The deceptively simple plan to replenish California’s groundwater

From National Geographic:

From afar, the rows of knobby grapevines blend into the landscape of pink-blossomed almond trees and fragrant citrus. But get up close and you’ll see something strange: The trunks of the vines are standing in several inches of glistening, precious water. 

These grapes, at the Kearney Agricultural Research Center in California’s San Joaquin Valley, are part of a grand experiment that many hope will help solve the state’s deepening water crisis. Here, in the state that provides some 40 percent of all the fresh produce grown in the United States, a 20-year-long drought has left growers and communities desperately short of water. To make up the persistent shortfall from rain and snow, they are pumping groundwater—and doing so far faster than water can trickle down from the surface to replenish underground aquifers. … ”

Read the full story at National Geographic here (note: registration required): The deceptively simple plan to replenish California’s groundwater

SGMA in the News

Through challenges of drought, locally led solutions for groundwater sustainability are advancing

California’s groundwater basins are a critical part of the state’s water supply for millions of people. Small communities rely on it, individual homes rely on it. It is a source of drinking water as well as irrigation for California’s agricultural community.  Groundwater is a fragile lifeline for some communities and as we find ourselves entering a third year of a severe drought, conservation will be critical as many of the monitoring wells statewide now show groundwater levels below historical average.  Despite this year’s dire drought circumstances, there is hope on the horizon for long-term groundwater sustainability and drought resiliency. That’s because California started taking action after the last drought. … ”  Read more from DWR News here: Through challenges of drought, locally led solutions for groundwater sustainability are advancing

Drought continues and groundwater regulations heat up in California

2021 was the driest year California has experienced in a century. At the end of the water year, spanning October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021, the State received only 11.87 inches of precipitation, approximately half of average. This came on the heels of the second driest year on record in 2020. … While GSAs worked to draft and submit their GSPs, litigation followed as stakeholders challenged the approaches to basin management. Among the 42 GSPs that have been submitted to DWR, at least four are being litigated in California Superior Courts. So far, these lawsuits are not concentrated in a particular region of the State, with challenges in the Central Valley, Central Coast, and eastern desert regions. A common theme raised in each of the complaints is the allegation that the various GSAs violated SGMA by adopting GSPs that changed the rights and priorities of water rights holders within the basin areas. … ”  Read the full post at Allen Matkins here: Drought continues and groundwater regulations heat up in California

California has begun managing groundwater under a new law. Experts aren’t sure it’s working

In the rural county of Madera in California’s San Joaquin Valley, some farmworkers have learned to ration their water on a two-week schedule. Water gets hauled in by trucks and delivered to homes that have installed temporary tanks to store it in their backyards.  Those cisterns usually hold up to 2,500 gallons, enough water to last a family two weeks, if they’re careful. The average California household uses double that in the same amount of time.  “We’ve been using too much groundwater in the Central Valley that we really do not have, and it’s taking water from our communities now and from future generations,” said Erick Orellana, a policy advocate for the nonprofit Community Water Center. ... ”  Read more from Inside Climate News here: California has begun managing groundwater under a new law. Experts aren’t sure it’s working

Water manager urges patience with SGMA

Aaron Fukuda is frustrated with discussions in Sacramento over reforming water rights. Fukuda, who manages the Tulare Irrigation District and leads a local groundwater sustainability agency, explained his concerns to the State Board of Food and Agriculture during a meeting this week on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  He was specifically pushing back on a new white paper from a group of law scholars that encourages the Legislature to revise the state’s water laws to better account for drought and climate change. Fukuda argued that “opening up water rights” for fully appropriated streams would divert critical resources from sustainability projects to instead cover court fees, and “that, in my mind, is a bad place to be.” ... ”  Read more from Agri-Pulse here: Water manager urges patience with SGMA

What every Californian should know about groundwater

In honor of World Water Day—its theme is “Groundwater—making the invisible visible”—we asked a handful of PPIC Water Policy Center senior staff to discuss groundwater and drought in California.  What should every Californian know about groundwater?  Jeff Mount: Groundwater is our drought reserve, but we tend to treat it like a regular part of our water supply. It’s usually 30% of our water supply, but during drought it’s more than 60%. The problem is that we don’t reserve enough for droughts and use too much during wetter periods.  Andrew Ayres: For a long time we treated groundwater like a property right, but it was a pretty lousy property right. A property right not only entitles you to access it but also excludes others from accessing it. That’s not what groundwater rights do in California. That is the source of many, if not all, of our groundwater problems. … ”  Continue reading at the PPIC here: What every Californian should know about groundwater

NApa-Sonoma: State groundwater management may require metered wells, additional fees

The lengthy, multifaceted work of the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency reached a benchmark in December 2021 when its board approved a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) and sent it off to the state for review and potential approval. The plan, including references and appendices, came in at a hefty 1,285 pages, though attentive readers can get the gist in the 28-page executive summary. … Probably the most notable part of the plan is the section dealing with potential groundwater user fees and permits — necessary steps to assure the plan is viable and effective. … ”  Read more from the Kenwood Press here: State groundwater management may require metered wells, additional fees

Westlands growers fear groundwater power grab by district general manager

Divisions are deepening within the giant Westlands Water District as some growers fear the district’s longtime, controversial general manager is amassing too much power.  In mid-February, district staff proposed new groundwater rules that would give General Manager Tom Birmingham almost total control over how groundwater is accounted for and to which grower accounts it would be credited, according to district growers.  It was a move that shocked some and prompted a group of growers to send letters to the district opposing the rules and demanding fair governance. They say giving that much power to one staff person creates a situation ripe for favoritism and abuse. … ”  Read more from Westlands Water District here: Westlands growers fear groundwater power grab by district general manager

Groundwater Management and Drought: An Interview with the San Joaquin Valley Partnership

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is committed to working collaboratively with partners to provide data and tools and proactively address drought impacts on drinking water wells, as documented in the state’s Groundwater Management and Drinking Water Well Principles and Strategies framework. DWR has maintained a dry well reporting system since the last drought period from 2012-2016 in which several thousand dry well reports were received. DWR is assisting local counties and groundwater managers and working with partner organizations to prepare for and respond to drought-related water shortages.  DWR Sustainable Groundwater Management Office representatives, Steven Springhorn and Melissa Sparks-Kranz, recently interviewed three women in leadership positions, advancing drought-related actions in the San Joaquin Valley: Laura Ramos, Associate Director for Research and Development at the California Water Institute, Lacey McBride, Water Resources Manager for Merced County and Tami McVay, Program Director-Partner Services at Self-Help Enterprises. … ”  Continue reading at DWR News here:  Groundwater Management and Drought: An Interview with the San Joaquin Valley Partnership

Tulare to drill new well with state funds

Exeter and Tooleville are the latest communities to go through a state-mandated water consolidation, but not the first in Tulare County. In 2016, the state issued its first ever mandatory water consolidation between the city of Tulare and Matheny Tract, a rural community just west of the city limits.  Now, six years later, Tulare is about to take the final step of the consolidation, building a new well with state money. Tulare Public Works Director Trisha Whitfield said the State Water Board notified the city on March 11 it has been approved for $4.28 million from the state’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund Program to build Well 4-3, which will generate 1,000 gallons per minute for the city’s water customers, including about 1,500 people living in Matheny Tract. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Tulare to drill new well with state funds

Tulare County to use mining pit to recharge aquifer with flood water

… Working to reduce the long-term risks of natural disasters, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency of Services (Cal OES) announced last month it is applying for $250 million in federal funding for proactive projects preparing communities for emergencies instead of reacting to them. One project in Tulare County plans to reuse an excavated mining pit to recharge groundwater levels with floodwater, which would provide more water for irrigating crops and drinking water while also serving as a habitat for migratory birds. According to Cal OES, the project is requesting $16.27 million in federal funding for the nearly $23 million project. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Tulare County to use mining pit to recharge aquifer with flood water

Using Sentinel-1 and GRACE satellite data to monitor the hydrological variations within the Tulare Basin, California

Subsidence induced by groundwater depletion is a grave problem in many regions around the world, leading to a permanent loss of groundwater storage within an aquifer and even producing structural damage at the Earth’s surface. California’s Tulare Basin is no exception, experiencing about a meter of subsidence between 2015 and 2020. However, understanding the relationship between changes in groundwater volumes and ground deformation has proven difficult. We employ surface displacement measurements from Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) and gravimetric estimates of terrestrial water storage from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite pair to characterize the hydrological dynamics within the Tulare basin. … ”  Read more from Nature here: Using Sentinel-1 and GRACE satellite data to monitor the hydrological variations within the Tulare Basin, California

Santa Ynez Groundwater Basin users could soon see new water-use restrictions

The Santa Ynez River Valley Groundwater Basin runs from Lake Cachuma off Highway 154 out to the ocean near Lompoc. It’s used for urban water supply in Northern Santa Barbara County and in agriculture for things like wine grapes and vegetables.  Now, water users in the area may be required to comply with sustainable tactics to help manage the basin after years of consistent drought and overuse.  “Many parts of the basin are nearing historical lows,” said Santa Barbara County Water Agency Manager Matt Young. … ”  Read more from the Santa Ynez Valley News here: Santa Ynez Groundwater Basin users could soon see new water-use restrictions

Santa Ynez Basin Groundwater Sustainability Plans approved

Water conservation along the Santa Ynez River took a significant step in January 2022 when three agencies unanimously approved groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs). These plans will be the basis for groundwater management in the area through a 20-year implementation period. … Public agencies in the Santa Ynez Basin formed three GSAs (Eastern, Western, and Central) that cover the area from Lake Cachuma to the Pacific Ocean. These GSAs have been working since 2015 to prepare GSPs that describe the area’s geology, how much water is in the basin, how it moves through the basin, and how it is used. The GSPs also identify projects and management actions the GSAs will undertake to ensure the basin is managed sustainably. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: Santa Ynez Basin Groundwater Sustainability Plans approved

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley water pumping 2.7 times higher than natural recharge

The annual water report for 2021 was presented on Wednesday at the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority regular board meeting. In short, water levels are declining. That much was already known, but questions revolved around gaps in the data.  “We cannot be expected to control the overdraft until we understand the overdraft,” said Stan Rajtora, IWVGA board member representing the IWV Water District.  The presentation was given by Stetson Engineers, the company performing the role of Water Resources Manager for IWVGA. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley water pumping 2.7 times higher than natural recharge

Ridgecrest: Hard questions, fewer answers at public workshop on adjudication

Photo by David O.

Members of the public turned up and asked hard questions at the Indian Wells Valley Water District’s adjudication workshop Wednesday night at city hall.  Not all of them were answered.  Questions ranged from potential impacts on small pumpers (unknown) to whether the adjudication outcome can be challenged after the fact (to some extent apparently).  Questioners were polite and articulate, but frequently not reassured by the answers they heard.  “I hope the judge doesn’t just say let’s cut that baby in half and give you each a half,” Skip Gorman said after asking about whether the determination can be questioned after the fact. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Hard questions, fewer answers at public workshop on adjudication

Rosamond Community Services District halts efforts to use eminent domain

The Rosamond Community Services District has halted its efforts to use eminent domain procedures to obtain water rights from agricultural land owned by the Calandri family on Rosamond’s west side. In November, the District Board of Directors unanimously approved a Resolution of Necessity, which declared it in the public interest to acquire the property for the water rights. On Wednesday, the Board rescinded that resolution, as the District had acquired other permanent water rights that meet a great deal of its water needs and temporary water rights that will provide a cushion while the effort continues to obtain permanent water rights, General Manager Steve Perez said. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here: Rosamond Community Services District halts efforts to use eminent domain

SGMA in the News

Groundwater plans for Westlands Water District, three other areas, deemed “incomplete”

Groundwater plans for two regions in the western San Joaquin Valley were deemed deficient by the state Department of Water Resources (DWR) on Friday.  The Westside subbasin, overseen by Westlands Water District, and the Delta-Mendota subbasin’s plans were officially labeled as “incomplete” by DWR. The state also found groundwater plans for the Paso Robles and Cuyama water subbasins incomplete.  Managers of those plans will now have 6 months to make recommended changes and submit the plans for approval again. If the plans are rejected at that time, the state Water Resources Control Board could take over the subbasins and manage groundwater directly, or take other, more punitive action. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Groundwater plans for Westlands Water District, three other areas, deemed “incomplete”

Westlands Water District responds to incomplete determination for Westside Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan

Today the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that the Westside Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (Westside GSP) submitted by Westlands Water District, acting as a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, has received an incomplete determination under the provisions of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The determination starts a 180-day window to address DWR’s comments. In response, Westlands Water District General Manager Tom Birmingham issued the following statement:  “Westlands has monitored groundwater conditions since the 1950s and has actively managed groundwater since the adoption of its Groundwater Management Plan in 1996. The Westside GSP, adopted pursuant to additional authorities provided by SGMA, includes numerous actions to ensure that groundwater levels stay at or above 2015 levels. The Westside GSP includes advanced monitoring, data, metering, and groundwater recharge programs to ensure that neither the groundwater basin nor the local communities that rely on it will be harmed by continued extractions of groundwater.” … ”  Continue reading at the Westlands Water District here: Westlands Water District responds to incomplete determination for Westside Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan

Humboldt County supervisors OK Eel River Basin groundwater sustainability plan

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved a state-mandated sustainability plan for groundwater in the Eel River Basin on Tuesday.  Required as a part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, the groundwater sustainability plan provides guidance on how to manage the Eel River Valley’s complex system of groundwater and surface water resources, especially during critical drought years.  The plan must be submitted to the California Department of Water Resources for evaluation and assessment by the end of the month. The plan must be updated every five years. ... ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Humboldt County supervisors OK Eel River Basin groundwater sustainability plan

Federal, local officials kick off millions in repairs to Friant-Kern Canal

Local and Federal water officials and lawmakers celebrated the groundbreaking of a massive project on the Friant-Kern Canal on Tuesday, marking the start of the canal’s restoration.  Coming in at $187 million, the first portion of the massive effort will restore capacity within the canal in a 10-mile portion that has been affected by subsidence: the sinking of the canal’s bottom from groundwater removal.  With 33 miles of the Friant-Kern Canal in total that have sunk due to subsidence, Tuesday’s groundbreaking kicks off the first phase of the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction restoration project.  … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here: Federal, local officials kick off millions in repairs to Friant-Kern Canal

East Kaweah GSA limits groundwater pumping

“In the face of deepening drought in October, the East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency (EKGSA) passed an emergency groundwater allocation policy, and for the first time ever, the Tulare County area’s farmers were given limits and fines for how much water they can pump out of the increasingly parched ground.  EKGSA governs water for much of the eastern portion of the Kaweah Sub Basin, which includes the towns of Lindsay and Strathmore, and the Exeter and Ivanhoe irrigation districts and the farmland that surrounds them. Michael Hagman, EKGSA’s executive director said even in wet years and the rain in late 2021, they just aren’t seeing wells recovering. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: East Kaweah GSA limits groundwater pumping

Ridgecrest: Water District focuses on recycled water for sustainability

The Indian Wells Valley Water District outlined groundwater sustainability priorities at the Water District annual workshop on Wednesday, January 19. At the top of the list were two projects: recycled water and improving data on the scientific model of the IWV groundwater basin.  The list of priorities were put together at the request of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA), a government agency tasked with drafting and enacting the local basin’s groundwater sustainability plan (GSP).  IWVGA is applying for a grant from the Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Implementation Program – Round 1. The grant could award IWVGA with up to $7.6 million to put towards local groundwater sustainability projects. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Ridgecrest: Water District focuses on recycled water for sustainability

SGMA in the news

STATEWIDE NEWS

State calls on local agencies to protect groundwater

For the first time in California history, local agencies and groundwater users are required to form groundwater sustainability agencies and develop and implement plans to guide how they will achieve groundwater basin sustainability goals over the next 20 years.  As part of this process, agencies overseeing management of high- and medium-priority groundwater basins have until Jan. 31, 2022, to submit groundwater sustainability plans to the state to be reviewed by the California Department of Water Resources, the agency tasked with evaluating and assessing the plans.  Last week, the agency released its second round of assessments of plans developed by local agencies required to bring groundwater basins into sustainability for the future. The actions are mandated under the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA.  The first round of assessments for critically overdrafted basins happened in June. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: State calls on local agencies to protect groundwater

‘Everybody’s pumping.’ How California’s plan to conserve groundwater ran into a drought

On the parched west side of the San Joaquin Valley, the drought has created a windfall for companies like Big River Drilling.  A water-well contractor based in the Fresno County community of Riverdale, Big River can hardly keep up with demand for new wells as farmers and rural residents seek to extract more water from underground. “I could work seven days a week if I wanted to,” said owner Wesley Harmon. “In my area, everybody’s pumping. You can’t blame the farmers. They’re trying to make a living, they’re trying to grow food for everybody.” … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: ‘Everybody’s pumping.’ How California’s plan to conserve groundwater ran into a drought

Where is the water going? Small farmers struggle as ag titans wheel water for profit

Farmers in the heart of California’s agricultural belt – Kings County – sense something is awry with their water supplies. In this intensively farmed, perennially dry county, water is leaving at a concerning rate.  “We’ve all seen it,” said walnut farmer Steve Walker. “We haven’t sat down and put dye in the water to watch where it actually goes. But everybody talks about it, and we’re all concerned.”  As far as Walker knows, no agency, city or county board is trying to figure out what’s really happening.  “There’s so many canals and ways it can move; it’s hard to track,” he said. But this much he knows — certain groundwater wells in the county are running practically year round, even in wet years. “So, it’s going somewhere,” Walker said. “And that’s the biggest issue. Because once it’s pumped out, we aren’t getting it back.” … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Where is the water going? Small farmers struggle as ag titans wheel water for profit

Four valley groundwater plans fail to meet state standards – for now

Four groundwater plans in the Central Valley — including those for Westlands Water District, Chowchilla Water District and the Merced and Eastern San Joaquin subbasins — don’t show how they will protect water quality, keep drinking water wells from going dry or stop already sinking land from sinking further, according to the Department of Water Resources.  In short, those plans earned “D’s” in DWR’s first round of assessments of Central Valley groundwater plans. DWR expects to issue assessments on the remaining groundwater plans, about 36 that cover the valley from Madera to Kern counties, within the first two weeks of December. ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Four valley groundwater plans fail to meet state standards – for now

Four San Joaquin Valley groundwater plans deemed inadequate

The state’s water agency today lambasted groundwater plans drafted by some of California’s largest and most powerful agricultural water suppliers in the San Joaquin Valley, indicating that they fail to protect drinking water supplies from over-pumping.  The four large groundwater basins at stake underlie stretches of San Joaquin, Merced, Madera and Fresno counties that are home to nearly 800,000 people and more than a million acres of irrigated agriculture.  The letters sent by the state Department of Water Resources to the local districts that manage the basins have a common theme: a failure to address how pumping, largely for growers, will harm the drinking water supplies of local communities. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Four San Joaquin Valley groundwater plans deemed inadequate

State’s groundwater “cop” weighs in on plans to stop over pumping and finds them lax

As California’s Central Valley water managers nervously await the first official Department of Water Resources responses to plans for how they expect to fix massive groundwater over pumping, some were dismayed to “stumble” on comments from a different, and very powerful, state water agency.The State Water Resources Control Board quietly submitted highly critical comments on five Central Valley groundwater sustainability plans in late summer that some local groundwater agencies only recently discovered.  Since the Water Board is the ultimate enforcement arm of the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the significance of these comments was immediately noted by water managers. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: State’s groundwater “cop” weighs in on plans to stop over pumping and finds them lax

State’s groundwater “cop” hands out more criticism of valley plans

Another set of comments critical of how San Joaquin Valley groundwater plans will impact drinking water wells dropped on Friday from the powerful State Water Resources Control Board.  The comments focused on plans that cover the City of Fresno and many surrounding towns as well as Visalia and a number of smaller towns in Tulare County. Specifically, it commented on plans covering most of the Kings and Kaweah subbasins.  One of the Kaweah plans, which covers the communities of Lindsay and Strathmore in eastern Tulare County, could result in “the dewatering over over one-third of the domestic wells throughout the subbasin,” the Water Board letter states. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: State’s groundwater “cop” hands out more criticism of valley plans

Central Valley groundwater may not recover from droughts

Groundwater in Calif.’s Central Valley is at risk of being depleted by pumping too much water during and after droughts, according to a new study in the American Geophysical Union journal Water Resources Research.  The study finds that groundwater storage recovery has been dismal after the state’s last two droughts, with less than a third of groundwater recovered from the drought that spanned 2012 to 2016. Under a best-case scenario where drought years are followed by consecutive wet years with above-average precipitation, the researchers found there is a high probability it would take six to eight years to fully recover overdrafted water. … ”  Continue reading from Water World here: Central Valley groundwater may not recover from droughts


REGIONAL SGMA NEWS

Lake County: Big Valley Basin draft groundwater sustainability plan released for public review

The Big Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency and Big Valley Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee have released the draft groundwater sustainability plan for the Big Valley Groundwater Basin for public review.  The Big Valley Basin Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan, or GSP, is now available for review during a formal 21-day public comment period that ends Dec. 3.  The GSP is being prepared pursuant to the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, or SGMA, which was amended in 2015.  Deputy Water Resources Director Marina Deligiannis told Lake County News that the Big Valley Draft GSP is the first and only draft GSP prepared for Lake County as required by SGMA. … ”  Read more from the Lake County News here: Big Valley Basin draft groundwater sustainability plan released for public review

WEIRD SCIENCE: The sky hoop will tell us about Ukiah Valley Basin’s groundwater aquifer

If you were in the Ukiah Valley yesterday, you may have noticed a helicopter towing a giant hoop in the sky. That hoop is equipped with technology that will fill an important data gap as agencies across the state try to figure out how to better manage their groundwater aquifers.  The Department of Water Resources (DWR) flew the helicopter over the area with Nordic company Skytem’s geophysical survey equipment attached to the giant hoop on Thursday, Nov. 11.  The signals that equipment sends to and receives from the Earth provide invaluable data about the structure of the groundwater basin and aquifer, but not how much water is inside them, said Katherine Dlubac, who is on DWR’s airborne electromagnetic survey team. … ”  Read more from the Mendocino Voice here: WEIRD SCIENCE: The sky hoop will tell us about Ukiah Valley Basin’s groundwater aquifer

Yuba Groundwater Sustainability Plan formally approved by Department of Water Resources

The California Department of Water Resources today formally approved the groundwater sustainability plan for the North and South Yuba groundwater subbasins in Yuba County. The plan was developed by Yuba Water Agency in coordination with Cordua Irrigation District, the City of Marysville and dozens of stakeholders to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA.  “The sustainable groundwater conditions in Yuba County and today’s announcement are testaments to the success of locally-driven water management,” said Scott Matyac, Yuba Water’s director of water resources. “We’re grateful to our local partners for their work on this plan and their continued commitment to protecting this critical resource for our region.” … ”  Read more from Yuba Water Agency here: Yuba Groundwater Sustainability Plan formally approved by Department of Water Resources

Commentary: Scary developments at Nevada Irrigation District

Jeff Litton writes, “You might have missed it, but something scary just happened at NID on Nov. 10. First, I want to thank our two excellent NID directors — Ricki Heck and Laura Peters. These directors are experienced, smart, and think critically.  The other three NID directors voted to remove NID from the Groundwater Sustainability Agency, a vitally important group of agencies that work together to protect the groundwater of the region. This network of agencies collaborates to make sure groundwater is sustainably managed, and thereby protects wells from going dry. … ”  Read more from The Union here: Commentary: Scary developments at Nevada Irrigation District

Sonoma County backs well water regulations, favoring new era of groundwater oversight

“Hailed as a complex and historic step, Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously endorsed plans to guide use and governance of groundwater relied on by rural residents, farmers and cities.  The plans, required by a 2014 state law crafted amid California’s past drought, will eventually include well water use fees in three basins underlying the Santa Rosa Plain and Sonoma and Petaluma valleys.  The plans, four years in the works and due for submission to the state Department of Water Resources in January, are “extraordinarily complex, politically charged and technically nuanced,” board Chair Lynda Hopkins said. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Sonoma County backs well water regulations, favoring new era of groundwater oversight

Pajaro Valley Water Board adopts basin management plan: Groundwater Sustainability Update 2022

The Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PV Water) Board of Directors unanimously adopted the Basin Management Plan: Groundwater Sustainability Update 2022 (GSU22) on Wednesday evening. The action came after more than a year of work on the plan by a 17 member Ad Hoc Sustainable Groundwater Committee, staff, consultants, and interested parties, which included 23 meetings in total. The Board meeting was attended by 29 people and many provided remarks during a public hearing, after which the Board took action. Adoption of the Plan, which includes newly developed sustainable groundwater management criteria, is a significant achievement and a requirement under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a 2014 law requiring groundwater basins in California to achieve sustainable groundwater resources by 2040. A $500,000 grant from the California Department of Water Resources, under Proposition 68, provided funding for this effort. … ”  Read more from the Pajaro Valley Water Agency here: Pajaro Valley Water Board adopts basin management plan: Groundwater Sustainability Update 2022

Conservation ethic allows Monterey Bay farmers to thrive during drought

Despite October’s record-setting rains, Central Valley farmers are still reeling from having their water supplies drastically reduced when the drought intensified last spring. Many farmers have been forced to rip out crops that can no longer be irrigated. Some have doubled or tripled their groundwater pumping as wells dry up before their eyes.  In the Monterey Bay area, however, crops reach toward the sun with thirst-quenched leaves. Well levels aren’t raising any alarms and the threat of losing water supplies has mostly subsided.  “I don’t know anybody having water issues right now,” said Joe Schirmer, owner of Dirty Girl Produce, a 40-acre organic farm in Watsonville. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Conservation ethic allows Monterey Bay farmers to thrive during drought

Ventura: CA DWR passes Groundwater Sustainability Plan for Fox Canyon GMA

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has approved the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency Groundwater Sustainability Plans, covering Oxnard and Pleasant Valley Basins—its two critically over-drafted basins.  The California Department of Water Resources released its second round of assessments of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) developed by local agencies to meet the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requirements. ... ”  Read more from The Patch here: Ventura: CA DWR passes Groundwater Sustainability Plan for Fox Canyon GMA

Rosamond Community Services District eyes eminent domain process to obtain water rights

The Rosamond Community Services District Board of Directors, on Thursday, agreed to begin eminent domain proceedings to obtain water rights from agricultural land owned by the Calandri family on Rosamond’s west side.  The Board unanimously approved a Resolution of Necessity, which declared it in the public interest to acquire the property for the water rights. Ed Lear, a litigation attorney representing the Calandri family, said they will challenge the action as a violation of the water basin adjudication. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here: Rosamond Community Services District eyes eminent domain process to obtain water rights

SGMA in the news

Dry wells, drastic cutbacks. For many Californians, drought hardships have already arrived

Staci Buttermore turned a faucet on the morning of May 28. She got nothing more than a stuttering sound, a staccato burp of air.  Her well, 95 feet deep, had gone dry.  For 24 years she and her husband had lived on a small ranch in Glenn County without a hint of water problems. Her husband’s family had lived there for a quarter-century before that, and every time the faucet was turned on, the water gushed out.  Suddenly, they had become the latest victims of California’s drought. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  Dry wells, drastic cutbacks. For many Californians, drought hardships have already arrived

Public meetings planned to discuss Colusa Subbasin

The Colusa Groundwater Authority (CGA) and the Glenn Groundwater Authority (GGA) will host two public meetings to discuss the Public Draft Colusa Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) next week.  “We’re at the culmination of a long process and on the cusp of implementing projects that will better monitor and enhance our groundwater,” said Denise Carter, GCA board chair and Colusa County Supervisor. “These meetings and the public comment period are a critical opportunity for stakeholders to give their input to the CGA and GGA before we approve the GSP and submit it to the state. I encourage every affected groundwater user in the subbasin to attend one of these meetings, review the plan and give us your feedback.” … ”  Continue reading at Yahoo News here: Public meetings planned to discuss Colusa Subbasin

Butte County supervisors back new water district

After a lengthy public hearing Tuesday, the Butte County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 to support a proposed water district in the northwest county.  The Tuscan Water District would cover 102,000 acres stretching from Butte Valley, north and west to the Tehama and Glenn county lines, excluding Cal Water’s Chico Division. The district name refers to the aquifer beneath the area.  The area is almost entirely dependent on groundwater, and to meet the provisions of a recent state law, the amount that is pumped will have to be reduced.  A group of farmers proposed the Tuscan District to import surface water so less groundwater will have to be pumped. That’s because if conservation and other measures don’t achieve enough of a reduction in pumping, farmland will have to be fallowed. ... ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Butte County supervisors back new water district

Sonoma County: Release of final draft groundwater sustainability plans and opportunity to comment at upcoming community meetings

Sonoma County’s three groundwater sustainability agencies, Petaluma Valley, Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa Plain, are releasing the Final Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) on October 1.  The GSPs assess the conditions of the groundwater basin, analyze the basin’s sustainability over a 50-year period, and identify projects and actions needed to ensure the basin is sustainable by 2042. … ”  Read more from Sonoma County here: Sonoma County: Release of final draft groundwater sustainability plans and opportunity to comment at upcoming community meetings 

Owens Valley Groundwater Authority requests public input

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014 empowers local agencies to ensure groundwater resources are managed sustainably. The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority (OVGA) was created to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP) for the Owens Valley Groundwater Basin which includes the Owens, Round, Chalfant, Hammil, and Benton Valleys as well as Fish Slough and the area around Owens Lake. The OVGA is a joint powers authority composed of Inyo County, Mono County, City of Bishop, Indian CreekWestridge Community Service District (CSD), and Big Pine CSD as well as two interested parties, the Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe and the Owens Valley Committee.  Even though the Basin is not in a critically over-drafted condition and was ranked by the California Department of Water Resources as a low priority basin, the OVGA elected to develop a GSP voluntarily over the last year.  … ”  Continue reading from the Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley Groundwater Authority requests public input

Video: Groundwater and Urban Growth in the San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley is home to some 4 million residents and growing rapidly: another 1 million residents are expected by 2040. Groundwater is the primary water source for these communities, yet decades of overpumping have stressed the region’s groundwater basins, resulting in land subsidence, dry wells, and falling groundwater reserves. The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) seeks to solve this issue by mandating that water users bring their groundwater basins back into balance by the 2040s.  “Much of the discussion around implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in the valley focuses on agriculture,” said PPIC research fellow Andrew Ayres at a virtual event last week. “That makes sense, because agriculture is a key player in SGMA implementation in the valley. Urban areas, though they use much less water, oftentimes are highly reliant on groundwater, so SGMA implementation is very important for them as well.” … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Video: Groundwater and Urban Growth in the San Joaquin Valley

Retired farmer warns of huge water problem

For many years. retired farmer Tom Willey of T&D Willey Organic Farms, pumped water onto his 75 acres of farmland in Madera County.  During his 20 years of farming, Willey didn’t think of much other than growing his crops and living off the land.  However, now he realized he was part of the problem and, if something isn’t done, the entire Central Valley could be in for a rude awakening when it comes to water issues.  “A couple of weeks ago, I ran into my friend, Matt Angell, who owns Madera Pumps,” Willey said. “He basically goes around and services a bunch of agriculture wells. He has been running cameras down people’s wells at a rate of about three a day. People have been calling him frantically of what is going on with their pump with no water or water quality bad. … ”  Continue reading at the Madera Tribune here: Retired farmer warns of huge water problem

Water is scarce in California. But farmers have found ways to store it underground

Aaron Fukuda admits that the 15-acre sunken field behind his office doesn’t look like much.  It’s basically a big, wide hole in the ground behind the headquarters of the Tulare Irrigation District, in the southern part of California’s fertile Central Valley. But “for a water resources nerd like myself, it’s a sexy, sexy piece of infrastructure,” says Fukuda, the district’s general manager.  This earthen basin could be the key to survival for an agricultural community that delivers huge quantities of vegetables, fruit and nuts to the rest of the country — but is running short of water. The basin just needs California’s rivers to rise and flood it. ... ”  Read more from the Capital Public Radio here: Water is scarce in California. But farmers have found ways to store it underground

Indio Subbasin Water Management Plan Update is available for public review and comment

The draft 2021 Indio Subbasin Water Management Plan Update is now available for public review and comment.  The Indio Subbasin, which is where most local drinking water comes from, is part of the Coachella Valley Groundwater Basin.   The update outlines how local water managers plan to meet future water demands, maintain stable groundwater levels, manage and protect water quality, collaborate with tribes and state and federal agencies on shared objectives, manage future costs, minimize adverse environmental impacts, and reduce vulnerability to climate change and drought impacts. ... ”  Continue reading from the Coachella Valley Water District here: Indio Subbasin Water Management Plan Update is available for public review and comment

SGMA in the News

Proposed north Butte County water district stirring controversy

A proposal for a new Butte County water district is wending its way through the approval process, and not everyone is happy about that.  The Tuscan Water District would cover most of the northwestern county, excluding Chico. The area is dependent on well water. Under a recently approved state law, the amount of groundwater currently being pumped in the area will have to be reduced.  Each well owner is currently on their own. No entity speaks for them as a group. Proponents say the Tuscan Water District would be that advocate for the whole area.  However a handful of farming families own the majority of the land in the district, and opponents think they could stack the district’s board of directors to the detriment of the others. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Proposed north Butte County water district stirring controversy

Butte Water Commission backs water district proposal

A proposed water district in northwestern Butte County Wednesday won a split-vote endorsement from the Butte County Water Commission, after a lengthy public hearing.  The commission voted 6-3 to recommend the Board of Supervisors support formation of the Tuscan Water District.  Even though the vote was just advisory, there were two hours of public comment. When the supervisors take up the matter Sept. 14, their action will also just be advisory, as the Local Agency Formation Commission is the entity that will determine whether the district is formed. … ”  Read more from the Oroville Mercury Register here: Butte Water Commission backs water district proposal

Cosumnes subbasin draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan available for public review

A 20-year plan that will govern how people in south Sacramento County and parts of Amador County use groundwater and pay to sustain its availability has been released for public review and comment. Comments are due October 20, 2021.The plan includes broad-based fees on wells and water usage, with the largest portion of the funds generated earmarked for projects that are designed to increase the availability of groundwater in the future.  The draft Cosumnes Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) is a state-mandated plan for achieving sustainable management of groundwater use in the southeastern portion of Sacramento County and parts of Amador County. … ”  Read more from the Amador Ledger-Dispatch here: Cosumnes subbasin draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan available for public review

Cooperation, not opposition, is key to solving California’s groundwater management

Merced County supervisor Daron McDaniel and Calavaras County supervisor Jack Garamendi write, “Once again, we find ourselves in a drought and running out of water.  For the second time in the past decade, we are enduring another frustrating and uncertain period, asking how we will sustain the citizens of California as well as the agriculture that feeds the world.  Drought is not new to California and we have engineered one of the most comprehensive and complex systems on the planet to water our crops and people. What has changed is that the investments our grandparents made that allowed our state to bloom are now deteriorating, our water storage is inadequate, and we are woefully behind in managing the vast, but declining aquifer that runs throughout our state. … ”  Read more from the Merced Sun-Star here: Cooperation, not opposition, is key to solving California’s groundwater management

Madera County residents and farmers face groundwater challenge of a lifetime

Madera County is running out of time as groundwater levels plummet to new depths.  Wells are going dry everywhere. Drillers have months-long waitlists. Residents are scrambling for water tanks. And farmers will soon face a reckoning after agriculture’s footprint, particularly nut trees, has more than doubled in the past 50 years — far outpacing irrigation supplies.  There’s growing consensus among farmers, county officials and residents that Madera’s groundwater problem will be solved mainly by cutting water demand, not by waiting for more dams to be built or even recharging excess water into the aquifer. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Madera County residents and farmers face groundwater challenge of a lifetime

Madera commentary: Is anyone listening?

Tom Willey with T&D Willey Farms writes, “One courageous voice in our community has been sounding the alarm that our precious aquifer, lifeblood of our economy, households, and public facilities, is in imminent collapse. For the better part of this year, Matt Angell, managing partner of Madera Pumps Inc., has been reeling his video camera down failing wells across the county, stunned by the unprecedented conditions he is witnessing. Plunging water levels, well casings crushed and split like beer cans, and good wells reduced to a trickle of their recent selves, have Matt sounding the cry that our community must respond in equal measure to the challenge before us. We are not. Is anyone listening? … ”  Continue reading at the Madera Tribune here: Madera commentary: Is anyone listening?

Some Monterey County growers are risking a fragile resource to survive the drought.

In the midst of a widespread drought, Lakes San Antonio and Nacimiento, critically important reservoirs for Monterey County, are at their lowest capacity levels since 2017. When the lakes get low, the ability to get enough water to some agricultural growers gets complicated. Add politics and Covid to the mix and you get the scramble underway between the region’s sewage agency, the city of Salinas and the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to deliver water to thousands of acres of crops and protect a fragile underground water supply. … ”  Read more from the Monterey County Weekly here: Some Monterey County growers are risking a fragile resource to survive the drought.

Edna Valley farmers, residents, and water companies collaborate on plan to stabilize groundwater basin

Water wells in the Edna Valley used to be shallow: “You could put a well to 30 or 40 feet. Well that’s just kind of unrealistic [now],” Edna Valley Growers Mutual Company President Bob Schiebelhut said.  Some of those shallow wells didn’t make it through the last drought, drying up and forcing landowners to drill a little deeper. Now in a new drought, Edna Valley farmers and residents are once again praying for rain, Schiebelhut said. But they’re also moving forward with SLO County and the city of SLO on a plan to make their groundwater more drought resilient. The 30-day comment period on a draft of that plan—which covers approximately 20 square miles from the city of San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly to Lopez Reservoir just before Orcutt Road meets Lopez Drive—ends on Sept. 19. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: Edna Valley farmers, residents, and water companies collaborate on plan to stabilize groundwater basin

SLO County develops tools to sell, transfer, and exchange state water

Fifth District SLO County Supervisor Debbie Arnold’s concerns about groundwater banking persist as the county takes steps to enable more flexibility for its unused State Water Project water.  “I’ve been pretty clear all along, I don’t want to ever see our basins here in the county be used for groundwater banks at all, especially with state water,” Arnold said during the Aug. 24 Board of Supervisors meeting. “If we have excess state water, I think we start to concentrate—where we build the infrastructure to put it in above ground storage like Lopez [Lake], so that people in our county can use it. … But not groundwater banking.” … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: SLO County develops tools to sell, transfer, and exchange state water

Cuyama Valley groundwater basin joins growing list of post-SGMA comprehensive groundwater adjudications

Facing depleting groundwater supplies, a group of landowners in the Cuyama Valley Groundwater Basin, which overlies parts of Ventura, Kern, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara Counties, filed a complaint for a comprehensive adjudication of all the groundwater rights in the basin. In the wake of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Act (“SGMA”), which requires regulation of groundwater for long-term sustainability, and as drought affects water supplies throughout California, a growing number of adjudications are being filed under the Comprehensive Groundwater Adjudication Statute, California Code of Civil Procedure sections 830 et seq. This is the fifth such adjudication filed since 2015, when the California Legislature revised the process for comprehensive groundwater adjudications. These adjudications resolve all water rights in a given groundwater basin. … ”  Read more from O’Melveny here: Cuyama Valley groundwater basin joins growing list of post-SGMA comprehensive groundwater adjudications

Groundwater storage increases for local Chino Basin rights holders

A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge today ruled that local agencies that pump water from the Chino Basin can store and access an additional six-month supply of groundwater, providing significant benefit for 1.5 million people across Inland Southern California.  The ruling by Judge Stanford Reichert on this single element of the Chino Basin Optimum Basin Management Program (OBMP) means water providers in the region can retain use of the stockpiled groundwater, worth about $50 million, and have room for more. The Chino Basin Watermaster Board of Directors and staff and the cooperating agencies worked together to craft this solution over the course of several years. … ”  Read more from ACWA Water News here: Groundwater storage increases for local Chino Basin rights holders

SGMA in the News

A drought-hit US town finds itself sinking into the ground

You’ve got too many farmers pumping all around,” complained Raul Atilano. This octogenarian resident of Corcoran, the self-proclaimed farming capital of California, was struggling to make sense of the strangest of phenomena: his already suffering town is sinking, ever so gradually, into the ground.  A constant stream of trucks carrying tomatoes, alfalfa or cotton outside this town of 20,000 shows just how inextricably Corcoran’s fate is tied to the intensive farming practiced here.  To irrigate its vast fields and help feed America, farm operators began in the last century to pump water from underground sources, so much so that the ground has begun to sink — imagine a series of giant straws sucking up groundwater faster than rain can replenish it, as hydrologist Anne Senter explained it to AFP. … ”  Read more from NDTV here: A drought-hit US town finds itself sinking into the ground 

 

Tracy: Plan affecting groundwater wells up for review

The status of the groundwater aquifer around Tracy will be up for review in the coming months, with an online forum next week the public’s chance to talk about how use of that aquifer could affect local groundwater wells in and around Tracy. … The Tracy Subbasin – a 345,000-acre area with the San Joaquin River on the eastern boundary and Old River to the west, extending north to Mandeville Island – includes the City of Tracy, is considered a medium priority “non-critically overdrafted” basin, meaning that the groundwater sustainability plan for the subbasin must be completed by the end of January 2022. … ”  Read more from the Tracy Press here:  Plan affecting groundwater wells up for review

Flood irrigation: It keeps water flowing to homes in Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop, & elsewhere in water basin

Head into the countryside outside of Manteca and Ripon and you will come across a sight that you might view as insanity given the severe drought.  There are literally hundreds if not thousands of acres of almond orchards and other cropland being flood irrigated.  What looks like a waste of water is actually helping keep water flowing to your home to wash clothes, drink, flush toilets, shower or bathe, and wash dishes and such if you live in Manteca, Ripon, Stockton, Lathrop, Escalon and Lodi. … ”  Read more from the Manteca Bulletin here: Flood irrigation: It keeps water flowing to homes in Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop, & elsewhere in water basin

Monterey Peninsula well failed, allowing saltier water to mix with drinking water

Monterey Peninsula water officials are breathing a sigh of relief after a monitoring well in the Seaside Basin picked up increased salt levels, prompting concerns that an underground reservoir of potable water was being infiltrated by seawater.  But it turned out the salts were from a failed well casing that allowed saltier shallow water from the Dune Sands to enter into the well and cross-contaminate the deeper body of water called the Paso Robles Aquifer that is tapped for drinking water. That aquifer can be thought of as a layer of water within the Seaside Basin. ... ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here: Monterey Peninsula well failed, allowing saltier water to mix with drinking water

Ridgecrest: Court backs IWVGA in battle over replenishment fees

Two motions to block the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s groundwater replenishment fee were shot down in court this week.  Judge Kirk H. Nakamura of Orange County Superior Court granted motions filed by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority to dismiss two separate actions filed by Searles Valley Minerals and Mojave Pistachios. The actions were aimed at stopping the collection of the groundwater replenishment fee, which was imposed last January to fund the cost of securing rights to water to bring to the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Court backs IWVGA in battle over replenishment fees

SGMA in the news

How an integrated approach to water planning is helping the city of Roseville weather the drought with an eye toward the future

By now, it is clear that California is experiencing yet another severe drought. In the Sacramento region, Folsom Lake — the city of Roseville’s primary water supply source — has dropped to levels not seen since 1977.  Understanding the drought’s swift toll on the environment, the Regional Water Authority (RWA), which represents water providers serving two million people in the Sacramento region, asked members to start using more groundwater and take other actions to reduce reliance on local lakes and rivers.  The city of Roseville responded almost immediately, thanks to its innovative approach to water supply planning called Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) and its partnership with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). … ”  Read more from Western City Magazine here: How an integrated approach to water planning is helping the city of Roseville weather the drought with an eye toward the future

Receding Sonoma Valley aquifers could prompt big changes in how wells are used

There’s likely a vast, unseen reservoir beneath your feet, built by centuries of rain percolating through the earth. Problem is, it’s not limitless. In the Sonoma Valley, one of the county’s three basins, that invisible supply has sunk 10 feet in two years.  In a webinar held Wednesday evening, officials with the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency—an entity created under California’s recent groundwater law said there are concerns beyond supply and demand. Arsenic, nitrate and boron have been detected., along with chloride, a marker for saltwater. Since 1970, officials estimate, the aquifer has lost 14,000 acre-feet, as wells pump faster than nature can replenish. That’s equivalent to more than a tenth of Lake Mendocino’s capacity. And also prompting salty, brackish water from San Francisco Bay, to seep in. … ”  Read more from Northern California Public Media here: Receding Sonoma Valley aquifers could prompt big changes in how wells are used

Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency works toward long-term drought solutions

In 1983, a group of local farmers looking for ways to manage the Pajaro Valley’s groundwater basin formed the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PVWMA). A year later, the agency was officially recognized by the state legislature, who tasked them to stop groundwater overdraft and seawater intrusion in the valley—all while preserving the vital agricultural industry.  Now, as the state of California struggles with a severe, ongoing drought, PVWMA’s work has seeped into the community’s consciousness. Marcus Mendiola, the agency’s water conservation and outreach specialist, says that more and more people—government officials, the media, individual residents—have been reaching out to them, asking what can be done to save water.  “Everyone is thinking very short term—they’re thinking, ‘It’s dry right now.’ And that’s a common human experience,” Mendiola said. “But this is a long-term problem. We have been focused on this since 1983. Our mission during these extreme drought periods is only further reinforced.” ... ”  Read more from Good Times here:  Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency works toward long-term drought solutions

SEE ALSO: Video: Unique collaboration in Santa Cruz County looking to replenish critically over drafted basin, from Channel 8

Monterey: A crucial water source for agriculture has been overdrafted for decades. A new plan aims to fix that.

In Monterey County, water is a scarce resource. This is an obvious statement to locals who see how rarely water falls from the sky and how depleted streams and rivers can become in drought years. Less obvious is the health of the water pumped out of the ground through wells connected to subterranean lakes and streams known as aquifers. These aquifers provide drinking water to some residents and offer a lifeline to the multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry that fuels the local economy.  Decades of over-pumping have threatened the health of one local group of aquifers, known as the 180/400 foot aquifer subbasin. Water has been pumped out of these aquifers faster than they can recharge. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: A crucial water source for agriculture has been overdrafted for decades. A new plan aims to fix that.

Wells are failing in southeastern Madera County. What to know about the water situation

On Sunday evening, a well motor failed in a Madera Ranchos community water system that serves around 1,000 homes.  Last week, another well pump stopped working in Parksdale, southeast of Madera.  Neither community has lost water service. Both are experiencing low pressure.  Madera County Public Works runs both water systems.  From Madera Acres to the Bonadelle Ranchos, private wells are running dry at an alarming rate. Self-Help Enterprises, an organization that supports communities with water challenges, has been tracking the problem.  They have now delivered water tanks to more than 200 households in the county.  “It’s a hot spot,” said Tami McVay of Self-Help Enterprises. “During the last drought, Tulare County was overwhelmed. But now, Madera County is getting hit the worst this time.” … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Wells are failing in southeastern Madera County. What to know about the water situation

State still hasn’t fixed Porterville drinking water crisis from the last drought. Will residents go dry again?

The epicenter of dry wells during California’s last devastating drought was undoubtedly Porterville. The small Tulare County town saw wells go dry enmasse in its unincorporated east side. It became a national headline as the media descended.  Amid the glare of tv cameras, the state pledged to help and agreed to build three new wells.  Five years have gone by, the state is in the grip of another drought and Porterville is walking a tightrope as the state connected more than 755 new homes to the city’s water system but only built one new well.  “We wish those three wells were done,” said John Lollis, City Manager of Porterville. “It would make this summer much more bearable.” ... ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  State still hasn’t fixed Porterville drinking water crisis from the last drought. Will residents go dry again?

East Orosi one step closer to clean water as Tulare County moves to become administrator

East Orosi is one step closer to achieving clean drinking water, a basic human right that is denied to many of California’s disadvantaged communities, particularly in the rural San Joaquin Valley.  Last Tuesday, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to take steps to become the manager of the small agricultural community’s water board. That means the town of about 500 will soon have the financial resources and technical know-how to gain clean water.  “It’s very unacceptable, especially in 2021, that these communities in our own state have to deal and suffer from this inequity,” said Supervisor Eddie Valero, who represents East Orosi. “If there is any time where this possible the time is now because of the [state’s] emphasis on water.” … ”  Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here: East Orosi one step closer to clean water as Tulare County moves to become administrator

State finds deficiencies in Paso and Cuyama basin plans

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) published its first reviews of local groundwater sustainability plans as part of a 2014 state law regulating groundwater—and two Central Coast aquifers are included in the initial wave of feedback.  DWR reviewed and found “deficiencies” in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin and Cuyama Valley Groundwater Basin sustainability plans—declining to give final approval to either.  In separate letters about the basins, DWR identified issues ranging from a lack of discussion about impacts to shallow and domestic wells, to a lack of planning for surface waters, like creeks and rivers. Six points of deficiencies were listed in all—two for Paso and four for Cuyama. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: State finds deficiencies in Paso and Cuyama basin plans 

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SGMA in the News

State releases its first reviews of local SGMA plans

Against the backdrop of what’s shaping up as a devastating drought year, the California Department of Water Resources has released its first assessments of groundwater sustainability plans developed by local agencies to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  The department released reviews of four local plans, approving two but sending the other two back to local groundwater sustainability agencies, saying the plans need more work.  Under SGMA, the local groundwater sustainability agencies must develop plans to guide management of groundwater in basins and subbasins statewide. This first round of assessments pertains to agencies overseeing critically overdrafted basins and that were required to submit plans by Jan. 31. ... ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: State releases its first reviews of local SGMA plans

GSAs shooting 50% on GSPs—DWR releases first GSP assessment results for high priority basins

The wait is over for some Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the first Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) assessments for four basins yesterday, June 3, 2021.  DWR approved the 180/400 Foot Aquifer Subbasin in Salinas Valley and the Santa Cruz Mid-County Basin. DWR determined both GSPs “satisf[y] the objectives of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and substantially compl[y] with the GSP Regulations.”  By contrast, DWR issued “consultation initiation letters” to the Cuyama Valley Basin and the Paso Robles Area Subbasin, requiring certain deficiencies be corrected before the plan is approved. Both GSPs were deemed incomplete for deficiencies in their definitions of sustainable management criteria (SMC), including minimum thresholds and undesirable results, as required by SGMA and GSP regulations. … ”  Continue reading at Brownstein Water here: GSAs shooting 50% on GSPs—DWR releases first GSP assessment results for high priority basins

First assessments of Groundwater Sustainability Plans released by DWR

The first assessments of groundwater sustainability plans have been released by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). In lieu of waiting until the end of the two-year review period, DWR has decided to release assessments as they are completed. Assessments have been completed for the Santa Cruz Mid-County Basin in Santa Cruz County and 180/400 Foot Aquifer Subbasin in Monterey County. Assessments for the Cuyama Valley Basin and Paso Robles Subbasin have also been completed.  “Local management, including development of solutions for the long-term reliability of groundwater, is the cornerstone of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a press release. … ”  Read more from Ag Net West here:  First assessments of Groundwater Sustainability Plans released by DWR

Lack of surface water and groundwater is making dairy farming much more challenging

California’s water situation has not been good for a long time; however, this year could prove to be even worse. With little to no snowpack in the mountains and less water flowing down the California Water Project, farmers and cities alike are facing the repercussions of poor water management combined with consecutive dry years. With the scarcity of water this year, it is only fitting that we throw one more hurdle in the mix and make farming even more difficult. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is now in full play and is already changing the way farms are managing their water and funds. … ”  Read more from Hoard’s Dairyman here:  Lack of surface water and groundwater is making dairy farming much more challenging

How to fix America: Replenish overdrafted aquifers in the San Joaquin Valley

To grow the almonds, citrus, cotton and myriad other crops that make the San Joaquin Valley one of the most productive regions in the world, farmers have long relied on groundwater. But decades of excessive pumping — including during droughts, when aquifers went without replenishment — have literally caused the valley to sink, threatening future supplies and infrastructure. Like a bank account in overdraft, groundwater supplies are overdue for a top-up. And with climate change further squeezing resources, some land will have to be taken out of production. As part of his $100 billion “California Comeback” plan, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a direct response to these complex issues: $500 million for “multi-benefit land repurposing” that provides “flexible, long-term support to water users.” Ann Hayden, senior director of the water program at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that would mean incentivizing farmers to transition their land to uses that allow for more groundwater recharge and provide other benefits like wildlife habitat, recreation space, or room for solar installations. ... ”  Read more from Bloomberg City Lab here: Replenish overdrafted aquifers

Ultra-sensitive radiation detectors provide deeper dive into groundwater

Scientists are gaining deeper insights into how agricultural practices affect groundwater, thanks in part to an isotope groundwater age-dating technique made possible by ultra-sensitive radiation measurements at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).  In a recent study published in Science Advances magazine, physicists from PNNL partnered with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, U.S. Geological Survey, and Argonne National Laboratory to use isotope dating to estimate the age of groundwater samples from California’s San Joaquin Valley.  Groundwater ages can reveal important clues about potential contaminants in the aquifer, and how often and from which sources the water table replenishes. … ”  Read more from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory here: Ultra-sensitive radiation detectors provide deeper dive into groundwater

Sonoma Valley well owners invited to preview sustainability indicators of future groundwater issues

Well owners in the Santa Rosa Plain, Petaluma Valley, and Sonoma Valley have been invited to participate in local community meetings on groundwater conditions and sustainable management of this critical water source. The Sonoma Valley virtual meeting will take place June 23 at 5:30 p.m.  The meetings will preview proposed sustainability indicators, developed with stakeholder input, that are the heart of the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) being developed by these three groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs). The plans identify issues with current and future groundwater resources and provide means to address the problems. … ”  Read more from the Kenwood Press here:  Sonoma Valley well owners invited to preview sustainability indicators of future groundwater issues

Commentary: How an invisible water source will help Sacramento get through the upcoming drought

Jim Piefer, executive director of the Regional Water Authority and Sacramento Groundwater Authority, writes, “One look at Folsom Lake, the Sacramento region’s primary surface water storage reservoir, says all we need to know about California’s current water situation: We’re in another drought.  Like reservoirs throughout the state, Folsom is shockingly low and won’t be refilled by snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada. Low reservoir levels are a big concern for the Lower American River, a critical habitat for salmon and steelhead.  Local water managers are working closely through the Water Forum, a coalition of water providers, environmentalists, business groups and local governments, to monitor and address the river’s conditions with our federal and state partners. Many will request voluntary conservation, as we all play a role in helping preserve as much water as possible. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Commentary: How an invisible water source will help Sacramento get through the upcoming drought

Sustainable farming helps Salinas Valley ag industry fight drought

Have you ever been driving through the Salinas Valley and noticed how green the crops are against the golden hills? How do those crops get their water?  The water comes straight from rainfall. It’s all local water.  Monterey County is not part of the state water project. Rain that falls either directly waters the crops, accumulates in reservoirs or flows into the Salinas River. The water eventually seeps into the Salinas River basin for storage. … ”  Read more from Channel 8 here: Sustainable farming helps Salinas Valley ag industry fight drought

Tulare County’s never-ending drought brings dried up wells and plenty of misery

Severe drought is gripping most of California, but its misery isn’t spread equally. While most of the state compares today’s extreme conditions to previous droughts, people in Tulare County speak of drought — in the singular, as in a continuous state of being.   “The drought has never stopped in north Tulare County. It never left,” said county Supervisor Eddie Valero. “Domestic wells are drying up at an alarming rate.”  The entire West is suffering from extreme dryness, heat and fire risk, and the small, rural towns of northern Tulare County, outside of Visalia, are caught in its vortex.  While officials around the state are devising strategies to restrict or conserve water, here in the upper San Joaquin Valley there isn’t much in the way of water to begin with. The spigot, for farms and for households, has been constricted to a trickle. For many residents, water comes in a bottle, delivered year-round by a truck from a county or social service agency. … ”  Read more from Cal Matters here: Tulare County’s never-ending drought brings dried up wells and plenty of misery

The sinking Central Valley town

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the farming town of Corcoran has a multimillion-dollar problem. It is almost impossible to see, yet so vast it takes NASA scientists using satellite technology to fully grasp.  Corcoran is sinking.  Over the past 14 years, the town has sunk as much as 11.5 feet in some places — enough to swallow the entire first floor of a two-story house and to at times make Corcoran one of the fastest-sinking areas in the country, according to experts with the United States Geological Survey. … ”  Continue reading at SJV Water here: The sinking Central Valley town

Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority: Mojave Pistachios must pay or quit pumping, Searles gets reprieve until July 1

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority voted to take action against Mojave Pistachios for not paying the GA’s replenishment fee.  The agency also voted to take action against Searles Valley Minerals, but not right away.  Neither decision was unanimous.  The actions were taken at a virtual meeting Wednesday that was troubled by technical difficulties with the live stream, which caused the meeting to halt at least once.  The authority approved an order for Mojave Pistachios to either pay the GA’s the $2,130 per acre-foot replenishment fee or stop pumping, effective immediately. If they fail to do one or the other, the GA can then seek a court order for enforcement. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority: Mojave Pistachios must pay or quit pumping, Searles gets reprieve until July

State knocks ‘Deficiencies’ in Cuyama Valley groundwater plan

Siding with Cuyama Valley conservationists, the state Department of Water Resources this month sent a local agency back to the drawing board to revise its 20-year plan for replenishing the groundwater basin, now severely depleted after decades of water-intensive, industrial-scale farming.  In a June 3 letter to the Cuyama Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), the department praised its “aggressive approach” in proposing to reduce agricultural pumping in the valley by up to two-thirds by the year 2040. But the department also identified a long list of “deficiencies” in the plan and suggested “corrective actions” to address them.  It was a victory of sorts for the community organizations and small-scale farmers who have long argued that a 20-year plan was too little, too late. … ”  Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: State knocks ‘Deficiencies’ in Cuyama Valley groundwater plan

SGMA in the News

Winter flooding of farm fields could ease drought impacts

When droughts strike, people who rely on shallow domestic wells for their drinking, cooking and washing water are among the first to feel the pain.  Aquifers have become depleted from decades of overuse. Drilling deeper is an option for farmers, but prohibitively expensive for low-income residents in disadvantaged communities in California’s San Joaquin Valley.   A University of California scientist believes managed aquifer recharge on agricultural lands close to populations with parched wells is a hopeful solution.  Helen Dahlke, professor in integrated hydrologic sciences at UC Davis, has been evaluating scenarios for flooding agricultural land when excess water is available during the winter in order to recharge groundwater. … ”  Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Winter flooding of farm fields could ease drought impacts

FOR MORE INFORMATION: New Modeling Framework Guides Managed Aquifer Recharge Under Climate Change, Research brief from Water in the West


AEM surveys will assist groundwater management in California

Groundwater is a critical source of water for both California farms and communities. The State of California enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act which requires local agencies in high- and medium-priority groundwater basins to develop and implement groundwater sustainability plans.  To assist local agencies as they develop these plans, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) will conduct airborne electromagnetic (AEM) surveys in California’s high- and medium-priority groundwater basins. The project will generate coarse-grid subsurface maps that provide framework information about large-scale aquifer structure. The AEM data supports the development or refinement of hydrogeologic conceptual models as well as helps to identify possible areas for recharging groundwater.  “Statewide AEM surveys will further DWR’s technical assistance services supporting local communities as they work to manage their groundwater supply to ensure its reliability,” said Steven Springhorn, acting DWR deputy director of statewide groundwater management. … ”  Read more from Environmental Expert here:  AEM surveys will assist groundwater management in California

MORE INFOAirborne Electromagnetic (AEM) Surveys, webpage at DWR


Central Valley water districts get OK to sue Dow, Shell over groundwater pollution

A state appeals court has upheld California’s cleanup standards for a cancer-causing chemical that was added to pesticides and has polluted groundwater in the Central Valley, rejecting challenges by manufacturers that may have to pay the costs.  The State Water Resources Control Board’s 2017 mandate for removing nearly all TCP (1,2,3-trichloropropane) from drinking water was contested by the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, representing Dow Chemical Co. and Shell Oil, which included the chemical in worm-killing fumigants widely used by farmers through the 1980s. They argued that the board’s criteria were not “economically feasible,” as required by state law. ... ”  Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle here:  Central Valley water districts get OK to sue Dow, Shell over groundwater pollution


Fresno Irrigation District expanding groundwater recharge projects with $1.2 million DWR grant

Fresno Irrigation District’s (FID) Savory Basin Project (Project) was awarded $1.2 million included in a total award of $4.8 million to the Kings Subbasin by the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Implementation Grant Program. The Project, located within the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s (North Kings GSA) boundaries, will help FID achieve its sustainability goals by recharging the groundwater aquifer with FID surface water as mandated by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). This Project provides a direct benefit to adjacent disadvantaged community, Shady Lakes Mobile Home Park, and several private well owners.  … ”  Read more from ACWA Water News here:  Fresno Irrigation District expanding groundwater recharge projects with $1.2 million DWR grant


Fail: Tule Basin drinking water plan kicked back for a revise

” …  Chavez and her family have relied on bottled water since they found out their well water was unsafe in 2015. But sometimes they don’t have enough and are forced to drink the contaminated water. So when Chavez found out about a new program providing free bottled water delivery for families with nitrate-contaminated wells, she was frustrated she hadn’t been contacted.  “They’re the ones responsible for reaching out to my family and families that have the same issue as mine,” said Chavez. “It’s very negligent of them.”  She referred to the Tule Basin Management Zone, a new organization created to carry out requirements issued last year by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board to get rural residents with nitrate-laden wells clean drinking water immediately and then work on a longer term fix. … ”  Continue reading at SJV Water here: Fail: Tule Basin drinking water plan kicked back for a revise


Paso Robles: Water district funding 30 new groundwater level monitoring wells

“The Estrella-El Pomar-Creston Water District (EPCWD) has announced that it has begun creating a groundwater level monitoring network. Initially, the district has begun work to add 30 new groundwater level monitoring sites, using existing wells, throughout the 37,000-acre district.  The campaign marks a significant effort in the basin to move toward groundwater sustainability in the Paso Robles Subbasin, according to the EPCWD. ... ”  Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News here: Paso Robles: Water district funding 30 new groundwater level monitoring wells 


Paso Robles:  Supervisors oppose water district applications

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to the California Water Resources Control Board on May 4 formally opposing the Shandon-San Juan Water District’s (SSJWD) two recent applications for water from Lake Nacimiento and Santa Margarita Lake—a move that puts two partners on the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin at odds with one another.  In January, the SSJWD, which represents about 135,000 acres of irrigated agriculture east of Paso Robles, applied to the state for up to 28,000 acre-feet per year of mostly overspill flood water from the two reservoirs, which it proposes to pipe into the Shandon area for groundwater recharge. It filed the applications without collaborating with other agencies in the Paso Basin Cooperative Committee—a body tasked with balancing the overpumped aquifer—including SLO County. ... ”  Read more from New Times SLO here:  Paso Robles:  Supervisors oppose water district applications


Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority to discuss Searles nonpayment Thursday

The fate of Searles Valley Minerals may hinge on a special virtual meeting of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority later this week, at least according to SVM’s Camille Anderson.  The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday. At it, the IWVGA will discuss how to respond to SVM’s non-payment of the authority’s groundwater replenishment fee.  The agenda lists a public hearing on the subject as well as a possible order on SVM for failure to pay and report on its replenishment fees. One presumed action may include shutting off water service to Searles for non-payment.  The decision could mean life or death for Searles, according to Anderson.  “If they cut off our water we would go out of business,” Anderson told the DI Tuesday. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority to discuss Searles nonpayment Thursday


Indian Valley Groundwater Authority threatens to cut off water for only U.S.-headquartered company supplying vaccine vials

Thickeners at the Westend facility of Searles Valley Minerals in Trona, CA. Photo courtesy Searles Minerals.

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (Authority) conducted a public hearing Thursday to determine whether to shut off the water supply to Searles Valley Minerals Inc. (Searles) for nonpayment of an exorbitant, unlawful and arbitrary fee that threatens the existence of Searles, a company that has supported the local economy with pioneering technologies and good-paying jobs since its founding in 1873. The Authority ultimately recognized that it didn’t have enough information and postponed any decision.  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s board of directors rightly decided that rather than rush forward with a vote, it was wise to take time to better understand how local residents, particularly senior citizens and vulnerable populations who have already been affected by the pandemic and recent earthquakes, could be impacted by a decision to shut off Searles’ water supply,” said Burnell Blanchard, Vice President of Operations for Searles. ... ”  Click here to read the full press release from Save Searles.


Indian Wells Valley: New report indicates slower groundwater decline in valley basin

The annual report for the valley’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan suggests that the Indian Wells Valley groundwater table is declining on average by some 8 inches per year – in stark contrast to the 1.5- to 2-foot figure that the IWV Groundwater Authority has broadcasted over the years.  The report – delivered by Heather Steele of Stetson Engineers during the GA’s April 14 meeting – includes new information on the El Paso sub basin in the southeastern area of the valley, which has risen an estimated 18,000 acre-feet since 2015. While most other areas of the basin are experiencing more substantial decline, the El Paso findings have a significant impact on the basin-wide average. … ”  Read more from The News Review here:  Indian Wells Valley: New report indicates slower groundwater decline in valley basin