SGMA in the News

NGOs release evaluation of DWR’s determinations on 2020 Groundwater Sustainability Plans in Critically Overdrafted Basins

August 31, 2022

From the Groundwater Leadership Forum:

Of the 46 GSPs submitted in January 2020, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) determined eight GSPs to be adequate and 34 GSPs to be incomplete.

In this paper we evaluate to what extent DWR’s determinations provide oversight on the key issues of drinking water, disadvantaged communities, the environment, stakeholder involvement, and climate change. We summarize the corrective actions that DWR is recommending or requiring, as well as compare DWR’s determinations to the assessment of 31 GSPs that we conducted in 2020.

We also reviewed the 11 comment letters submitted by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), 25 comment letters submitted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and seven comment letters submitted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to compare deficiencies identified in GSPs across agencies.” 

Read the report at the Groundwater Exchange here: Groundwater sustainability assessments: A review of DWR’s determinations on groundwater sustainability plans in critically overdrafted basins

RELATED: California can’t waver on water regulation, commentary at Cal Matters

Category: Reports

Rewilding California farms: grants going out to repurpose drought-parched Central Valley land

August 31, 2022

From CBS Bay Area:

“A withered cornstalk may become the near-future snapshot of some farms in the drought-stricken Central Valley, while also allowing the return of a native landscape that will help conserve the state’s water.  The Federal Central Valley Project is not expected to send any water to most farmers who work the fields as California enters a third year of drought.

“I always say we’re a poster child for this issue, because we’re not doing it right,” said Mike Hagman, executive director of the Lindmore Irrigation District, located in the Tulare County city of Lindsay. … Hagman owns 160 acres of now-fallowed agricultural land. But now there is some hope. His land and others may find a new life under an innovative $50 million California project.  … ”

Read more from CBS 5 here: Rewilding California farms: grants going out to repurpose drought-parched Central Valley land

SEE ALSOSome California farmland being restored to natural state in hopes of lessening drought effects, from CBS News

Category: Media article

Using seismology for groundwater management

August 29, 2022

From MIT:

As climate change increases the number of extreme weather events, such as megadroughts, groundwater management is key for sustaining water supply. But current groundwater monitoring tools are either costly or insufficient for deeper aquifers, limiting our ability to monitor and practice sustainable management in populated areas.

Now, a new paper published in Nature Communications bridges seismology and hydrology with a pilot application that uses seismometers as a cost-effective way to monitor and map groundwater fluctuations.

“Our measurements are independent from and complementary to traditional observations,” says Shujuan Mao PhD ’21, lead author on the paper. “It provides a new way to dictate groundwater management and evaluate the impact of human activity on shaping underground hydrologic systems.”

Click here to continue reading from MIT.


SGMA in the News

August 20, 2022

Drought conditions static in California as state’s reliance on groundwater grows

Nearly 17% of the state remains in exceptional drought conditions with the majority being in the San Joaquin Valley. The weekly drought monitor showed no changes to conditions in California. The past month’s monsoonal moisture improved conditions in portions of the Sierra Nevada and desert regions, but the majority of the state slipped further into drought.  As the drought drags into its third year, many look to reservoir and river levels to gauge the severity of the drought. However, California’s groundwater, our water “bank account,” is the true measure of water security in California according to supervisory hydrologist Claudia Faunt of the United States Geological Service. … ”  Read more from Channel 10 here: Drought conditions static in California as state’s reliance on groundwater grows

California’s groundwater problems, explained | Q&A

Drought in California means much more than rain and snow falling from the sky, or even reservoir levels. When reservoirs and surface water levels are low, the Central Valley turns to pumping water out of the ground to support its cities and agricultural industry. ABC10 spoke with Claudia Faunt, supervisory hydrologist for the United States Geological Survey, about the drought and it’s effects on groundwater availability, subsidence and water infrastructure. … ”  Continue reading at ABC 10 here: California’s groundwater problems, explained | Q&A

Friends of the Eel River plans to sue county, says groundwater pumping harms fish ecosystem

Friends of the Eel River, a Eureka-based citizens’ group dedicated to protecting and restoring Eel River fisheries, has sent a formal letter to Humboldt County demanding it move to protect fisheries and other public trust values in the lower Eel River from groundwater pumping that lowers surface flows in the river.  “Humboldt County’s recently submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plan appears to be an attempt to prevent regulation of groundwater pumping in the lower river, at the expense of Eel River fish,” said Friends of the Eel River Executive Director Alicia Hamann. “But the county’s own data shows well pumping is pulling water out of the Eel River’s flows. In dry, hot years like those we’ve been seeing recently and expect to continue, groundwater pumping in the lower Eel River basin is reducing surface flows, and even leading to the lower river entirely disconnecting.” … ”  Read more from the Lost Coast Outpost here: Friends of the Eel River plans to sue county, says groundwater pumping harms fish ecosystem

Butte County sees 11 new dry wells reported in past month

As summer begins to wind down, the dry weather that has plagued California this year continues, leading to a number of new drought-related issues.  Over the course of the past 30 days, 11 new dry well reports in Butte County have been sent to the California Department of Water Resources. That comes out to 39 in the past year and 98 total.  Additionally, Glenn County has seen 105 total dry well reports and Tehama County has reported 229, according to data from DWR. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Butte County sees 11 new dry wells reported in past month | Read via the Mercury News

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors calls for more study of revised well rules

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors put off adopting changes to the county’s well regulations on Tuesday, citing the need for additional analysis and more public outreach.  County planning staff presented supervisors with revisions aimed at bringing the county’s well ordinance in line with California’s Public Trust Doctrine, a legal policy mandating local government protect certain waterways for public uses, including commerce, recreation, navigation and habitat. … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here: Sonoma County Board of Supervisors calls for more study of revised well rules

Enviros suing SONOMA county; say mismanagement is draining Russian River basin

A revised county plan, adding additional reviews, water meters and other restrictions on new water wells in unincorporated Sonoma County…isn’t enough to stave off a looming lawsuit. The suit accuses local officials of hurting protected species by pulling too much water from local watersheds.  After the environmental group California Coastkeeper Alliance signaled they would not drop their lawsuit, county staffers moved quickly to revise proposed changes to the county’s well ordinance. While officials are set to debate the provisions Tuesday, the organization has already reached a verdict.  Drev Hunt is legal director of the Coastkeeper Alliance.  “The county’s proposal to adopt this ordinance is a partial solution, but it doesn’t go far enough.” … ”  Read more from Northern California Public Media here: Enviros suing county; say mismanagement is draining Russian River basin

Salinas: Pumping of the deep aquifer, which holds ancient water, has intensified in recent years. And it’s bad.

What if the water coming out of your tap, or the water irrigating the produce you eat, was mined from an ancient water source from when woolly mammoths used to walk the Earth? Is that sustainable?  The latter is a question facing the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s board on Thursday, Aug. 11, when they will be presented with the most comprehensive study of that ancient water source in at least 20 years, and maybe ever. It’s a draft, not yet finalized, but it’s fair to say it doesn’t look good.  The stakes are high: Residents in Salinas, Marina, Castroville and parts of Seaside, as well as various agricultural interests, depend on it. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Pumping of the deep aquifer, which holds ancient water, has intensified in recent years. And it’s bad.

Paso basin continues decline as officials seek real-time well monitoring

The Paso Robles Groundwater Basin lost another 81,800 acre feet (AF) of water storage this spring compared to last spring—the fourth consecutive recorded decline in aquifer levels since 2020 and a continued sign of drought and overpumping, according to SLO County Groundwater Sustainability Director Blaine Reely.  “We’re pumping more groundwater, significantly more groundwater, out of the basin, especially in these drought years, than is being recharged,” Reely told New Times.  The spring-over-spring snapshot is a first for SLO County, which typically does its Paso groundwater measurements in the fall of each year. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: Paso basin continues decline as officials seek real-time well monitoring 

How a Madera farmer fought a new groundwater fee — and (sort of) won

A proposed fee system to manage irrigated land in Madera County has sparked a successful protest, leaving one groundwater agency unfunded and at least one farmer claiming the process was done with minimal notice.  Officials with Madera County added fees to irrigated acreage commonly referred to as white areas — having no surface water access and not belonging to an irrigation district.  Three newly formed groundwater sustainable agencies — Chowchilla Subbasin, the Madera Subbasin and the Delta Mendota Subbasin — are left with no funding for four ongoing groundwater projects required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It’s the County of Madera that oversees the land, said Stephanie Anagnason, director of water and natural resources for Madera County. ... ”  Read more from The Business Journal here:  How a Madera farmer fought a new groundwater fee — and (sort of) won

Will Kings County be the first region sent to state’s groundwater “cop”?

The prospect of being sent to California’s “groundwater cop” strikes dread in the hearts of most water managers.  But for John Vidovich, having the Tulare Lake subbasin come under the glare of the State Water Resources Control Board may be the only way to end an irrigation practice by the J.G. Boswell Company that he says is wasteful, abusive and contributing to the sinking of an entire town.  Boswell, which has not responded to requests for comment, pumps large amounts of groundwater into massive shallow ponds for later irrigation, something Vidovich, who runs Sandridge Partners, has complained about for years.  “I think this practice is going to be referred to the state Water Board,” Vidovich said in a recent interview. “I’m assuming this practice will be the focus of the state water board. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Will Kings County be the first region sent to state’s groundwater “cop”?

Central Valley subsidence could last longer than expected

California’s Central Valley could not have become one of the world’s most productive areas of farmland without its significant groundwater supplies. Until the development of the major state and federal water projects that began delivering surface water to the area in the second half of the 20th century, the Central Valley relied almost exclusively on groundwater. … Heavy pumping of groundwater has led to significant land subsidence throughout the valley, causing major damage in some areas to canals, aqueducts, and other infrastructure.  Efforts to limit subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley have sought mainly to stabilize existing groundwater levels, on the assumption that preventing further declines in area aquifers would keep subsidence in check. However, recently published research has found that past groundwater withdrawals are likely to continue to cause continued subsidence well into the future, unless hydraulic head is allowed to recover in the affected aquifers. ... ”  Continue reading at the Civil Engineering Source here: Central Valley subsidence could last longer than expected

New recharge basin increases Fresno Irrigation District’s storage capacity

We may be dealing with a third year of drought, but at some point, we will experience a wet year again.  When that happens, the Fresno Irrigation District will be in a better position to collect flood runoff.  The state is urging water agencies to develop more groundwater basins to capture floodwater when heavy rains finally return.  The Fresno Irrigation District’s newest one has been put to immediate use.  The Savory Groundwater Recharge Basin at Chestnut and Lincoln is already storing water. … ”  Read more from Channel 30 here: New recharge basin increases Fresno Irrigation District’s storage capacity

Tehachapi: Banked groundwater: how much is enough?

How much water has the Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District banked underground in the Cummings and Tehachapi basins? And should the board of directors set a limit for future extractions?  These are among questions explored by the board in recent meetings and after further discussion at a board meeting Aug. 17, General Manager Tom Neisler was directed to bring a proposal for safeguarding banked water supplies to the board’s next regular meeting. The meeting is set for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21.  … ”  Read more from the Tehachapi News here: Tehachapi: Banked groundwater: how much is enough?

Ojai:  Water lawsuit parties say they need more time

Major parties in a water lawsuit involving thousands of Ojai Valley property owners say they need more time to complete ongoing mediation talks. During an Aug. 25 status conference in the Ventura River Watershed Adjudication case, attorney Shawn Hagerty, representing the city of Ventura, said the parties are “working hard” and “making progress,” but there’s still “a lot of work to be done.” “It is almost certain that if we want to complete this process, and complete it successfully, we will need more time,” Hagerty told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger. … ”  Read more from the Ojai Valley News here: Ojai:  Water lawsuit parties say they need more time

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority spending $6.4M for rights to 750 acre-feet of imported water

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has signed an agreement to spend $6,396,000 to buy the rights to 750 acre-feet of state water per year to import from southwestern Kings County.  A nonbinding letter of intent signed Tuesday and obtained by the Daily Independent lays out the terms between the IWVGA and an entity called Utica LJL, LLC to purchase water assets. Utica LJL is in the early stages of developing a site along Interstate 5 about four miles south of Kettleman City to build gas stations, restaurants, motels, an industrial park, and farmland. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Ridgecrest: IWVGA spending $6.4M for rights to 750 acre-feet of imported water

Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s recent water purchase agreement doesn’t mean what they say it means

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (GA) recently announced they had signed a “letter of Intent” (LOI) to purchase approximately 750-acre feet (AF) of state water from the California Aqueduct from Jackson Ranch, a fully entitled, master planned development in Kings County. The water would be imported to the Indian Wells Valley and sold to residents and businesses, but only after costly pipeline infrastructure is permitted and constructed.  To be clear, a LOI is not a binding legal document. On the contrary, a LOI simply states the parties have reached an agreement on basic terms. A future document, usually a ‘Purchase and Sale Agreement,’ spells out terms and conditions, and once signed, makes the agreement legally binding on both parties.  The thing is, the LOI was not signed by any of the members of the current owners of Jackson Ranch, but by Jon Lash whose entity – reportedly Utica J.L.J. LLC – has an option to buy a portion of the Jackson Ranch. This option has not yet been exercised and expires November 20, 2022. … ”  Continue reading from Mojave Pistachios here: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s recent water purchase agreement doesn’t mean what they say it means

Groundwater Authority awards contract for monitoring well project between Rose Valley and Indian Wells Valley

At their regular board meeting on August 10, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority unanimously agreed to authorize IWVGA to award a contract for drilling services to install monitoring wells from the Rose Valley area into the Indian Wells Valley.  The contract goes to Garrison Brothers Well Service, a Ridgecrest-based company. The estimated budget for the contract is $220,360, which falls within the expected budget for the project according to Jeff Helsley of Stetson Engineers, which is the company functioning as IWVGA’s water resources manager. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Groundwater Authority awards contract for monitoring well project between Rose Valley and Indian Wells Valley

Antelope Valley water contractors will explore recharge options

The Antelope Valley State Water Contractors Association agreed, on Thursday, to pursue two parallel options for recharging the underlying aquifer with surplus water from the State Water Project in and adjacent to Big Rock Creek, in the southeastern part of the Valley. A pilot study of the original plan — to recharge water directly into the aquifer through the creek bed — conducted in 2019-2020 proved to be infeasible, as the ground did not absorb the water fast enough to prevent it from spilling downstream, where it crossed and flooded East Avenue T. Instead, the Association is looking at either using culverts beneath avenues T and S to direct the water without flooding the roads, or to pipe water into recharge basins east of the creek bed. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here:  Antelope Valley water contractors will explore recharge options

SoCal water agencies celebrate more than five decades of successful groundwater management

As California experiences another year of drought and extreme heat, residents and businesses may be asking how their communities ensure they have enough water for today and into the future. For two inland Southern California water agencies, responsible groundwater management is a piece of the puzzle.  On August 1, 2022, the 51st annual watermaster report was filed with the Court, crossing a significant milestone in this effective working relationship between Western Municipal Water District (Western) and the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District). The Court appointed the two agencies a shared role of Watermaster following a legal settlement of water rights in 1969. Western represents the Riverside County entities and Valley District represents the San Bernardino County entities who pump water from these basins. … ”  Read more from Western Municipal Water District here: SoCal water agencies celebrate more than five decades of successful groundwater management


PPIC: Is SGMA Compatible with Farmland Preservation?

August 15, 2022

From the Public Policy Institute of California:

As implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) gets underway, questions are emerging about what it will mean for lands protected under the Williamson Act, California’s chief farmland preservation policy. For nearly 60 years, the Williamson Act has helped protect 16 million acres—roughly half of the state’s crop- and rangelands—from development.

But as SGMA’s limitations on groundwater extraction go into effect—and as warmer, more intense droughts begin to push land out of irrigation–the context within which the program operates is shifting. In July, we gathered a group of agriculture, solar, and county stakeholders to explore the interplay between the Williamson Act and SGMA in the San Joaquin Valley. Here is what we learned.

Click here to read more from the Public Policy Institute of California.


DWR Launches New Web-Based Mapping Tool Showing Nearly 3,000 Groundwater Sustainability Projects

August 9, 2022

From the Department of Water Resources:

A new web-based tool developed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) will allow the public to explore thousands of groundwater projects across California to get a better understanding of one of the state’s most critical water supply resources. The virtual mapping tool is part of the State’s ongoing commitment to develop new, innovative solutions to provide information and resources to address the effects of California’s changing climate and ongoing severe drought.

The California Groundwater Projects Tool is an interactive mapping tool that allows users to explore a database of nearly 3,000 projects initiated in California over the last decade to protect groundwater resources. The mapping tool features projects that were funded by DWR and external sources such as federal or local funding. The database will include information about project benefits and effectiveness in relation to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Users can also access more than 20 project case studies and get guidance on how to measure and track benefits of projects following construction.

Continue reading from the Department of Water Resources by clicking here.

Category: DWR Updates

DWR: Going with the Flow: How Aquifer Recharge Reduces Flood Risk

August 3, 2022

From the Department of Water Resources:

On a small scale, aquifers — subsurface natural basins — have benefitted from man-made recharge for decades. Now, a new Department of Water Resources (DWR) assessment shows how Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, or Flood-MAR, can help reduce flood risk and boost groundwater supplies across large areas of land.

A climate change problem solver, Flood-MAR collects high flow flood waters from heavy precipitation or snow melt and conveys it downstream. There, the flood waters are spread across the land, creating wetland habitat or irrigating fields while also percolating to aquifers underground. The capturing of flood waters during times of peak flows lessens the risk of major flooding during heavy storms. Some of the water later makes its way back to waterways where it can also support ecosystems and riverine habitat. In partnership with the Merced Irrigation District, Sustainable Conservation, and others, DWR experts analyzed how this would work in the Merced River —a 145-mile-long tributary of the San Joaquin River. The Merced River, which flows from the Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin Valley, could be much more vulnerable to heavy flooding as storms intensify.

Click here to read more from the Department of Water Resources.

Category: DWR Updates

PPIC VIDEO: Farmland in Transition—The San Joaquin Valley

August 2, 2022

The San Joaquin Valley is California’s agricultural heartland and at the center of the state’s water challenges. As the region brings its groundwater basins into balance under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), over half a million acres of irrigated farmland may need to come out of production.

At a virtual event last week, PPIC researchers and a panel of local experts moderated by Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center, discussed how to manage this massive transition while reaping the greatest benefits from idled land and mitigating air quality concerns.

Watch video and read summary from the PPIC by clicking here.


Public Comment Period Opens for Additional Resubmitted Groundwater Sustainability Plans with ‘Incomplete’ Determinations

August 1, 2022

From the Department of Water Resources:

On January 28, 2022, the Department released eight Incomplete determinations on groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) developed by local agencies to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). These basins were given 180 days to address deficiencies and resubmit their revised GSPs to the Department for review.

The revised GSPs in response to the Incomplete determination have been resubmitted to the Department and are now posted on the DWR SGMA Portal. These plans are open to public comment for 60 days after the posted date. Below in the table are links to the submitted plans, counties they cover, and the public comment period end date. More information about how to comment on a GSP can be found in the public comment factsheet, available in English and Spanish. Please note that a SGMA Portal account is not required to submit a public comment.

 Basin Local ID (if applicable) Counties Covered Public Comment Period End Date
Eastern San Joaquin N/A Calaveras, San Joaquin, Stanislaus 9/30/2022
Merced N/A Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus 9/30/2022
Chowchilla N/A Madera, Merced 9/30/2022
Kings (including Coordination Agreement) Kings_SouthKings_Adopted Fresno, Kings, Tulare 9/30/2022
Kings_NorthKings_Adopted 9/30/2022
Kings_NorthForkKings_Adopted 9/30/2022
Kings_McMullinArea_Adopted 9/30/2022
Kings_KingsRiverEast_Adopted 9/30/2022
Kings_James_Adopted 9/30/2022
Kings_CentralKings_Adopted 9/30/2022
Kaweah (including Coordination Agreement) Mid-Kaweah GSA Kings, Tulare 9/30/2022
Kaweah Subbasin – Greater Kaweah Subbasin 9/30/2022
East Kaweah 9/30/2022
Tulare Lake N/A Kern, Kings, Tulare 9/30/2022
Tule (including Coordination Agreement) Tule Subbasin Alpaugh GSP Kern, Tulare 9/30/2022
Pixley ID GSA 9/30/2022
LTRID GSA 9/30/2022
DEID GSA 9/30/2022
Basin 5-022.13 TCWA – Tule 9/30/2022
Basin 5-022.13 ETGSA GSP 9/30/2022
Kern County (including Coordination Agreement) KGA GSP Kern, San Luis Obispo 9/30/2022
Kern County Subbasin Olcese GSP 9/30/2022
Kern County Subbasin KRGSA GSP 9/30/2022
Henry Miller Water District GSA 9/30/2022
BVGSA 9/30/2022
  South of Kern   9/30/2022

Public Comment Period Opens for a Groundwater Sustainability Plan

A groundwater sustainability plan that has recently been submitted to the Department is now posted on the DWR SGMA Portal.

The plan is open to public comment for 75 days after the posted date. Below in the table is a link to the submitted plan, the county it covers, and the public comment period end date.

Information about how to comment on the plan can be found in a fact sheet in English and Spanish. Public comments are welcomed and encouraged. A SGMA Portal account is not necessary to submit comments.

 Basin Local ID (if applicable) County Covered Public Comment Period End Date
Riverside-Arlington N/A Riverside 10/15/2022
San Gabriel Valley N/A Los Angeles 10/15/2022

For questions or more information, email sgmps@water.ca.gov.

Category: DWR Updates
Keywords: 2020 GSPs

Public Comment Period Opens for Re-Submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plans with ‘Incomplete’ Determinations

July 21, 2022

From the Department of Water Resources:

On January 21, 2022, the Department released four Incomplete determinations on groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) developed by local agencies to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). These basins were given 180 days to address deficiencies and resubmit their revised GSPs to the Department for review.

The revised GSPs in response to the Incomplete determination have been re-submitted to the Department and are now posted on the DWR SGMA Portal. These plans are open to public comment for 60 days after the posted date. Below in the table are links to the submitted plans, counties they cover, and the public comment period end date.

The remaining revised GSPs must be submitted to the SGMA Portal by July 27, 2022 and will also be open to public comment for 60 days after the posted date.

Additional information related to this process is available in the GSP Reporting System – Incomplete Resubmission Process User Manual.

 Basin Local ID (if applicable) Counties Covered Public Comment Period End Date
Cuyama N/A Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura 9/19/2022
Paso Robles Area N/A San Luis Obispo 9/19/2022
Delta-Mendota (including Coordination Agreement) Aliso WD GSA Fresno, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus 9/19/2022
DM_NorthCentral_Adopted 9/19/2022
DM_Grassland_Adopted 9/19/2022
DM_Farmers_Adopted 9/19/2022
DM_FresnoCounty_Adopted 9/19/2022
DM_SJREC_Adopted 9/19/2022
Westside N/A Fresno, Kings 9/19/2022

For questions or more information, email sgmps@water.ca.gov.

Category: DWR Updates
Keywords: 2020 GSPs