A joint workshop hosted by the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Board provides details on how incoming plans will be evaluated and what State Water Board intervention might look like
It has been over 1950 days since the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was signed into law, and since that time, the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the myriad of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies across the state have been working diligently to create a new paradigm for groundwater management for California.
On January 31, 2020, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies overseeing groundwater basins designated as critically-overdrafted are required to submit their adopted Groundwater Sustainability Plans to the Department of Water Resources. Failure to submit a plan or submitting a plan that is deemed inadequate by the Department of Water Resources could result in intervention by the State Water Resources Control Board. The remaining high and medium priority basins that are subject to SGMA will be submitting their plans in just two years’ time, so how these first GSPs will be evaluated is of interest for the remaining basins who are responsible for developing, adopting, and submitting their plans to DWR by January 31, 2022.
With the deadline of January 31st fast approaching, the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board held joint workshops in Paso Robles and in Clovis earlier this month to give groundwater managers and stakeholders a better understanding of how the Department will approach evaluation of the groundwater sustainability plans and the triggers and process for intervention by the State Water Board.
The State Water Board has a number of fact sheets available:
- Probationary Designation and Groundwater Regulation by the State Water Board : This fact sheet covers the state intervention process; what happens, why it is triggered, and how to avoid it.
- Stakeholder Inclusion: This fact sheet has information on how stakeholder inclusion can make the plan stronger.
- State and Regional Water Boards Basics: There water boards have several regulatory programs and so this fact sheet clarifies the roles of the State Water Board and the semi-autonomous Regional Water Quality Control Boards with water quality regulation authorities as there are several regulatory programs.
- Funding Opportunities for Groundwater Sustainability Agencies .
- Purposes of Use for Underground Storage Projects : A fact sheet developed by the State Water Board’s Division of Water Rights that clarifies some of those questions around purpose of use with groundwater recharge projects and permitting.
- Water Quality Frequently Asked Questions: This fact sheet is targeted at the GSAs with information on how to address water quality.
A round-up of media articles about groundwater and SGMA implementation from around the state
Time’s up on groundwater plans: one of the most important new California water laws in 50 years explained: “Much of California’s water supply is a hidden asset: Deep below the surface, rocks, gravel and sand store water like a sponge, in an underground zone called an aquifer. In dry years, this groundwater has been tapped to save farms, keep grass green and provide drinking water to millions of Californians. But over time, people have taken more water out than nature has put back in. Estimates vary, but according to the U.S. Geological Survey, California pumped 41 trillion gallons of water from the ground in about 100 years, through 2013. In some parts of the Central Valley, that means land has been dropping around a foot a year. … ” Read more from KQED here: Time’s up on groundwater plans: one of the most important new California water laws in 50 years explained
Why California’s water crisis is everyone’s problem: “The state of California is no stranger to calamity, as evidenced by the persistent droughts and devastating wildfires that have ravished the land in years past. Now, however, it is facing a crisis of another kind, and at this critical juncture the fate of the global agriculture industry hangs in the balance. California comprises 14 percent of the U.S. economy, much of which is fueled by agriculture. The state’s agriculture industry produced $50 billion in output last year. California supplies approximately 50 percent of the country’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables across almonds, apricots, avocados and many more grown foods. However, a law crafted in 2014 dubbed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a product of the severe seven-year drought, stands to jeopardize ag production in the state, which has far reaching implications nationally and around the world. … ” Read more from Global Ag Investing here: Why California’s water crisis is everyone’s problem
Small farmers wait for California’s groundwater hammer to fall: “A black lab trots dutifully behind as Randy Fiorini proudly points out the drip irrigation lines running along the base of his walnut trees. The orchards sit on land first planted in 1907 when his grandfather established Fiorini Ranch a few miles outside of Delhi, California after relocating from Redondo Beach. A cement ditch carrying water from the Don Pedro Reservoir about 50 miles away runs alongside peach, almond, and walnut trees. Back when the ranch was irrigated by flooding its fields, Fiorini would splash around with his childhood friend, Scott Severson, in the huge pools under the shade of the trees. Like Fiorini, Severson grew up to farm his family’s ranch nearby in Merced County. Like most parts of the Central Valley, the Fiorini and Severson ranches in the Turlock Irrigation District used surface water when it was available, and pumped groundwater when it wasn’t. … ” Read more from the Bill Lane Center for the American West here: Small farmers wait for California’s groundwater hammer to fall
Dairy industry gives update on challenges it is facing: “Dairymen and others in the industry are expected to descend on Sacramento to display their global accomplishments. Funding in part by a grant from Farm Credit, than 600 farmers, policy makers, service providers and researchers are expected to attend the California Dairy Sustainability Summit during the March 25-26 Cal Expo. California’s dairy industry is responsible for just under one-fifth of all the milk produced in the U.S., contributes $65 billion to the state’s economy and is responsible for 180,000 California jobs. And while the industry has made impressive gains in becoming more environmentally sustainable, it continually faces new requirements. … ” Read more from the Foothills Sun Gazette here: Dairy industry gives update on challenges it is facing
California water restrictions to become more severe: “Water woes in California’s major dairy shed are likely to get worse. The state will soon begin to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which could boost the cost of milk production while devaluing dairy farm assets for some producers, says Sarina Sharp, analyst with the Daily Dairy Report. “Over the next two decades, the SGMA will dramatically alter groundwater use throughout the state, especially in the Central Valley, where water shortages are most severe,” Sharp says. California dairy producers will also likely see production costs rise as feed crops lose acreage to cash crops. … ” Read more from Milk Business here: California water restrictions to become more severe
Perspectives on groundwater sustainability: Erik Ringelberg with the Freshwater Trust: “The Freshwater Trust is most well-known for its work on protecting freshwater river ecosystems. In California, a significant amount of surface water bodies are regulated and diverted through dams and other surface water infrastructure. Surface water bodies also lose flow when the groundwater is depleted. So for our efforts in California, we see as an important role for the Trust to use our understanding of surface waters and apply that to protecting their associated groundwater systems. California is catching up on groundwater protection and we are taking the lessons we have learned from other Western states and applying them to groundwater in California. … ” Read more from the We All Live Downstream blog here: Perspectives on groundwater sustainability
NAPA VALLEY/BAY AREA
New Napa County groundwater agency hears from critics at its first meeting: “Local environmentalists want to make sure Napa County’s new groundwater oversight agency hears their voices, a step that agency members said they intend to take. County supervisors formed the Napa Valley Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency on Dec. 17 with themselves as the governing board. Critics wanted an agency board with diverse interests, such as the groundwater users and the environment. … ” Read more from the Napa Register here: New Napa County groundwater agency hears from critics at its first meeting
Santa Clara: Valley Water working to ensure groundwater users are fairly charged for benefits received: “In Santa Clara County, the largest supply of water is hidden beneath our feet. Local groundwater basins can hold more water than all 10 of Valley Water’s reservoirs combined and serve as our primary reserve in times of drought. Groundwater provides about 40% of the water used in Santa Clara County, and nearly all the water used in South County. Because the amount of groundwater pumped far exceeds what is naturally replenished by rainfall, Valley Water’s groundwater management activities are critical to maintaining healthy groundwater basins. ... ” Read more from Valley Water News here: Santa Clara: Valley Water working to ensure groundwater users are fairly charged for benefits received
Yuba Water Agency adopts Groundwater Sustainability Plan: “Yuba County’s groundwater subbasins have been sustainably managed for decades, and with 80 percent of Yuba’s residents relying on groundwater as their sole source, it’s critical that it remain sustainable for the long-term. With that in mind, Yuba Water Agency adopted an official groundwater sustainability plan, known as the Yuba Subbasins Water Management Plan. The plan, developed in coordination with Cordua Irrigation District, the city of Marysville and many interested stakeholders, will guide the continued management and use of groundwater in Yuba County. … ” Read more from Yuba Net here: Yuba Water Agency adopts Groundwater Sustainability Plan
SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY
Tulare County: Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board approves GSP; Friant-Kern Canal among concerns: “Now that the Groundwater Sustainability Plan has been approved, the real work begins so to speak. The Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board approved the GSP at its meeting on Friday, laying out the goals for the agency to meet the state requirement to reduce groundwater usage to what’s considered a sustainable level by 2040. The plan was due to be submitted to the state by January 31. The ETGSA covers virtually all of Southeastern Tulare County. … ” Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Tulare County: Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board approves GSP; Friant-Kern Canal among concerns
Kern’s final groundwater plan approved: “After months of fireworks over lowball pumping numbers and concerns that some groundwater agencies wouldn’t get on board, Kern’s last groundwater sustainability plan was approved Wednesday with barely a murmur. The Kern Groundwater Authority board of directors voted unanimously to adopt its final GSP with just two weeks to spare before the massive document is due to the state Department of Water Resources. ... ” Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Kern’s final groundwater plan approved
Owens Valley groundwater basin is officially “low”: “The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority has been flailing in limbo as the California Department of Water Resources stood poised to publish the final priority rating for the state’s groundwater basins, as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Then, in mid-December, the OVGA received word, the priority list had been finalized and the Owens basin was officially low. … ” Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley groundwater basin is officially “low”
Inyo to take ‘no’ position on Indian Wells Valley plan to tap into LA Aqueduct: “Inyo County Supervisors had a no-brainer at Tuesday’s Board meeting. The question: what position should the Board’s representative take on Indian Wells Valley’s option to tap into the Los Angeles Aqueduct to solve its critical overdraft problem? The decision was a unanimous “no.” Listening to John Vallejo, deputy county counsel, describe the situation begged the question “what was Indian Wells thinking?” … ” Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Inyo to take ‘no’ position on Indian Wells Valley plan to tap into LA Aqueduct
Indian Wells Valley groundwater plan approved: “With the bang of a gavel, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board of directors passed its groundwater sustainability plan following years of planning and heavy debate. “We have a GSP,” said Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason, the board chair. ... ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley groundwater plan approved
Petrochem sold as a water war looms in the Ventura River Watershed: “The Ventura River Watershed is a vast area stretching from the Ventura River mouth to the Upper Ojai Valley and back to the edges of the Sespe, with an arm reaching into Santa Barbara County. It encompasses all the land that gathers water from local mountain peaks, channeling it down into barrancas and drainages, combining into creek beds and eventually all coming together into the Ventura River to stream out to the Pacific Ocean. It includes not just water visible at the surface, but also the deep groundwater basins that fill water wells for thousands of property owners in the area. … Two stories are currently unfolding in the Ventura River Watershed, one regarding a polluted property that is changing hands, the other involving a legal case that could have ramifications for all water users and water rights for decades. … ” Read more from the Ventura County Reporter here: Petrochem sold as a water war looms in the Ventura River Watershed
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. For groundwater basins in overdraft, groundwater production allocations may be a vital tool; however, 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 ACWA’s fall conference, a panel discussed the legal framework, different types of groundwater rights, lessons learned from existing groundwater production allocation programs, and potential pitfalls and practical approaches to developing a groundwater sustainability plans with production allocations as a component to reaching sustainability goals.
Seated on the panel:
- Wendy Wang, an attorney with Best Best and Krieger
- Eric Robinson, an attorney with Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann and Girard
- Dr. Jill Weinberger, a hydrogeologist with Dudek
Here’s what they had to say.
From the Department of Water Resources:
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the 2016 Statewide Crop Mapping data. This new dataset represents the 2016 main season agricultural land use, wetlands, and urban boundaries for all 58 counties in California for the same time period. For many years, DWR has collected land use data at the county level at different times across the state. Land use and crop mapping information is essential for regional analysis and decision making, which has become increasingly important as DWR, other state and local agencies, and landowners seek to sustainably manage the state’s water resources.
For questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Department of Pesticide Regulation:
The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) added 122 new Ground Water Protection Areas (GWPAs) to 15 counties based on groundwater detections of 3CCR 6800(a)-listed pesticides (atrazine, simazine, bromacil, diuron, prometon, bentazon, or norflurazon).
DPR has completed the update of our website to include the locations of the new GWPAs. Links directly to the Ground Water Protection Area Locations web page and Pesticide Use Regulations web pages are now located on the Groundwater Protection Program home page: https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/grndwtr/index.htm.
Each county that has GWPAs now has an updated web page that includes new maps, shapefiles, and lists of GWPAs by section: https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/grndwtr/gwpa_locations.htm.
CalPIP has been updated to include the new GWPAs: https://calpip.cdpr.ca.gov/county.cfm.
CalAgPermits has also added the new GWPAs to their system for the upcoming permit season.
The newly regulated sections will become effective on January 1, 2020 and will bring the total number of GWPAs in the state to 3,840. The GWPAs were implemented to protect vulnerable areas from groundwater contamination due to agricultural use of specific pesticides that have been detected in groundwater and designated as having the potential to pollute groundwater.
Use of these 3CCR 6800(a)-listed pesticides are restricted in GWPAs and require the implementation of specific management practices that are outlined in the regulations: https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/grndwtr/regs/pesticide_use.htm</a
From the Department of Pesticide Regulation:
The Department of Pesticide Regulation’s Groundwater Protection Program has posted the annual well sampling report to our website: https://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/pubs/ehapreps.htm -> Report WIR2018, Sampling for Pesticide Residues in California Well Water – 2018 Update.
This report summarizes the results of groundwater sampling for pesticide residues from January through December 2017 by the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The report also includes United States Geological Survey (USGS) data from 2011 to 2016 that had not been previously reported to DPR. Actions taken by DPR to prevent migration of pesticides to groundwater from nonpoint agricultural sources are also identified.
SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY
Valley land has sunk from too much water pumping. Can Fresno County fix it? “The Fresno County Board of Supervisors adopted a plan on Tuesday meant to maintain groundwater and keep users from pumping too much from underground basins. The supervisors adopted plans for two areas connected to the Delta-Mendota subbasin. Officials throughout the San Joaquin Valley have been required by the state to adopt a plan by the end of the month. … ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Valley land has sunk from too much water pumping. Can Fresno County fix it?
Pajaro Valley water project balances ag and saltwater intrusion: “Facing the continued creep inland of seawater intrusion into irrigation supplies, the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency board has approved expansion of its water service area to include an additional 700 acres of coastal farmlands. The agency’s board of directors unanimously agreed at Dec. 18 meeting to award a $3.2 million contract to build the new so-called F-Pipeline Project to San Luis Obispo-based Specialty Construction, Inc. After finalizing the project’s environmental impact study update last month, construction is expected to begin as early as late January on the seaward side of San Andreas Road. … ” Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Pajaro Valley water project balances ag and saltwater intrusion
Paso Robles approves groundwater sustainability plan: “After almost two years of planning, public outreach and discussion, the City of Paso Robles approved the Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Paso Robles Water Basin on Dec. 17. The GSP’s completion and approval is a vital step in keeping the power of water management in local hands and not controlled by the State of California. The City of Paso Robles Groundwater Sustainability Board, comprised of the City Council, passed the GSP in a majority vote of 3-0 with Mayor Steve Martin and Councilmember Maria Garcia absent. … ” Read more from The Paso Robles Press here: Paso Robles approves groundwater sustainability plan
As groundwater basins ‘rest,’ Santa Barbara looks to reservoirs for future water supplies: “This winter has started out as a wet one, but even if the rain tapers off, Santa Barbara can meet the water demands of its customers through 2022 with existing supplies, according to city staff. It’s been more than eight years since Lake Cachuma filled up and spilled, and groundwater basins all over Santa Barbara County are at historically low levels after being heavily pumped during the long drought. Groundwater well pumps are off to help basins “rest,” and it will take an estimated five years for the basins to recover from the drought, water supply analyst Dakota Corey told the city’s Water Commission at Thursday’s meeting. ... ” Read more from Noozhawk here: As groundwater basins ‘rest,’ Santa Barbara looks to reservoirs for future water supplies
Los Angeles may store water under an Owens Valley lake drained to fill its faucets: “Quick shifts in climate have prompted Los Angeles to consider an unlikely place to bank some of its Sierra Nevada snowmelt: beneath dry Owens Lake, which the city drained starting in 1913 to fill the L.A. Aqueduct and supply a thirsty metropolis. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has launched studies of ambitious plans to store water in the lake’s underground aquifer so that it could be pumped up in summer months and drought years to create pools of water to limit the dust sweeping across the vast lakebed’s salt flats. … ” Read more from the LA Times here: Los Angeles may store water under an Owens Valley lake drained to fill its faucets
Ridgecrest: Zdeba, Kicinski provide GSP update at Dems lunch: “The topic of water took center stage at the Democratic Club of the High Desert on Saturday as Indian Wells Valley Water District general manager Don Zdeba and board member Ron Kicinski provided some updates. Zdeba touched on the status of the groundwater sustainability plan and the IWV Groundwater Authority. The GSP is a roadmap that will detail how the IWV basin needs to achieve a sustainable safe yield by 2040, as mandated by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. “Surface water has been regulated in California for nearly 100 years, but before SGMA came along, groundwater was not managed at all,” Zdeba said. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Ridgecrest: Zdeba, Kicinski provide GSP update at Dems lunch
The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) has prepared A Technical Framework for Increasing Groundwater Replenishment in response to a growing need to promote groundwater replenishment activities as a strategy to maintain or improve groundwater levels statewide. This framework summarizes the tools and resources and provides a narrative framework and checklist for water managers to consider as they pursue groundwater recharge projects and activities.
For more information on groundwater recharge,
Visit the groundwater recharge page at the Groundwater Exchange.
From the California Water Institute:
For all of California’s problems with surface and groundwater, the one not receiving the attention it arguably deserves is the problem of funding for new infrastructure, as well as the ongoing maintenance of existing infrastructure, much of which is now old and decaying. Nationwide, the American Water Works Association estimates that an investment of about $1 trillion in infrastructure is needed by 2035 to make sure that Americans have access to clean drinking water (Thompson 2015). Just achieving this in California alone would require spending approximately $30 to $160 million more a year on infrastructure, which, along with flood control and ecosystem preservation, are believed to be more poorly funded than water storage infrastructure (Hanak et al. 2014).
Where will the necessary funding come from to develop, upgrade, expand, and refurbish the water infrastructure systems in the San Joaquin Valley?
Read the California Water Institute’s first in a series of reports about funding options and strategies for water infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley. This first report, “Funding a Future for Water in the San Joaquin Valley: A Literature Review of Public Funding For Water Infrastructure” is available for review by clicking here. Special thanks to Professor Holyoke and his students in Fresno State’s College of Social Sciences for conducting this initial research effort. We would also like to thank the generous contributions of our anonymous donor that graciously provided funding for this important work. Stay tuned for the next reports.
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