CA WATER COMMISSION: An update on implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (or SGMA)

DWR’s Taryn Ravazzini updates the Commission on the Department’s activities, including major milestones, 2019 activities, and the Department’s technical and financial assistance

In September of 2014, Governor Brown signed a package of legislation known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) which created a framework for local agencies to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) tailored to their regional needs.

To date, SGMA implementation has included local agencies forming groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs), two rounds of basin boundary modifications and basin prioritizations, and alternative plan reviews.  Next, SGMA requires GSAs to prepare GSPs which will result in sustainable management of groundwater basins within 20 years.  For basins designated as critically overdrafted, the plans are due by January 31, 2020; other high and medium priority basin plans are due on January 31, 2022.

At the November meeting of the California Water Commission, Taryn Ravazzini, DWR Deputy Director for Statewide Groundwater Management, updated the Commission on DWR’s recent activities and milestones related to SGMA.

Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.

Q&A: Perspectives on Groundwater Sustainability: Jane Wagner-Tyack with the League of Women Voters of California

How did you get involved with sustainable groundwater management issues?

I have been following water issues in San Joaquin County for a long time because I used to work with Restore the Delta, which focuses on protecting fisheries and farming in the San Francisco Bay-Delta and estuary. While working on these local issues, I began following water policy for the California League of Women Voters (LWV). I’m now co-director for the LWVC Water committee, and I’m the League’s legislative analyst for water. The state League has a long relationship with California’s environmental and environmental justice NGOs, which is how I met Jennifer Clary.  Jennifer talked to us about trying to get LWV people involved in the SGMA process around the state.

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GROUNDWATER TWO-FOR: The disconnect between groundwater legal systems and groundwater hydrology; Proactively managing groundwater to sustain communities and nature in an uncertain future

David Sandino and Maurice Hall present their big ideas on groundwater management

The Groundwater Resources Association of California (GRA) created the David Keith Todd Distinguished Lecture Series to honor Dr. David Keith Todd, a GRA 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, for his enormous contributions to groundwater science and technology, and to foster interest and excellence in applied groundwater science and technology. Two lecturers are selected with the lectures offered in Northern and Southern California at universities, statewide and regional GRA events, and GRA’s Annual Conference and Meeting.

The 2019 lectures featured David Sandino, Senior Staff Counsel at the Department of Water Resources, who spoke about the disconnect between legal groundwater systems and how the system actually works, describing the areas where they do not accurately reflect the physical environment and pose problems for effective groundwater management; and Maurice Hall, Associate Vice President of Ecosystems-Water at the Environmental Defense Fund, who spoke of how more holistic and inclusive groundwater management can increase the resilience of our water supply and sustain and enhance the services that groundwater basins provide for a wide range of stakeholders.

At the Groundwater Resources Association’s 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Mr. Sandino and Mr. Hall gave brief presentations of their lectures.

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Groundwater: Agencies react to rejection of alternative plans

Six regions of California that considered themselves to be managing groundwater sustainably have been informed otherwise by state officials, who rejected alternatives to preparation of groundwater sustainability plans for the regions. Three of the applicants have agreed to form groundwater sustainability agencies as required under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The remaining three—in Humboldt, Lake and Napa counties—face decisions on how to proceed.

In all, the California Department of Water Resources reviewed alternative proposals for 15 groundwater basins or subbasins, and approved nine of the proposals.

The agencies that submitted alternatives must satisfy the objectives of SGMA, and demonstrate the basin has been operating sustainably for at least 10 years or has a well-defined plan to achieve sustainability within 20 years. The law, approved in 2014, requires local agencies overseeing basins ranked as medium or high priority to develop groundwater sustainability plans or submit an alternative.

Continue reading from Ag Alert here:  Groundwater: Agencies react to rejection of alternative plans

SGMA IMPLEMENTATION: Developing Sustainable Management Criteria

Minimum thresholds, measurable objectives, undesirable results: A panel of consultants discuss the specifics of how their GSAs determined sustainable management criteria

The passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 requires that groundwater basins be managed such that the use of groundwater can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.  In order to demonstrate sustainability, the Groundwater Sustainability Plan regulations require the development of locally-defined quantitative sustainable management criteria, including undesirable results, minimum thresholds, and measurable objectives.

At the second annual Groundwater Sustainability Agency Summit, hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association in June of this year, a panel of consultants discussed the process and the specifics of how they developed sustainable management criteria for their basins.

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Radio show: An Update On How The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Is Working

“When California adopted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, it became the last Western state to regulate its groundwater. If local groundwater agencies fail to submit plans to the state by 2020, the law says state water agencies could take over management of groundwater, a resource that’s critically important to Valley agriculture.

Moderator Kathleen Schock got an update on how the work is progressing locally from Gary Serrato, executive director of the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, Christina Beckstead, executive director of Madera County Farm Bureau, and David Orth with New Current Water and Land.”

Listen to radio show from KVPR here: Radio show: An Update On How The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Is Working

Thirsty for sustainability: Is Paso Robles any closer to solving its groundwater problem?

“On a blistering hot July day in San Miguel, Robert Galbraith, 68, bends down and scoops up two handfuls of dry soil. He spreads his fingers and lets the dirt fall back to his fallowed ground.  The motion is symbolic of how Galbraith feels his family farm is slipping away from him.

A San Luis Obispo County policy regulating pumping from the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin has hamstrung how Galbraith can farm his land. … ”

Read more from New Times SLO here:  Thirsty for sustainability: Is Paso Robles any closer to solving its groundwater problem?

Agricultural water agencies refine efficiency plans

“Agricultural water suppliers must develop annual water budgets and drought plans that meet requirements of recently enacted legislation, and are meeting with state officials to comply with the updated law—a process that could ultimately affect water costs for California farmers and ranchers.

California Farm Bureau Federation Director of Water Resources Danny Merkley said the process stems from 2009 law, and updates passed last year, which require the state Department of Water Resources to consult with agricultural stakeholders to quantify water-use efficiency. … ”

Read more from Ag Alert here:  Agricultural water agencies refine efficiency plans

Indian Wells Valley: PAC discusses modeling scenarios

“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Policy Advisory Committee talked more modeling scenarios during its May 6 meeting from its angle.

According to committee chair Dave Janiec, the IWVGA’s technical advisory committee received updates on the current three modeling scenarios being developed for groundwater pumping.  The scenarios reflect potential options of how the IWVGA could adopt once its groundwater sustainability plan is submitted to the Department of Water Resources.

The plan is currently being developed and is due by Jan. 31, 2020 as required under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … ”

Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley: PAC discusses modeling scenarios

ELLEN HANAK: Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley

Ellen Hanak delivers four priorities for managing the implementation of SGMA in the San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley is California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply, producing more than half of the state’s agricultural output.  Irrigated agriculture is the region’s main economic driver and predominant water user.

However, the San Joaquin Valley is at a pivotal point. It is ground zero for many of California’s most difficult water management problems, including groundwater overdraft, contaminated drinking water, and declines in habitat and native species.  The Valley has high rates of unemployment and pockets of extreme poverty, challenges that increase when the farm economy suffers.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires local water users to bring their overdrafted groundwater basins into balance by the early 2040s.  With the largest groundwater overdraft in the State, the implementation of SGMA will have a broad impact on Valley agriculture in coming years, and will likely entail fallowing of significant amounts of farmland.

Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley” is the third installment of a research project by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Water Policy Center on solutions to the San Joaquin Valley’s water challenges. Ellen Hanak is director of the PPIC Water Policy Center and a senior fellow at PPIC. At the May meeting of the California Water Commission, she discussed the findings of their research and recommendations regarding the challenges facing the San Joaquin Valley.

Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.