The end of California’s groundwater free-for-all

“The water spigots on California farms will soon be twisted tighter.

As the state faces a growing threat from drought, an increasing number of water agencies are planning to require flow meters on agricultural wells, part of a landmark effort to measure and constrain pumping that used to be free and unlimited. It’s a controversial step aimed at protecting water supplies that could change cultivation practices in the Golden State’s thirsty fields.

“It’s hard to be as efficient as possible if you don’t know how much water you’re using,” said Sierra Ryan, interim water resources manager for Santa Cruz County.

Under the state’s tough new groundwater protection law, “we now have a legal obligation to manage our groundwater sustainably,” she said. “And we cannot manage the basin with such large uncertainties in our water use.” ... ”

Click here to continue reading this article at the San Jose Mercury News.

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PRESS RELEASE: State Water Agencies, CA Water Data Consortium and EDF Partner on Groundwater Accounting Platform and Data Standards

State water agencies, the California Water Data Consortium (Consortium) and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a new partnership today to make an open-source groundwater accounting platform freely available to help groundwater sustainability agencies manage the transition to sustainable supplies.

Collaborative efforts are underway among the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board), the Consortium and EDF to adapt and scale the groundwater accounting platform that was co-developed by EDF and Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District with technical support from Sitka Technology Group, OpenET, WestWater Research, and Olsson Engineering and funding from the Water Foundation, among other supporters. Use of the groundwater accounting platform is entirely voluntary.

“Our goal is to help groundwater managers more easily and cost-effectively track water use across their agencies and coordinate within and across basins to find the most effective approach for enabling sustainable groundwater management,” said Steven Springhorn, acting deputy director at DWR for statewide groundwater management. “The accounting platform developed by EDF is a valuable tool for local decision making, and the Water Data Consortium is a natural fit for ensuring the platform meets local and state needs long term.”

Click here to continue reading this press release from the Department of Water Resources.

SEE ALSO: 3 ways this accounting platform will help California groundwater agencies transition to sustainable supplies, from the Growing Returns blog

New report identifies major gaps in SGMA, provides recommendations

In 2014, California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) promised comprehensive management of California’s groundwater. The report, based on joint analysis by Stanford University’s Water in the West and The Nature Conservancy, finds that SGMA actually suffers from several major gaps in its coverage.

Indeed, SGMA currently protects less than two percent of California’s groundwater. While SGMA covers those groundwater basins where the vast majority of pumping today occurs, it does not protect many other important groundwater sources, leaving that groundwater at risk of over-pumping, now and in the future, with no state oversight to safeguard rural domestic wells, sensitive habitats, and other beneficial uses of water. 

This report, Mind the Gaps: The Case for Truly Comprehensive Sustainable Groundwater Management, details SGMA’s gaps and their consequences and recommends several ways to remedy these gaps. The gaps largely stem from the ways in which the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) defines and prioritizes groundwater basins in Bulletin 118 (California’s Groundwater). … ”

Read the report here: Mind the Gaps: The Case for Truly Comprehensive Sustainable Groundwater Management

Combined Well Standards Reposted to DWR Website

The Combined Well Standards, DWR Bulletin 74-81 and 74-90 are once again available for use. This web-based document was remediated to meet accessibility requirements.

The publication is an informal compilation of Bulletin 74-81 and the draft supplemental, Bulletin 74-90. Although Bulletin 74-90 was not finalized by DWR nor officially adopted into the Model Well Ordinance by the State Water Resources Control Board, it has been adopted into local ordinances around the state.

To facilitate its use, DWR has combined the contents according to Table 1 (B74-90) of Bulletin 74-90 and made minor modifications in wording and formatting to improve readability.

DWR is no longer able to post the PDF versions of the original DWR Bulletin 74-81 and Bulletin 74-90 on their webpage since they do not meet accessibility standards. They are available on the Internet Archive: Bulletin 74-81 and Bulletin 74-90.

Until the Bulletin 74 Update is completed, DWR’s project team hopes these Combined Well Standards serve as a useful resource for you in your work. For questions or more information, email Bulletin74@water.ca.gov.

OpenET: A Web Application ​to Transform Water Management in the Western United States

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), NASA, the DesertResearch Institute (DRI) and Google announced plans today to develop a new web application called ​OpenET​ to enable western U.S. farmers and water managers to accurately track water consumption by crops and other vegetation using data from satellites and weather stations.

OpenET will fill a critical information gap in water management in the West. Today, access to accurate, timely satellite-based data on the amount of water used to grow food is fragmented and often expensive, keeping it out of the hands of many farmers and decision-makers. Water supplies in the western U.S. are critical to the health of our communities, food supply and wildlife, but they are facing increasing pressures in the face of population growth and a changing climate.

Applications of OpenET data include:

●Informing irrigation management and scheduling practices to ​maximize “crop per drop” and reduce costs for water and fertilizer​.

●Enabling water and land managers to ​develop more accurate water budgets and innovative management programs that promote adequate water supplies for agriculture, people, and ecosystems.

●Supporting groundwater management, water trading and conservation programs that increase the economic viability of agriculture across the West.

Learn more by visiting OpenETData.org

NEW RESOURCE: Geophysical and Hydrophysical Logs and Data Base

Provided by: RAS REALtime Aquifer Services and Dewey Data

Geophysical logs with electrical resistivity profiles are available in an area including the broader Central Valley.  When a new well is drilled, logs are acquired to identify water bearing locations and geologic parameters.  We have logs from approximately 30,000 wells which have been drilled over periods of drought and flood.  Reviewing these logs can potentially help evaluate larger aquifer parameters.  Some wells also have hydrophysical logs, which indicate the specific flow at different depths in a particular well.  Logs can also indicate saltwater intrusion and other water quality.

Click here for more information.

Click here to view more tools and data sources.

Do you have a tool or data that should be listed in the directory?  Send me an email and let me know!

Can sensor data save California’s aquifers? 

“In California, the amount of water exiting aquifers under the state’s most productive farming region far surpasses the amount of water trickling back in. That rampant overdraft has caused land across much of the region to sink like a squeezed out sponge, permanently depleting groundwater storage capacity and damaging infrastructure.

The trend—and a 2014 mandate for sustainable groundwater management in the state—has ignited interest in replenishing aquifers in California’s Central Valley through managed flooding of the ground above them. But until now there has been no reliable way to know where this type of remedy will be most effective. … ”

Read more from Futurity here:  Can sensor data save California’s aquifers?

Dozens attend special Paso Basin Cooperative Committee meeting

“About 60 people turned out Wednesday afternoon at the Paso Library Conference Room for a special meeting of the Paso Basin Cooperative Committee.

The committee includes Chairperson John Hamon, (who requested a new chair be elected at the next meeting), Joe Parent of San Miguel, Vice Chair and County Supervisor John Peschong and Secretary Willy Cunha of Shandon-San Juan.

Those committee members all attended yesterday, although John Hamon left early to attend Ash Wednesday ceremonies, so alternate committee member Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin filled in for the latter part of the meeting. … ”

Read more from the Paso Robles Daily News here:  Dozens attend special Paso Basin Cooperative Committee meeting

California uses blockchain and IoT to manage groundwater use

” … For decades, farmers and businesses have pumped groundwater out of California’s aquifers, the permeable layers of rock that hold water underground, and the results have been frightening. As aquifers drain faster than rain can replenish them, the ground actually sinks, a phenomenon called “subsidence.” In areas where building and roads rest atop the ground, this can cause damage. …

If California is going to prevent further depletion of aquifers and survive droughts like the one that afflicted it from 2011 to 2017, the state will need to manage its groundwater usage. In the central valley, a group of organizations is working on a project that could stem the tide by combining two technologies: the internet of things (IoT) and Blockchain. … ”

Read more from Digital Trends here:  Blockchain is overhyped, but it’s also perfect for California’s drought problem

Measuring success in groundwater management

“The passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 was a watershed moment, establishing the first statewide framework for managing California’s critical groundwater resources. Under this framework, one of the key challenges facing newly formed local government agencies responsible for groundwater management is to establish and implement quantitative metrics for sustainability.

To help local agencies do this, a new report from Water in the West examines how four special act districts in California have used quantitative thresholds to adaptively manage groundwater.

These case studies provide valuable insights on the development and implementation of performance metrics and will be important in guiding local agencies. … ”

Read more from Stanford News here:  Measuring success in groundwater management