Coverage by Chris “Maven” Austin, excerpted from this post at Maven’s Notebook:
At the January meeting of the California Water Commission, Taryn Ravazzini and Dane Mathis from the Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Program were on hand to brief the commissioners on the draft decisions on the 2018 groundwater basin boundary modifications.
The purpose of the presentation is to hear comment from the commissioners and the public, but it should be noted that in this instance, the Commission does not have an approval role in the Department’s decisions on basin boundaries.
Groundwater basin boundaries are foundational to implementing SGMA because they define the area to managed and modifications to basin boundaries are solely at the request of local agencies.
This is the second round of basin boundary modifications that has occurred since the regulations were adopted; the first round was conducted in 2016. The period for applying for modifications began on July 1, 2017 and closed on September 28, 2018.
Modifying a groundwater basin’s boundaries potentially affects the basin prioritization which is a ranking of the state’s groundwater basin based on eight factors, such as population, the number of water wells, the degree that the overlying population depends on groundwater, irrigated acreage, and others. Those basins with a high and medium priority are subject to SGMA. Basin boundary modifications must be finalized before the prioritization can be finalized.
There are 59 basins whose basin prioritizations could potentially change because they are either requesting basin boundary modifications or would be potentially affected by the results. On January 4, 2019, the Department released the final prioritization for 458 basins who are not impacted by the requested basin modifications. After the basin boundary modifications are finalized, the remaining basin prioritization for the 59 basins will be released; that is expected later this spring.
A groundwater basin is defined as an aquifer or stacked aquifers with reasonably defined boundaries in a lateral direction and with a definable bottom. An aquifer refers to sedimentary rock or alluvial sediments that can produce a significant economic quantities of groundwater.
The basin’s external boundaries are based upon science and presumably the best available science that we have. However, a basin can be subdivided along lines that reflect jurisdictional or institutional boundaries such as a county line or a water district boundary.
“A basin in itself is not necessarily defined by the land use, whether or not there may or may not be productive wells within the material,” said Mr. Mathis. “It’s not necessarily defined by the presence of a stream channel or perhaps habitat.”
BASIN BOUNDARY MODIFICATION REQUESTS
Basin boundary modification requests can be either scientific or jurisdictional. Scientific revisions are generally to a basin’s external boundaries, although sometimes an internal boundary can be modified based on a hydrogeologic barrier or some other groundwater divide. Jurisdictional modifications are based on other factors, such as moving an internal subbasin boundary from a river to a county line.
Basins may request that an internal basin boundary gets dissolved or removed, therefore creating a larger basin; alternatively, basins may request to be subdivided into smaller parts.
The Department received 43 individual requests from agencies; 23 of those were jurisdictional, 15 were scientific, and 5 were a combination of both jurisdictional and scientific modifications. The map (below, left) highlights in red and yellow the extent of requests that came into the Department. A wide range of modification requests were received, such as agency requesting an update to only a small segment, or changing a segment from the center of a river line to a county, to requests for basin consolidations.
The Department then conducted technical reviews and released their initial draft decisions on November 29. At that time, the Department approved 33 requests, denied 7 requests, and approved 3 with denied portions as there were parts of those requests that didn’t quite meet the regulations.
There were numerous opportunities for public comment; a Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s required notice and consultation activities includes identifying all the stakeholders and interested parties and holding the required meetings. In the case of basin subdivision, agencies have to secure confirmed support from three-quarters of all agencies and all water systems in all of the affected basins that they are wanting to modify, and in some cases, that can be a very high bar to meet, Mr. Mathis said. The general expectation is the agency collects all of that input and hopefully gets the support and comes to the Department without opposition, although that is not necessarily a requirement.
Once the agency submits the modification request to DWR, that opens up a 30-day public comment opportunity to comment on the agency’s request. After DWR released the draft decisions, there was an additional public comment opportunity from November through January 4th. The Department also held a public meeting in December.
The Department received 30 comments on 12 basins. Mr. Mathis presented a slide showing how the comments were distributed. The Shasta Valley modification request on the left received the most comments, a total of 13. The Shasta Valley modification was denied, and so the comments in orange are reflective of opposition to the Department’s draft decision which is generally reflective of local support, he said. The South American Cosumnes, there was a mix of support and opposition, which was reflective of similar comments received during public comment period.
SOME NOTABLE BASIN BOUNDARY MODIFICATIONS
Mr. Mathis then gave some details on two out of the four modifications that were denied.
The Northern Delta Groundwater Sustainability Agency submitted a boundary modification request to subdivide three individual basins. On the map, the yellow line represents where the line is today, and the red line and shape is what the agency was requesting. The agency secured support, but the support for the subdivision was only focused on the agencies that were within their new proposed basin, so they did not meet that specific requirement in the regulations to get support from three-quarters of all agencies and all water systems in the affected basins. “As you can imagine, there would be hundreds of them for this particular scenario,” he said.
The Sloughhouse Resource Conservation District submitted a request for an internal jurisdictional modification. The yellow line shows the existing internal boundary line; the request request generally involves the expansion of the Consumnes Basin to the north into the southeast part of the South American subbasin. There was some opposition, both from the Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority and the City of Sacramento; the Department’s draft decision to deny also had comment. Sloughhouse RCD was opposing DWR’s decision to deny it, and Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority continued to support DWR’s decision to deny it.
“In general, the main reason we denied it is that it did not appear to support sustainable groundwater management,” said Mr. Mathis. “That’s one of the elements in the regulations that allows the Department as a basis of denial for the request. In summary, there’s local disagreement on what needs to managed and how. The thinking was that it isn’t up to the Department to make that call; it’s really the local agencies that should work together towards meeting the requirements of SGMA. Certainly, they maybe to come back to the Department at a later time when they can show general agreement with each other.”
UPDATED DRAFT DECISIONS
A basin modification request was received from the Heritage Ranch Community Services District regarding a small portion of the Paso Robles area subbasin. On the map on the left, the circle and the yellow line show the small alluvial channel that drains into the main part of the basin. The initial request was denied because the information wasn’t quite clear about the connectivity of that portion to the aquifer that defines the basin; however, the requesting agency subsequently provided supporting information to the Department, so the draft decision was changed to approved.
The West Kern Water District submitted a basin boundary modification request for the Kern County subbasin. Most of the requested boundary modification change was an external boundary that would essentially remove or exclude the significant oil producing areas. These areas are somewhat anomalous within a basin; they aren’t quite pieces of bedrock that stick out in the center of the basin, but nonetheless it was based on the different type of land use going on. The Department initially denied the request, because it wasn’t clear about the level of connectivity that these areas potentially had with what’s considered the main aquifer of the basin. The agency submitted their additional technical comments during the period, and the Department did another round of technical review.
“We did another round of reviews on the initial clarifying information,” said Mr. Mathis. “We did change our draft decision a little bit, but not the portion to approve the removal of the anticlines in the oil field areas. The approval was mostly for the perimeter older alluvial units and some older fractured rock units that we know are not indicative of aquifer material, per the regulations.”
There was a request by Siskiyou County Flood Control and Water Conservation District pertaining to an exposed expansion of the Shasta Valley. The initial request was very thorough with quite a few technical studies to demonstrate their proposed expansion of Shasta Valley, shown in yellow on the graphic; this was a quite a large expansion to the east from the existing basin. They demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the groundwater pumping in the area, the land use, and these volcanic deposits that they had presented. However, the one thing that was missing was the data or the confirmation that the volcanic deposits actually met the definition of aquifer in the regulations, which is defined in the regulation specifically as being reflective of sediments of sedimentary rock that produced economic quantities of groundwater. The agency provided clarifying information to successfully show there was a predominant presence of sediments and sedimentary material, although it’s interspersed within the sequence of volcanic deposits that contribute and make up and define the basin that they are wanting to modify. That updated draft decision is approved by the Department.
The updated draft decisions were released on last week. Out of 43 requests, 35 were approved, four were denied, and four were approved with only portions denied. The basin boundary modifications are expected to be finalized in February.
FOR MORE INFORMATION …
“In the valley north of the central Nevada town of Eureka, dozens of circle irrigation systems spray water onto alfalfa each spring. The water that flows through the rotating center pivots comes from the ground. But that limited groundwater supply is being overpumped and beginning to dry up at a rate that has long concerned Nevada’s top water regulator, the state engineer.
Each year, water users near Eureka pump more than twice the amount of groundwater from Diamond Valley — a hub for hay growers in central Nevada — than is replenished by Mother Nature. Underneath the valley, the water table has dropped further away from the surface. …
Last week, the state approved a first-of-its-kind plan to reduce water use in Diamond Valley, a community caught between a desire to maintain its agricultural industry and the realities of water availability in the high desert. The plan revolves around the concept of a water market. But it also deviates from Western water law — and will almost certainly be challenged in court.”
Read more from the Nevada Independent here: Departing state engineer approves controversial water market near Eureka
“There is a lot of uncertainty down on the farm about impending and unprecedented restrictions that will be imposed on groundwater usage in California in 2020. On Kern County: In Depth, an update on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014.”
Watch news feature from KGET here: Implementing groundwater regulations in Kern County
Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s first meeting of 2019 meeting features presentations, appointments
From the Ridgecrest Independent:
“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority had its first meeting since November 2018 on Jan. 17. All representatives were present with the exception of Ryan Klaush from Bureau of Land Management because of the government shutdown. There was a moment of silence for furloughed workers.
This was also the first board of directors meeting for Ridgecrest City Councilman Loren Scott Hayman since being appointed to the position.
The board approved the appointment of Judie Decker as a policy advisory committee representative for Eastern Kern County Resource Conservation District. Mick Gleason personally thanked Decker for her service on the board. … ”
Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s first meeting of 2019 meeting features presentations, appointments
AQUAOSO™ Technologies, PBC, a Public Benefit Corporation and a leader in water risk management with massive water data and expertise on California’s water supply, officially launched a free digital water map of California water districts, GSAs and groundwater basin priority levels.
The free digital water map is a joint effort between AQUAOSO and California Chapter, ASFMRA, whose members are active in appraisal and management of agricultural properties and who provide consulting for agribusiness.
“Much of this information is publicly available, but does not always exist in the same place, making it hard to identify the relationships between various geographical regions,” said Christopher Peacock, CEO/Founder of AQUAOSO. “After extensive discussions with leaders in the agricultural economy, and based on our existing research into California agricultural water risk, it was obvious we should launch a free version of this map.”
JoAnn Wall, ARA, President of California Chapter, ASFMRA added, “This free resource is a natural extension of the information we have been providing to the agribusiness community for years and is one of the many benefits we can bring to our members.”
Early sponsors of the digital water map includes AgriFinancial, Golden State Farm Credit, Hortau, Pearson Realty, Schuil and Associates, Terra West Group and WaterWrights. Mr. Peacock states, “We are fortunate to have such a great group of early supports in our efforts to deliver new resources to the broader community.”
AQUAOSO will be providing additional data to the free map in the coming months as they continue to assist the agricultural economy in identifying, understanding, monitoring and mitigating water related risks. They currently support some of the largest agricultural lenders, appraisers, brokers and agricultural investors in California to identify water risk at the parcel level. This is in addition to their broader loan and land portfolio tools they provide that includes extensive public and private datasets, including parcel level information, water district deliveries, crop types, soil, and more.
Earlier this month, AQUAOSO launched its innovative Programmatic Assistance with Water Data program to help smaller non-profits with their water data needs. “We are constantly looking for ways in which we can leverage our corporate footprint to have a positive social impact,” Mr. Peacock continued.
For more information about the free digital water map, check out https://research.aquaoso.com/register.
AQUAOSO Technologies, PBC is a Public Benefit Corporation with a mission to build a water resilient future. AQUAOSO provides advanced water risk management and mitigation tools for the agricultural economy. Farmers, brokers, appraisers, lenders, insurers and water managers use our tools daily to identify, understand and mitigate water related risks. www.AQUAOSO.com
Bridging the Gap: Increasing Capture of Flood Flows During Extreme Weather Events
January 28-29, San Diego
Increasing stormwater capture and recharge is being examined throughout California, particularly in light of the need to achieve sustainability in accordance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). One of the challenges in planning associated with stormwater is the shift in California precipitation to more extreme, shorter-duration storm events. Many of these extreme events are a result of “atmospheric rivers” (ARs). The difference between a wet or dry water year in California is now often dictated by the occurrence or absence of one or two strong AR storm systems. With careful planning, precipitation from AR storm events can provide water for storage in surface water reservoirs and provide flood flows that can be captured for managed aquifer recharge (Flood MAR).
Given the importance of stormwater as a water supply resource, GRA has organized a unique event that connects the current state of the art in predicting ARs and climate change to surface water reservoir operations and Flood MAR. Experts from meteorology, weather forecasting, reservoir operations and Flood MAR will be speaking at an event we are calling “Bridging the Gap”, to be held in San Diego at the Dana Hotel on January 28-29, 2019.
This will be a groundbreaking, first-ever educational event of its kind for all California water resource professionals, including staff and board members in GSAs, members of GSA advisory committees, consultants working with GSAs, and key members of the public engaging in the development of local groundwater sustainability plans.
California Water Law Symposium: California groundwater: SGMA and beyond
February 2, San Francisco
The California Water Law Symposium is a unique collaboration of law students from seven Northern California law schools–Berkeley Law, Stanford Law, UC Hastings College of the Law, University of San Francisco, UC Davis Law, McGeorge School of Law, and Golden Gate University.
Keynote speakers are Felicia Marcus, Fran Pavley, and Richard Frank. Panel topics include groundwater contamination, interconnected surface and groundwater, tribal water rights, and adjudications under SGMA.
Introduction to Groundwater, Watersheds, and the Nuts and Bolts of Groundwater Sustainability Plans
February 5-6, UC Davis
Understanding the fundamental principles of groundwater and watersheds and how we monitor, assess, and sustainably manage these resources with climate change and variability is critical and integral to Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) and other water-related programs. Whether at the local, state, or federal level, these programs are designed for sustainable development, management, and protection of water resources in California among competing users. As Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in California develop and implement their GSPs, professionals, decision makers, executives, agency employees, and stakeholders with diverse backgrounds and in a wide variety of private, non-profit, and government responsibilities at local, state, and federal levels, become directly or indirectly involved in the sustainable management and assessment of groundwater and surface water to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Yet, many participants find themselves lacking the multidisciplinary background and expertise to meaningfully participate in the technical and regulatory efforts related to water resources management. The amount of technical information available often seems overwhelming.
This shortcourse will review the fundamental principles of groundwater and watershed hydrology, water budgets, water quality, and water law and regulation in an intuitive, highly accessible fashion. Through real world examples, participants will learn about the most common tools for measuring, monitoring, and assessing groundwater and surface water resources. The course will then review the key elements of a GSP. Case studies are used so participants learn about
• development of conceptual models, water budgets, and GSP sustainability criteria;
• designing minimum thresholds and operating targets (measureable objectives) for GSPs and how to link those to monitoring networks;
• methods for addressing climate variability and climate change;
• recharge as a tool to enhance groundwater supplies;
• GSA governance; and
• available online planning resources.
Groundwater Sustainability Plan Workshop
February 9, Fresno
Has your home ever run out of water, suffered from contaminated tap water, or had a dry well? Has land caved in near your community? Do you worry that these things will happen in your community and want to prevent them? These problems are happening because the water that we get from underground aquifers – groundwater – is being depleted.
In the Central Valley, we depend on groundwater for drinking, bathing, growing food, and more. To prevent our vital groundwater resources from being depleted, local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies are starting to manage the use of groundwater resources, and they want to hear from YOU about your water needs. These agencies are about to make incredibly important decisions about who gets to use groundwater, and how much. At this workshop participants will gain technical and advocacy skills that will help them participate in this process effectively.
Please RSVP by January 21st by emailing AMonaco@LeadershipCounsel.org or by calling 559-369-2788, extension 1003
From the Desert Sun:
“Citrus groves spread out in rows across the desert in Borrego Springs, forming a lush green oasis against a backdrop of bone-dry mountains. When the grapefruit and lemon trees bloom on Jim Seley’s farm, the white blossoms fill the air with their sweet scent. His father founded the farm in 1957, and Seley has been farming here since 1964. He and his son, Mike, manage the business, and they hope to pass it on to the next generation of Seleys.
But the farms of Borrego Springs, like the town and its golf courses, rely completely on groundwater pumped from the desert aquifer. And it’s unclear whether farming will be able to survive in this part of the Southern California desert west of the Salton Sea in San Diego County. … ”
Read more from the Desert Sun here: In this water-starved California town, one citrus farmer is trying to hang on
From the Sierra Wave:
“The scope of the Owens River basin’s sustainability plan became clearer following a presentation by DBS&A’s Tony Martin at last Thursday’s meeting of the Owens Valley Groundwater Authority. The consulting firm’s tasks include compiling data, developing a timeline and stakeholder outreach plan and pulling together ecosystem data.
The key, it seems, is setting objectives (best case scenarios) and thresholds (worst case) with enough of a spread to keep the Authority from violating its own plan but still get the plan approved by the state Department of Water Resources.
According to Martin, the OVGA can set area-specific criteria, important in light of the diversity of the water demands on the basin. … “
Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Update on Owens Valley Groundwater Authority
From the Department of Water Resources:
The Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Office today released updates to the 2018 Draft Basin Boundary Modifications decisions. Based on clarifying comments received during the public comment period, three draft decisions were revised for Shasta Valley, Paso Robles Area, and Kern County basins.
For additional information, please refer to the Basin Boundary Modifications webpage.
The 2018 Draft Basin Boundary Modifications decisions, including these updates, will be presented to the California Water Commission on Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
The California Energy Commission has funded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to survey municipal and agriculture water suppliers on the challenges of reducing energy associated with pumping groundwater. If you are at least 18 years of age, work for either a retail or wholesale water supplier, or a water supplier that delivers water for irrigation purposes, please click on the appropriate link below to take the anonymous survey. The survey ends Friday, February 1, 2019.