property owners get six-month extension in Ventura River lawsuit: “A judge on Thursday granted a six-month extension for roughly 14,000 Ojai Valley and Ventura property owners facing a potential water adjudication.  In January, the city of Ventura sent thousands of legal notices and summonses to people with property near the Ventura River or one of the area’s groundwater basins.   The property owners were given 60 days to pay $435 in court fees and possibly hire an attorney to join the litigation or risk losing their ability to do so later.  The city has said it doesn’t want a full adjudication but instead to reach a negotiated settlement among water users. ... ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Property owners get six-month extension in Ventura River lawsuit

Groundwater Sustainability Plans posted at DWR’s SGMA Portal

With the January 31 deadline for critically-overdrafted basins to submit their plans, the Department of Water Resources has now posted the plans that are deemed complete.  There are now over 40 GSPs posted for review.

DWR is required to post GSPs within 20 days of submittal.  Once DWR posts the plan, a 75-day public comment period is initiated.

More information about how to comment on a plan can be found in a new fact sheet available in English and Spanish.

Note that you do not need to create a SGMA Portal account to submit a public comment.

Click here to view the submitted GSPs.

SGMA in the news

STATEWIDE

‘Surviving is a real question’: can small farms endure under California’s landmark water law?  “Nikiko Masumoto began her farming career in the summer of 2011, just as California was entering its worst drought in recorded history.  Masumoto is the fourth generation of her family to farm this land in Del Rey: 80 organic acres of stone fruit in eastern Fresno county in California’s fertile Central Valley, its most perfect peaches bound for the epicurean Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley.  For four years in a row, the farm survived only on the water it could draw from underground. And as the drought persisted, the perfect peaches grew less perfect – smaller, malnourished. The farm lowered its wells and pumped more so Masumoto could keep the trees alive.  The farm made it through by way of grit and preparation. But even with plenty of both, said Masumoto, “surviving is a real question.” … ”  Read more from The Guardian here:  ‘Surviving is a real question’: can small farms endure under California’s landmark water law?

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

State refuses to accept groundwater plans for the Madera subbasin: “In the first indication of how strict state officials will be with new groundwater sustainability agencies, the Department of Water Resources has refused to accept groundwater plans covering the Madera subbasin because one of those agencies did not sign a coordination agreement.  The DWR has not posted the submitted groundwater sustainability plans on its website and notified all the GSAs that it is talking with the State Water Resources Control Board — the state’s enforcement arm — about the issue. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: State refuses to accept groundwater plans for the Madera subbasin

CENTRAL COAST

Salinas Valley seawater intrusion continues migrating deeper:  “Seawater intrusion in the Salinas Valley continues to seep into the deeper aquifers, according to the latest Monterey County Water Resources Agency data, even as the overall rate of seawater intrusion continues slowing down.  And while groundwater levels in the area continue recovering from the recent drought, the “mechanism” for seawater intrusion is still in place.  Those are the conclusions drawn from the 2019 seawater intrusion and groundwater contour maps presented to the county water agency board on Tuesday. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Salinas Valley seawater intrusion continues migrating deeper

Montecito’s Groundwater Sustainability Agency seeks community involvement:  “The Montecito Groundwater Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (Montecito GSA or Agency) will host a Public Meeting on February 24, 2020 at 5 p.m. at Montecito Union School, 385 San Ysidro Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108. The meeting will provide an introduction to the Agency and a presentation on groundwater and its importance for the community. The purpose of the meeting is to inform the public and highlight opportunities to get involved.  The Montecito GSA is actively seeking applicants for participation on two Advisory Committees: A Stakeholder Advisory Committee and a Technical Advisory Committee. ... ”  Read more from Edhat here: Montecito’s Groundwater Sustainability Agency seeks community involvement

Groundwater Sustainability Agency for Montecito Basin gets preliminary approval for grant funding:  “Montecito’s Groundwater Sustainability Agency needs to develop a management plan for the basin, which is pumped by water district and private wells.  The state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act labeled the Montecito Groundwater Basin as “medium priority,” and the district’s board of directors also serves as the board of the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA).  The agency has preliminary approval for $1.6 million in grant funding it applied for last year, to develop and implement the management plan, spokeswoman Laura Camp said. … ”  Read more from Noozhawk here: Groundwater Sustainability Agency for Montecito Basin gets preliminary approval for grant funding

INDIAN WELLS VALLEY (RIDGECREST)

Ridgecrest: Meters, geothermal project discussion planned for Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority meeting:  “The first read of a meter ordinance and letter of concern about the Haiwee Geothermal Leasing Area project are among the primary topics for the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board of directors when it meets Thursday at 10 a.m at Ridgecrest City Hall council chambers, 100 W. California Ave.  According to the released agenda, the proposed ordinance will the installation and reporting of meters on all groundwater extraction facilities defined in the ordinance. … ”  Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: Meters, geothermal project discussion planned for Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority meeting

Ridgecrest: Tentative timeline discussed at Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority meeting:  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority achieved one milestone in January with the passage and submission of its groundwater sustainability plan to the state. Now it starts to plan the next set, according to a report from Stetson Engineers president Steve Johnson, the GA’s water resources manager.  Johnson outlined a rough schedule of the next steps the GA will need to take as it implements the sustainability plan (GSP), a roadmap that needs to bring the IWV basin into sustainability by 2040. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Tentative timeline discussed at Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority meeting

VENTURA COUNTY

Casitas backs extension for 14,000 or so people served, noticed in Ventura’s water lawsuit:  “An Ojai Valley water agency says it, too, will support an extension for thousands of local property owners pulled into a potential water adjudication.  Earlier this year, the city of Ventura began sending 12,700 legal notices and hundreds of summonses to those who own property near the Ventura River or over one of its four groundwater basins.  They were given 60 days to file a response with the court or potentially lose their right to do so later. Worried about impacts to their property, many said they faced having to pay the required $435 court fee and possibly hire an attorney. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Casitas backs extension for 14,000 or so people served, noticed in Ventura’s water lawsuit

Court expected to decide this week on extension for those noticed in Ventura River lawsuit:  “A judge is expected to decide Thursday whether 14,000 Ojai Valley and Ventura property owners will get a six-month reprieve in a potential water adjudication case.  In January, the city of Ventura sent thousands of legal notices and summonses to people with property near the Ventura River or one of the area’s groundwater basins. The property owners were given 60 days to pay $435 in court fees and possibly hire an attorney to join the litigation or risk losing their ability to do so later. … ” Read more from the Ventura County Star here:  Court expected to decide this week on extension for those noticed in Ventura River lawsuit

SGMA in the News

A roundup of articles on SGMA from news outlets around the state

STATEWIDE NEWS AND COMMENTARY

Local agencies file management plans for aquifers:  “The deadline passed at the end of January for local agencies representing 19 of the state’s most stressed groundwater basins to submit plans for how the basins will reach sustainability during the next 20 years. It’s a milestone in implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  Speaking during the annual California Irrigation Institute conference in Sacramento last week, Tim Godwin of the California Department of Water Resources said the department is now reviewing the submitted plans. DWR will ultimately grade the plans as adequate; incomplete, which gives agencies 180 days to submit clarifying information; or inadequate, which requires DWR to consult with the State Water Resources Control Board on next steps. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here:  Local agencies file management plans for aquifers

500,000 acres of San Joaquin cropland [could] go fallow as groundwater management goes into effect over 20 years:  “Last month, many regions passed a major milestone in implementation of state legislation that has the potential to transform the way crops are farmed in the state.  At the end of January, big regions of the San Joaquin Valley had to turn in their plans for how residents and growers would comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  Although the deadline for Sacramento area basins isn’t until two years from now, there are things local growers should start doing now to prepare, said David Orth, principal at New Current Water and Land LLC. ... ”  Read more from the Sacramento Business Journal here:  500,000 acres of San Joaquin cropland to go fallow as groundwater management goes into effect over 20 years

Water management in California is crossing a major milestone, and we still have more work to do, say Eric Averett, general manager of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District, and Christina Babbitt, senior manager of the California Groundwater Program at the Environmental Defense FundJan. 31 marked a major milestone for building groundwater sustainability and climate resilience into California’s complex and increasingly stressed water systems.  It was the first major planning deadline for implementing the state’s historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. State leaders passed the law in 2014 to ensure California manages its groundwater sustainably for people, agriculture and wildlife for generations to come. On Jan. 31, the 21 regions with the most depleted groundwater supplies were required to submit plans to balance their groundwater supply and demand within 20 years. When successfully implemented, these plans will prevent a repeat of many of the impacts we experienced during the last drought: wells drying up and land sinking, resulting in rural residents running out of water and millions of dollars of infrastructure damage. … ”  Read more from Bakersfield.com here:  Water management in California is crossing a major milestone, and we still have more work to do

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

City of Willits invites public input on Groundwater Management Plan:  “The public is invited to provide input on the Little Lake Valley Groundwater Basin Management Plan during a workshop held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 at Willits City Hall. The goal of the plan is to collect information and compile a comprehensive summary regarding the groundwater in the Little Lake Valley in order to manage the City’s resources for generations to come.  According to the City of Willits website, “The preparation of a Groundwater Management Plan is required as part of the conditions of the half million-dollar Proposition 1 grant funding that the City will receive from California Department of Water Resources to construct the next phase of the groundwater project.” … ”  Read more from the Willits News here: City of Willits invites public input on Groundwater Management Plan

Yuba Water Agency adopts groundwater plan:  “The Yuba Water Agency, along with other local groundwater sustainability agencies like Cordua Irrigation District and the city of Marysville, recently developed an official groundwater sustainability plan that outlines how to best utilize the county’s groundwater subbasins in a sustainable manner.  As part of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, groundwater sustainability agencies across the state are required to prepare and submit plans that include measurable objectives and milestones to achieve sustainability. … ”  Read more from The Union here:  Yuba Water Agency adopts groundwater plan

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Have thoughts about groundwater cuts in Merced County? The state wants to hear from you: “Do you have something to say about the state-mandated sustainability plan that will limit individual and agricultural groundwater consumption in Merced County?  Now is the time to say it.  The Jan. 31 deadline for local agencies to submit their 20-year sustainable groundwater management plan has passed, kicking off a 75-day public comment period before the Department of Water Resources reviews it. ... ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here: Have thoughts about groundwater cuts in Merced County? The state wants to hear from you

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency sued the James Irrigation District and James Groundwater Sustainability Agency in Fresno Superior Court, in a fight over groundwater management.  via Courthouse News Service.

Irrigation water prices under SGMA causing sticker shock:  “Reaction was hushed when Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District General Manager Eric Averett asked the small group of farmers Tuesday morning if any were interested in buying irrigation water at the previously unheard of price of $770 an acre foot.  No papers rustled. Keyboards went silent. And none of the growers raised a hand. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Irrigation water prices under SGMA causing sticker shock

Kings County groundwater plan raising questions:  “It’s hard to imagine state officials giving the thumbs up to a groundwater sustainability plan that potentially allows Corcoran – California’s subsidence epicenter – to sink another 6 feet.  Especially considering the tiny, rural town was forced to spend $14 million in 2017 to rebuild its levees following the 2012-16 drought when it suffered subsidence of up to 1.5 feet a year. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Kings County groundwater plan raising questions

PASO ROBLES

Paso Robles: Groundwater sustainability plan, first annual report available for review:  “The Paso Robles Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) has been posted to the Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) Portal.  The public comment period for the GSP is open until April 15, 2020. Access the posted GSP and submit public comments here: https://sgma.water.ca.gov/portal/gsp/preview/35 … ”  Read more from Paso Robles Daily News here: Groundwater sustainability plan, first annual report available for review

VENTURA RIVER

Ventura vs Ojai water war:  “There is a legal battle between Ventura and the Ojai Valley. Thousands of people have been served with legal papers in a fight over water from the Ventura River.  While the Ventura River may be beautiful, a legal case over its water is turning ugly. Thousands of people like Jessica Colborn, born and raised in Upper Ojai, are being served legal papers. This is because of their wells that use water from the river.  “My parents got served on their property as well as their adjacent property that I am putting my home on,” said Colborn. “So they got served with two different actions because they have two wells on those properties.” ... ”  Read more from KEYT here:  Ventura vs Ojai water war

Thousands served, noticed in Ventura’s water lawsuit may get reprieveMore than 14,000 property owners recently noticed or served in the city of Ventura’s litigation over use of the Ventura River may get a bit of a reprieve.  The Ventura City Council announced Monday that it may request a six-month extension from the court for the thousands who were sent legal notices or served with a court summons in the case.  Without the delay, property owners have 60 days to file with the court to become a participant in the lawsuit, which would require them to pay $435 in court fees and, in some cases, hire an attorney. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Thousands served, noticed in Ventura’s water lawsuit may get reprieve

Clarifying Channelkeeper’s role in Ventura River watershed adjudication Ben Pitterle, science and policy director of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper writes, “I’m writing to the VC Reporter to offer clarification for property owners in the Ventura River watershed about Santa Barbara Channelkeeper’s role in the groundwater adjudication initiated by the city of Ventura.  Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that works to protect and restore the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds (including the Ventura River) through science-based advocacy, education, field work and enforcement. We are aware that residents throughout the Ventura River watershed recently received notice from the city of Ventura that the city has commenced an adjudication of water rights. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Reporter here: Clarifying Channelkeeper’s role in Ventura River watershed adjudication

Ventura County joins Carpinteria Groundwater Sustainability Agency:  “In a unanimous vote on Feb. 4, the Board of Supervisors of the County of Ventura provided the final decision needed to form a new agency in the form of a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) called the Carpinteria Groundwater Sustainability Agency made up of four local agencies: the Carpinteria Valley Water District, the city of Carpinteria, the Santa Barbara County Water Agency and the county of Ventura.  … ”  Read more from Coastal View here:  Ventura County joins Carpinteria Groundwater Sustainability Agency

BORREGO SPRINGS

Petition for comprehensive adjudication for the Borrego Springs groundwater basin:  The Borrego Water District sued Agri-Empire and 59 other entities in San Diego Superior Court, in a fight over the limited amount of groundwater in the Borrego Valley, northeast of San Diego.

FACT SHEETS AVAILABLE

The State Water Board has a number of fact sheets available:

SGMA in the News

A round-up of media articles about groundwater and SGMA implementation from around the state

STATEWIDE

Time’s up on groundwater plans: one of the most important new California water laws in 50 years explained:  “Much of California’s water supply is a hidden asset: Deep below the surface, rocks, gravel and sand store water like a sponge, in an underground zone called an aquifer.  In dry years, this groundwater has been tapped to save farms, keep grass green and provide drinking water to millions of Californians. But over time, people have taken more water out than nature has put back in. Estimates vary, but according to the U.S. Geological Survey, California pumped 41 trillion gallons of water from the ground in about 100 years, through 2013. In some parts of the Central Valley, that means land has been dropping around a foot a year.  … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Time’s up on groundwater plans: one of the most important new California water laws in 50 years explained

Why California’s water crisis is everyone’s problem:  “The state of California is no stranger to calamity, as evidenced by the persistent droughts and devastating wildfires that have ravished the land in years past. Now, however, it is facing a crisis of another kind, and at this critical juncture the fate of the global agriculture industry hangs in the balance.  California comprises 14 percent of the U.S. economy, much of which is fueled by agriculture. The state’s agriculture industry produced $50 billion in output last year. California supplies approximately 50 percent of the country’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables across almonds, apricots, avocados and many more grown foods.  However, a law crafted in 2014 dubbed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a product of the severe seven-year drought, stands to jeopardize ag production in the state, which has far reaching implications nationally and around the world. … ”  Read more from Global Ag Investing here: Why California’s water crisis is everyone’s problem

Small farmers wait for California’s groundwater hammer to fall:  “A black lab trots dutifully behind as Randy Fiorini proudly points out the drip irrigation lines running along the base of his walnut trees. The orchards sit on land first planted in 1907 when his grandfather established Fiorini Ranch a few miles outside of Delhi, California after relocating from Redondo Beach. A cement ditch carrying water from the Don Pedro Reservoir about 50 miles away runs alongside peach, almond, and walnut trees.  Back when the ranch was irrigated by flooding its fields, Fiorini would splash around with his childhood friend, Scott Severson, in the huge pools under the shade of the trees. Like Fiorini, Severson grew up to farm his family’s ranch nearby in Merced County.  Like most parts of the Central Valley, the Fiorini and Severson ranches in the Turlock Irrigation District used surface water when it was available, and pumped groundwater when it wasn’t. … ” Read more from the Bill Lane Center for the American West here: Small farmers wait for California’s groundwater hammer to fall

Dairy industry gives update on challenges it is facing:  “Dairymen and others in the industry are expected to descend on Sacramento to display their global accomplishments.  Funding in part by a grant from Farm Credit, than 600 farmers, policy makers, service providers and researchers are expected to attend the California Dairy Sustainability Summit during the March 25-26 Cal Expo.  California’s dairy industry is responsible for just under one-fifth of all the milk produced in the U.S., contributes $65 billion to the state’s economy and is responsible for 180,000 California jobs. And while the industry has made impressive gains in becoming more environmentally sustainable, it continually faces new requirements. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun Gazette here:  Dairy industry gives update on challenges it is facing

California water restrictions to become more severe:  “Water woes in California’s major dairy shed are likely to get worse. The state will soon begin to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which could boost the cost of milk production while devaluing dairy farm assets for some producers, says Sarina Sharp, analyst with the Daily Dairy Report.   “Over the next two decades, the SGMA will dramatically alter groundwater use throughout the state, especially in the Central Valley, where water shortages are most severe,” Sharp says. California dairy producers will also likely see production costs rise as feed crops lose acreage to cash crops. … ”  Read more from Milk Business here: California water restrictions to become more severe

Perspectives on groundwater sustainability: Erik Ringelberg with the Freshwater Trust:  “The Freshwater Trust is most well-known for its work on protecting freshwater river ecosystems. In California, a significant amount of surface water bodies are regulated and diverted through dams and other surface water infrastructure. Surface water bodies also lose flow when the groundwater is depleted. So for our efforts in California, we see as an important role for the Trust to use our understanding of surface waters and apply that to protecting their associated groundwater systems. California is catching up on groundwater protection and we are taking the lessons we have learned from other Western states and applying them to groundwater in California. … ”  Read more from the We All Live Downstream blog here: Perspectives on groundwater sustainability

NAPA VALLEY/BAY AREA

New Napa County groundwater agency hears from critics at its first meeting:  “Local environmentalists want to make sure Napa County’s new groundwater oversight agency hears their voices, a step that agency members said they intend to take.  County supervisors formed the Napa Valley Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency on Dec. 17 with themselves as the governing board. Critics wanted an agency board with diverse interests, such as the groundwater users and the environment. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: New Napa County groundwater agency hears from critics at its first meeting

Santa Clara: Valley Water working to ensure groundwater users are fairly charged for benefits received:  “In Santa Clara County, the largest supply of water is hidden beneath our feet.  Local groundwater basins can hold more water than all 10 of Valley Water’s reservoirs combined and serve as our primary reserve in times of drought. Groundwater provides about 40% of the water used in Santa Clara County, and nearly all the water used in South County.  Because the amount of groundwater pumped far exceeds what is naturally replenished by rainfall, Valley Water’s groundwater management activities are critical to maintaining healthy groundwater basins. ... ”  Read more from Valley Water News here: Santa Clara: Valley Water working to ensure groundwater users are fairly charged for benefits received

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Yuba Water Agency adopts Groundwater Sustainability Plan:  “Yuba County’s groundwater subbasins have been sustainably managed for decades, and with 80 percent of Yuba’s residents relying on groundwater as their sole source, it’s critical that it remain sustainable for the long-term. With that in mind, Yuba Water Agency adopted an official groundwater sustainability plan, known as the Yuba Subbasins Water Management Plan.  The plan, developed in coordination with Cordua Irrigation District, the city of Marysville and many interested stakeholders, will guide the continued management and use of groundwater in Yuba County. … ”  Read more from Yuba Net here:  Yuba Water Agency adopts Groundwater Sustainability Plan

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Tulare County: Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board approves GSP; Friant-Kern Canal among concerns:  “Now that the Groundwater Sustainability Plan has been approved, the real work begins so to speak.  The Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board approved the GSP at its meeting on Friday, laying out the goals for the agency to meet the state requirement to reduce groundwater usage to what’s considered a sustainable level by 2040.  The plan was due to be submitted to the state by January 31. The ETGSA covers virtually all of Southeastern Tulare County. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Tulare County: Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board approves GSP; Friant-Kern Canal among concerns

Kern’s final groundwater plan approved:  “After months of fireworks over lowball pumping numbers and concerns that some groundwater agencies wouldn’t get on board, Kern’s last groundwater sustainability plan was approved Wednesday with barely a murmur.  The Kern Groundwater Authority board of directors voted unanimously to adopt its final GSP with just two weeks to spare before the massive document is due to the state Department of Water Resources. ... ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Kern’s final groundwater plan approved

EASTERN SIERRA

Owens Valley groundwater basin is officially “low”:  “The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority has been flailing in limbo as the California Department of Water Resources stood poised to publish the final priority rating for the state’s  groundwater basins, as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  Then, in mid-December, the OVGA received word, the priority list had been finalized and the Owens basin was officially low. … ” Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley groundwater basin is officially “low”

Inyo to take ‘no’ position on Indian Wells Valley plan to tap into LA Aqueduct:  “Inyo County Supervisors had a no-brainer at Tuesday’s Board meeting. The question: what position should the Board’s representative take on Indian Wells Valley’s option to tap into the Los Angeles Aqueduct to solve its critical overdraft problem? The decision was a unanimous “no.”  Listening to John Vallejo, deputy county counsel, describe the situation begged the question “what was Indian Wells thinking?” … ”  Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Inyo to take ‘no’ position on Indian Wells Valley plan to tap into LA Aqueduct

Indian Wells Valley groundwater plan approved:  “With the bang of a gavel, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board of directors passed its groundwater sustainability plan following years of planning and heavy debate.  “We have a GSP,” said Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason, the board chair. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley groundwater plan approved

VENTURA COUNTY

Petrochem sold as a water war looms in the Ventura River Watershed:  “The Ventura River Watershed is a vast area stretching from the Ventura River mouth to the Upper Ojai Valley and back to the edges of the Sespe, with an arm reaching into Santa Barbara County. It encompasses all the land that gathers water from local mountain peaks, channeling it down into barrancas and drainages, combining into creek beds and eventually all coming together into the Ventura River to stream out to the Pacific Ocean. It includes not just water visible at the surface, but also the deep groundwater basins that fill water wells for thousands of property owners in the area. … Two stories are currently unfolding in the Ventura River Watershed, one regarding a polluted property that is changing hands, the other involving a legal case that could have ramifications for all water users and water rights for decades. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Reporter here: Petrochem sold as a water war looms in the Ventura River Watershed

SGMA in the News

 

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Valley land has sunk from too much water pumping. Can Fresno County fix it? The Fresno County Board of Supervisors adopted a plan on Tuesday meant to maintain groundwater and keep users from pumping too much from underground basins.  The supervisors adopted plans for two areas connected to the Delta-Mendota subbasin. Officials throughout the San Joaquin Valley have been required by the state to adopt a plan by the end of the month. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Valley land has sunk from too much water pumping. Can Fresno County fix it? 

CENTRAL COAST

Pajaro Valley water project balances ag and saltwater intrusion:  “Facing the continued creep inland of seawater intrusion into irrigation supplies, the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency board has approved expansion of its water service area to include an additional 700 acres of coastal farmlands.  The agency’s board of directors unanimously agreed at Dec. 18 meeting to award a $3.2 million contract to build the new so-called F-Pipeline Project to San Luis Obispo-based Specialty Construction, Inc. After finalizing the project’s environmental impact study update last month, construction is expected to begin as early as late January on the seaward side of San Andreas Road. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Pajaro Valley water project balances ag and saltwater intrusion

Paso Robles approves groundwater sustainability plan:  “After almost two years of planning, public outreach and discussion, the City of Paso Robles approved the Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Paso Robles Water Basin on Dec. 17. The GSP’s completion and approval is a vital step in keeping the power of water management in local hands and not controlled by the State of California.  The City of Paso Robles Groundwater Sustainability Board, comprised of the City Council, passed the GSP in a majority vote of 3-0 with Mayor Steve Martin and Councilmember Maria Garcia absent. … ”  Read more from The Paso Robles Press here: Paso Robles approves groundwater sustainability plan

As groundwater basins ‘rest,’ Santa Barbara looks to reservoirs for future water supplies:  “This winter has started out as a wet one, but even if the rain tapers off, Santa Barbara can meet the water demands of its customers through 2022 with existing supplies, according to city staff.  It’s been more than eight years since Lake Cachuma filled up and spilled, and groundwater basins all over Santa Barbara County are at historically low levels after being heavily pumped during the long drought.  Groundwater well pumps are off to help basins “rest,” and it will take an estimated five years for the basins to recover from the drought, water supply analyst Dakota Corey told the city’s Water Commission at Thursday’s meeting. ... ”  Read more from Noozhawk here: As groundwater basins ‘rest,’ Santa Barbara looks to reservoirs for future water supplies

EASTERN SIERRA

Los Angeles may store water under an Owens Valley lake drained to fill its faucets:  “Quick shifts in climate have prompted Los Angeles to consider an unlikely place to bank some of its Sierra Nevada snowmelt: beneath dry Owens Lake, which the city drained starting in 1913 to fill the L.A. Aqueduct and supply a thirsty metropolis.  The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has launched studies of ambitious plans to store water in the lake’s underground aquifer so that it could be pumped up in summer months and drought years to create pools of water to limit the dust sweeping across the vast lakebed’s salt flats. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here: Los Angeles may store water under an Owens Valley lake drained to fill its faucets

Ridgecrest: Zdeba, Kicinski provide GSP update at Dems lunch:  “The topic of water took center stage at the Democratic Club of the High Desert on Saturday as Indian Wells Valley Water District general manager Don Zdeba and board member Ron Kicinski provided some updates.  Zdeba touched on the status of the groundwater sustainability plan and the IWV Groundwater Authority. The GSP is a roadmap that will detail how the IWV basin needs to achieve a sustainable safe yield by 2040, as mandated by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  “Surface water has been regulated in California for nearly 100 years, but before SGMA came along, groundwater was not managed at all,” Zdeba said. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Ridgecrest: Zdeba, Kicinski provide GSP update at Dems lunch

 

SGMA in the news …

Groundwater: A firehose of paperwork is pointed at state water officials:  “The onslaught of paperwork will be mind boggling. Eye popping. Elephant choking. Pick your metaphor and it still won’t capture the situation.  When the calendar strikes Jan. 31, 2020, water agencies around the state will have sent hundreds of thousands of pages of technical data, plans and comments meant to shore up groundwater levels in our most overdrafted areas.  Officials at the state Department of Water Resources are expecting about 45 groundwater sustainability plans to be filed by the deadline. They’ll come from 19 water basins bunched mostly in the Central Valley that are considered critically overdrafted per the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Groundwater: A firehose of paperwork is pointed at state water officials

Trading water: Can water shares help save California’s aquifers? California is by far the United States’ most populous state, as well as its largest agricultural producer. Increasingly, it is also one of the country’s most parched places. But Edgar Terry, a fourth-generation farmer in Ventura County, just outside Los Angeles, thinks he has a key to reversing worsening water stress: establishing tradeable rights to shares of fast-depleting groundwater aquifers. … ” Read more from Reuters here: Trading water: Can water shares help save California’s aquifers?

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Sonoma County: Groundwater monitoring wells: a ‘picture’ of underground water connections for groundwater sustainability plans:  Ann DuBay writes, “During the months of October and November, up to  21 groundwater monitoring wells will be drilled near Sonoma County creeks   to provide new information to managers and the public on the link between groundwater and stream flows. Coordination and construction of the wells are a technical service provided by the   California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to Sonoma County’s three Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs).  Each well will be about 50 feet deep, and will be designed specifically for measuring water levels throughout the year. … ”  Read more from the Sonoma Gazette here: Sonoma County: Groundwater monitoring wells: a ‘picture’ of underground water connections for groundwater sustainability plans

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

San Joaquin County: Water in the bank: Coalition of agencies develops ‘historic’ sustainable groundwater plan:  “There’s progress to report in the momentous task of ensuring that San Joaquin County and surrounding communities have enough water to meet anticipated needs for the next 20 years.  Earlier this month, the Eastern San Joaquin Groundwater Authority — or ESJGWA, comprised of 16 area agencies including cities, counties and water districts — recommended that each of its member agencies adopt a mutually agreed upon Groundwater Sustainability Plan by Jan. 8. … ”  Read more from the Stockton Record here: Water in the bank: Coalition of agencies develops ‘historic’ sustainable groundwater plan

Some farmers sell off fields ahead of groundwater law:  “Even with his eyes closed, Doug Martin can recognize the sound of every tractor on his Hanford ranch. There’s the big silver work horse, and the 40-year-old Oliver that can still run his backup generator, but the one he looks at with love is a tiny green thing from 1958. “The first time I plowed ground with it, I was seven years old,” he says, recalling how he mishandled the plow and feared he had ruined the fields. He hadn’t; his father simply re-plowed them. “This little tractor did a lot,” he says, laughing. … ”  Read more from KVPR here:  Some farmers sell off fields ahead of groundwater law

EASTERN SIERRA

Ridgecrest: Water district board discusses GA budget:  “Discussion over groundwater authority finances once again dominated discussion at the Indian Wells Valley Water District board of directors meeting Monday night.  Board member Ron Kicinski provided fellow directors with an update on the IWV Groundwater Authority and its upcoming public workshop Thursday night at Kerr McGee Center. During the update, he noted that finances for the young agency continue to be a concern. … ”  Read more from the Taft Midway Driller here: Ridgecrest: Water district board discusses GA budget

Ridgecrest:  Proposed pump fee raise delayed:  “A proposed pump fee increase to help bolster the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s budget in 2020 fell somewhat flat at the Nov. 21 board meeting.  The recommended fee hike would have elevated the rate from a monthly $30 per-acre foot pumped to $75/acre-foot, according to IWVGA acting general manager Don Zdeba. It would turn the tables on the IWVGA ending 2020 fiscal year with $465,000 in the red to ending in the positive by $209,000. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Proposed pump fee raise delayed

Ridgecrest: Groundwater Sustainability Plan workshop set for December 12:  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority will hold a public workshop regarding its draft groundwater sustainability plan on Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. at the Kerr McGee Center, 100 W. California Ave.  A summary of the GSP will be presented before accepting public comments. All interested persons are invited to attend workshop.  The draft GSP is available in its entirety online at www.IWVGA.org/gsp-chapters. The Public Workshop will be video recorded and posted online at “www.IWVGA.org” after the workshop. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Indpendent here: Groundwater Sustainability Plan workshop set for December 12

COACHELLA VALLEY

Golf course, CVWD cooperation key to keeping groundwater control local:  “Everyone knows the proverb about the man who falls off the Empire State Building and half way to the sidewalk below concludes, “so far, so good.” It’s the story we use to describe the most foolish of complacencies. The proverb is much too extreme to describe the Coachella Valley golf community’s relationship with water. Our complacency is not nearly as irrational, but it too is a complacency unsupported by fact or circumstance. … ”  Read more from The Desert Sun here: Golf course, CVWD cooperation key to keeping groundwater control local