As groundwater sustainability agencies prepare their plans to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), they will likely utilize a variety of tools to achieve sustainability. In many subbasins, groundwater overdraft conditions will require GSAs to impose reductions in pumping in order to achieve sustainable conditions in the subbasin. To do this, GSAs will need set a limit or “cap” on the overall amount of groundwater that is removed from the subbasin, assigning portions of this capped amount to groundwater pumpers in the form of a pumping allocation.
Making pumping allocation decisions will be a difficult task for GSAs, as it will require restricting access to groundwater resources upon which the agricultural community, cities and towns, and others depend. Adding further complexity to the task, SGMA explicitly states that it does not alter water rights, which means groundwater sustainability agencies have to carefully navigate between the confines of water rights and SGMA requirements in developing and implementing their groundwater sustainability plans.
At the 3rd annual Western Groundwater Congress, hosted online by the Groundwater Resources Association of California in September of 2020, Dr. William Blomquist, a Professor of Political Science and more at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, gave a presentation of ongoing research he is doing with Dr. Christina Babbitt, California Groundwater Manager at the Environmental Defense Fund looking at how other groundwater basins have developed groundwater allocations.
Eric Averett is general manager of the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County, California, which is one of 21 regions required by the state to balance groundwater demand and supply within 20 years under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Rosedale is home to approximately 27,500 acres of irrigated cropland and 7,500 acres of urban development. Groundwater demand there exceeds supply by approximately 5,000 acre-feet per year.
To inform landowners about their water budgets, Rosedale partnered with EDF, Sitka Technology Group, WestWater Research and local landowners to co-develop a new online, open-source water accounting and trading platform.
We asked Eric to answer a few questions about how the platform will help local landowners and how it can be expanded to other parts of the Central Valley.
Over-pumping of groundwater has caused domestic wells to go dry in the San Joaquin Valley. Yet many of the first round of plans prepared to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) do not yet propose ways to address this problem. We explored groundwater planning with three members of the environmental justice community—Angela Islas of Self-Help Enterprises, Justine Massey of the Community Water Center, and Amanda Monaco of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
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Join Maven’s Notebook and the Local Government Commission on October 28th from 12:00-1:30pm for a panel discussion on how the Irrigated Lands Program (ILRP), the Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long-Term Sustainability (CV-Salts) initiative, and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) can work together to support water quality improvements across the San Joaquin Valley.
Our panelists are:
- Theresa “Tess” Dunham, Attorney with Kahn, Soares, & Conway LLP
- Natalie Stork, Chief, Groundwater Management Program at State Water Resources Control Board
- Jennifer Clary, California Director, Clean Water Action
The panel will be moderated by Daniel Cozad, Executive Director of the Central Valley Salinity Coalition.
The webinar is scheduled from 12:00pm to 1:30pm.
Other upcoming groundwater events …
Water Markets, SGMA & California’s First Open-Source Water Accounting and Trading Platform, October 28th, 12-1:30pm*. Presented by the Environmental Defense Fund. Click here to register.
Virtual Conference: Building a Water-Resilient California, November 12, 17, 19 from 11am to 12pm. Presented by the PPIC. November 17 focuses on collaborative approaches to foster groundwater sustainability. Click here to register.
*Both the water accounting platform webinar and the CV-SALTS webinar will be recorded and made available on the Groundwater Exchange platform.
Groundwater regulation in Ukiah Valley is imminent. Here’s what you need to know.
“Historically, in California, if someone had a well, or access to an aquifer on their property, they could take as much water out of it as they wanted, to irrigate agricultural land, for drinking, or whatever else they needed it for. Currently, there is no government authority that can track or limit groundwater use. Soon, that will change. In 2014, a state law was enacted that requires local governments in areas with potential for groundwater overdraft to establish a regulatory plan to manage groundwater sustainably for years to come. … ” Read more from the Mendocino Voice here: Groundwater regulation in Ukiah Valley is imminent. Here’s what you need to know.
Water accounting platform is working well in Kern County
“A relatively new water budgeting platform appears to be working well for producers in Kern County. The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District (District) has worked with multiple stakeholder partners to develop the Water Accounting Platform to help growers more accurately track water use. General Manager of the District, Eric Averett explained that producers in the area seem to be pleased with the functionality of the platform and what it provides. … ” Read more from Ag Net West here: Water accounting platform is working well in Kern County
Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority responds to Searles Valley Minerals’ lawsuit
“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has responded to the Searles Valley Minerals lawsuit announced last week. “At its core, Searles’ lawsuit is nothing more than a claim that its use of water for a commercial industrial purpose should be free of all costs and given a priority over and above all other uses in the Basin,” Mick Gleason, IWVGA chairman and Kern County Supervisor, said in a press release Tuesday morning. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority responds to Searles Valley Minerals’ lawsuit
Ridgecrest: Western Growers Association and Calif. Farm Bureau: Current GSP ‘will decimate agriculture’
“The Western Growers Association and the California Farm Bureau Federation voiced its concerns regarding the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s draft groundwater sustainability plan in a letter addressed to the IWVGA and its chair, Mick Gleason. “It is shocking that the IWVGA Plan reserves 100 percent of the basin’s sustainable yield to the U.S. Navy — an entity expressly not subject to SGMA or the Plan — and denies overlying landowner farmers any groundwater allocation at all unless they pay the Authority $2,130 per acre-foot,” the letter reads. … ” Read more from the Taft Midway Driller here: Western Growers Association and Calif. Farm Bureau: Current GSP ‘will decimate agriculture’
Groundwater: Desert valley plan could price farms out of business
“As local groundwater agencies throughout California consider how to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, two lawsuits against a Kern County groundwater sustainability agency show the potential implications for agriculture and other businesses with historic, overlying water rights. The cases involve the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority, a groundwater sustainability agency overseeing a critically overdrafted aquifer that covers part of eastern Kern County and parts of Inyo and San Bernardino counties. … ” Read more from Ag Alert here: Groundwater: Desert valley plan could price farms out of business
New federal report show increasing groundwater levels in the Coachella Valley
“A new report by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) shows that efforts by Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) to replenish local aquifers in the Coachella Valley have been effective, leading to stable land surface elevations in most of the Coachella Valley. Areas with land subsidence identified in prior studies are now stable, uplifting, or experiencing substantial slowing of subsidence. CVWD partners with Coachella Water Authority, Desert Water Agency, Indio Water Authority, and Mission Springs Water District to manage groundwater in the Coachella Valley. “The study shows that CVWD’s commitment to these partnerships and the sustainability of the aquifer that supplies most of our drinking water is a success story,” said Jim Barrett, General Manager of CVWD. “The results clearly demonstrate a reversal in trends of groundwater-level declines during previous decades. This is good news for the long-term health of the aquifers.” … ” Read more from the Coachella Valley Water District here: New federal report show increasing groundwater levels in the Coachella Valley
From the Environmental Defense Fund:
One of the biggest challenges to implementing California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act hovers around this two-part question:
Who gets to pump groundwater and how much do they get to pump? Or, put another way, who must cut their groundwater use and by how much?
As local groundwater agencies try to answer this difficult question on how to develop allocations, they face one major constraint: They can’t change groundwater rights.
Consequently, the path forward for many groundwater agencies is riddled with legal complexities and questions around equity that shouldn’t be ignored.
Guest commentary from Soua Lee, Program Manager of the Kings Basin Water Authority, on behalf of the IRWM Roundtable of Regions, posted at Maven’s Notebook:
How does a region integrate Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a program mandated by State legislation, with Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM), a voluntary collaborative effort, to implement regional water management solutions?
A question often asked, but with no definitive answer depending on who you ask. This article discusses how IRWM and SGMA share a similar approach that involves comprehensive management on a regional scale and provides examples of where the two programs are working together successfully.
WEBINAR: Successful collaboration between IRWM and SGMA
This webinar discusses the benefits of successful collaboration between groundwater sustainability agencies implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) planning efforts.
The speakers were:
- David Orth, Principal, New Current Water and Land
- Rob Swartz, Manager of Tech Services, Regional Water Authority and American River IRWM
- Angela Islas, Community Development Specialist, Self-Help Enterprises
The panel was moderated by Lance Eckhart, General Manager of the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency.
From the Water Foundation:
Through the NGO Groundwater Collaborative, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Tribes, and California residents share information and resources to help each other participate in the state’s groundwater management programs. We spoke with Jennifer Clary, California Director for Clean Water Action California, and Emily Finnegan, Project Manager for Local Government Commission’s water programs, about the collaborative and what’s coming up for the group.
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.