“Domestic wells serve sizable potable water demands in California and much of the world. These wells tend to degrade and fail with declining regional groundwater levels. In areas of irrigated agriculture, impacts to shallower domestic wells may occur from ongoing groundwater use and worsen during drought when agricultural pumping increases to compensate for diminished surface water supplies. Impacts on domestic wells include increased pumping lift, pump cavitation, well screen clogging, and wells running dry.
Our recent work examines the potential for managing these impacts in part of the San Joaquin Valley where groundwater sustainability plans were completed in 2020 as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … ”
REPORT: Dispute Resolution Clauses In Interorganizational Coordination Agreements: A Comparative Analysis
Adoption of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 posed a major coordination challenge for diverse public agencies by requiring them to align their activities at the scale of groundwater basins, which is not how most governing bodies are organized. Meeting this requirement meant establishing governing and operating relationships between agencies. Such interorganizational relationships (IORs) are essential in many fields, but are also prone to conflict. Understanding the factors affecting the inclusion, specificity and salience of dispute resolution clauses (DRCs) in interorganizational agreements ensures the long-term functionality of IORs.
We examined 74 multi-entity agreements forming new quasi-voluntary local agencies, devoted to developing and implementing groundwater sustainability plans to achieve groundwater sustainability under SGMA. Statistical analyses were performed to identify potential factors influencing both the inclusion of DRCs in agreements, as well as the degree of specificity. Agency annual operating budgets and the use of facilitation services during agreement formation were statistically significant factors in predicting the inclusion of DRCs in agreements. Interviews were conducted with a subset of agency representatives, facilitators and lawyers to understand factors motivating the inclusion of DRCs and the salience of those clauses.
We found a near uniform lack of salience associated with the DRCs. While DRCs are considered an important component of multientity agreements, their inclusion and specificity are often driven by agreement drafters with minimal involvement of agreement parties impacting the salience of DRCs and potentially their use long-term.
How an integrated approach to water planning is helping the city of Roseville weather the drought with an eye toward the future
“By now, it is clear that California is experiencing yet another severe drought. In the Sacramento region, Folsom Lake — the city of Roseville’s primary water supply source — has dropped to levels not seen since 1977. Understanding the drought’s swift toll on the environment, the Regional Water Authority (RWA), which represents water providers serving two million people in the Sacramento region, asked members to start using more groundwater and take other actions to reduce reliance on local lakes and rivers. The city of Roseville responded almost immediately, thanks to its innovative approach to water supply planning called Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) and its partnership with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). … ” Read more from Western City Magazine here: How an integrated approach to water planning is helping the city of Roseville weather the drought with an eye toward the future
Receding Sonoma Valley aquifers could prompt big changes in how wells are used
“There’s likely a vast, unseen reservoir beneath your feet, built by centuries of rain percolating through the earth. Problem is, it’s not limitless. In the Sonoma Valley, one of the county’s three basins, that invisible supply has sunk 10 feet in two years. In a webinar held Wednesday evening, officials with the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency—an entity created under California’s recent groundwater law said there are concerns beyond supply and demand. Arsenic, nitrate and boron have been detected., along with chloride, a marker for saltwater. Since 1970, officials estimate, the aquifer has lost 14,000 acre-feet, as wells pump faster than nature can replenish. That’s equivalent to more than a tenth of Lake Mendocino’s capacity. And also prompting salty, brackish water from San Francisco Bay, to seep in. … ” Read more from Northern California Public Media here: Receding Sonoma Valley aquifers could prompt big changes in how wells are used
Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency works toward long-term drought solutions
“In 1983, a group of local farmers looking for ways to manage the Pajaro Valley’s groundwater basin formed the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PVWMA). A year later, the agency was officially recognized by the state legislature, who tasked them to stop groundwater overdraft and seawater intrusion in the valley—all while preserving the vital agricultural industry. Now, as the state of California struggles with a severe, ongoing drought, PVWMA’s work has seeped into the community’s consciousness. Marcus Mendiola, the agency’s water conservation and outreach specialist, says that more and more people—government officials, the media, individual residents—have been reaching out to them, asking what can be done to save water. “Everyone is thinking very short term—they’re thinking, ‘It’s dry right now.’ And that’s a common human experience,” Mendiola said. “But this is a long-term problem. We have been focused on this since 1983. Our mission during these extreme drought periods is only further reinforced.” ... ” Read more from Good Times here: Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency works toward long-term drought solutions
SEE ALSO: Video: Unique collaboration in Santa Cruz County looking to replenish critically over drafted basin, from Channel 8
Monterey: A crucial water source for agriculture has been overdrafted for decades. A new plan aims to fix that.
“In Monterey County, water is a scarce resource. This is an obvious statement to locals who see how rarely water falls from the sky and how depleted streams and rivers can become in drought years. Less obvious is the health of the water pumped out of the ground through wells connected to subterranean lakes and streams known as aquifers. These aquifers provide drinking water to some residents and offer a lifeline to the multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry that fuels the local economy. Decades of over-pumping have threatened the health of one local group of aquifers, known as the 180/400 foot aquifer subbasin. Water has been pumped out of these aquifers faster than they can recharge. … ” Read more from Monterey Weekly here: A crucial water source for agriculture has been overdrafted for decades. A new plan aims to fix that.
Wells are failing in southeastern Madera County. What to know about the water situation
“On Sunday evening, a well motor failed in a Madera Ranchos community water system that serves around 1,000 homes. Last week, another well pump stopped working in Parksdale, southeast of Madera. Neither community has lost water service. Both are experiencing low pressure. Madera County Public Works runs both water systems. From Madera Acres to the Bonadelle Ranchos, private wells are running dry at an alarming rate. Self-Help Enterprises, an organization that supports communities with water challenges, has been tracking the problem. They have now delivered water tanks to more than 200 households in the county. “It’s a hot spot,” said Tami McVay of Self-Help Enterprises. “During the last drought, Tulare County was overwhelmed. But now, Madera County is getting hit the worst this time.” … ” Read more from the Fresno Bee here: Wells are failing in southeastern Madera County. What to know about the water situation
State still hasn’t fixed Porterville drinking water crisis from the last drought. Will residents go dry again?
“The epicenter of dry wells during California’s last devastating drought was undoubtedly Porterville. The small Tulare County town saw wells go dry enmasse in its unincorporated east side. It became a national headline as the media descended. Amid the glare of tv cameras, the state pledged to help and agreed to build three new wells. Five years have gone by, the state is in the grip of another drought and Porterville is walking a tightrope as the state connected more than 755 new homes to the city’s water system but only built one new well. “We wish those three wells were done,” said John Lollis, City Manager of Porterville. “It would make this summer much more bearable.” ... ” Read more from SJV Water here: State still hasn’t fixed Porterville drinking water crisis from the last drought. Will residents go dry again?
East Orosi one step closer to clean water as Tulare County moves to become administrator
“East Orosi is one step closer to achieving clean drinking water, a basic human right that is denied to many of California’s disadvantaged communities, particularly in the rural San Joaquin Valley. Last Tuesday, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to take steps to become the manager of the small agricultural community’s water board. That means the town of about 500 will soon have the financial resources and technical know-how to gain clean water. “It’s very unacceptable, especially in 2021, that these communities in our own state have to deal and suffer from this inequity,” said Supervisor Eddie Valero, who represents East Orosi. “If there is any time where this possible the time is now because of the [state’s] emphasis on water.” … ” Read more from the Visalia Times-Delta here: East Orosi one step closer to clean water as Tulare County moves to become administrator
State finds deficiencies in Paso and Cuyama basin plans
“The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) published its first reviews of local groundwater sustainability plans as part of a 2014 state law regulating groundwater—and two Central Coast aquifers are included in the initial wave of feedback. DWR reviewed and found “deficiencies” in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin and Cuyama Valley Groundwater Basin sustainability plans—declining to give final approval to either. In separate letters about the basins, DWR identified issues ranging from a lack of discussion about impacts to shallow and domestic wells, to a lack of planning for surface waters, like creeks and rivers. Six points of deficiencies were listed in all—two for Paso and four for Cuyama. … ” Read more from New Times SLO here: State finds deficiencies in Paso and Cuyama basin plans
Amid a rapidly worsening drought and a California mandate to bring aquifer withdrawals and deposits into balance by 2040, there’s now growing urgency to better understand the hidden structures of groundwater basins.
One possible solution to balancing the aquifer water budget involves strategically flooding a field, orchard or dedicated recharge pond and letting the water seep down through sandy channels. In research published earlier this month in Vadose Zone Journal, Knight and postdoctoral scholar Meredith Goebel demonstrate a new way to assess sites for this type of managed aquifer recharge using soil measurements and a geophysical system towed by an all-terrain vehicle.
At the Kern County Water Summit held last week, hosted by the Water Association of Kern County, Acting Deputy Director of the Department of Water Resources Statewide Groundwater Management Program Steven Springhorn provided an update on the Department’s progress on SGMA implementation, including the Department’s review of the submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plans and the existing and proposed SGMA-related assistance.
He began by noting the considerable amount of work that has been done the past six years since the law went into effect, includes establishing regulations for the forming Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (or GSAs) and for developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans (or GSPs).
“We are right now at a point where SGMA is hitting its full stride,” said Mr. Springhorn. “There is still a lot of work ahead of us in this next phase, which is full-scale plan implementation over the next 20 years. The local efforts of implementing plans and adaptively managing the groundwater basins will allow us to find solutions to the tough challenges that are out there in order to reach sustainability in 20 years and make measurable progress along the way.”
State releases its first reviews of local SGMA plans
“Against the backdrop of what’s shaping up as a devastating drought year, the California Department of Water Resources has released its first assessments of groundwater sustainability plans developed by local agencies to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The department released reviews of four local plans, approving two but sending the other two back to local groundwater sustainability agencies, saying the plans need more work. Under SGMA, the local groundwater sustainability agencies must develop plans to guide management of groundwater in basins and subbasins statewide. This first round of assessments pertains to agencies overseeing critically overdrafted basins and that were required to submit plans by Jan. 31. ... ” Read more from Ag Alert here: State releases its first reviews of local SGMA plans
GSAs shooting 50% on GSPs—DWR releases first GSP assessment results for high priority basins
“The wait is over for some Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the first Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) assessments for four basins yesterday, June 3, 2021. DWR approved the 180/400 Foot Aquifer Subbasin in Salinas Valley and the Santa Cruz Mid-County Basin. DWR determined both GSPs “satisf[y] the objectives of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and substantially compl[y] with the GSP Regulations.” By contrast, DWR issued “consultation initiation letters” to the Cuyama Valley Basin and the Paso Robles Area Subbasin, requiring certain deficiencies be corrected before the plan is approved. Both GSPs were deemed incomplete for deficiencies in their definitions of sustainable management criteria (SMC), including minimum thresholds and undesirable results, as required by SGMA and GSP regulations. … ” Continue reading at Brownstein Water here: GSAs shooting 50% on GSPs—DWR releases first GSP assessment results for high priority basins
First assessments of Groundwater Sustainability Plans released by DWR
“The first assessments of groundwater sustainability plans have been released by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). In lieu of waiting until the end of the two-year review period, DWR has decided to release assessments as they are completed. Assessments have been completed for the Santa Cruz Mid-County Basin in Santa Cruz County and 180/400 Foot Aquifer Subbasin in Monterey County. Assessments for the Cuyama Valley Basin and Paso Robles Subbasin have also been completed. “Local management, including development of solutions for the long-term reliability of groundwater, is the cornerstone of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a press release. … ” Read more from Ag Net West here: First assessments of Groundwater Sustainability Plans released by DWR
Lack of surface water and groundwater is making dairy farming much more challenging
“California’s water situation has not been good for a long time; however, this year could prove to be even worse. With little to no snowpack in the mountains and less water flowing down the California Water Project, farmers and cities alike are facing the repercussions of poor water management combined with consecutive dry years. With the scarcity of water this year, it is only fitting that we throw one more hurdle in the mix and make farming even more difficult. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is now in full play and is already changing the way farms are managing their water and funds. … ” Read more from Hoard’s Dairyman here: Lack of surface water and groundwater is making dairy farming much more challenging
How to fix America: Replenish overdrafted aquifers in the San Joaquin Valley
“To grow the almonds, citrus, cotton and myriad other crops that make the San Joaquin Valley one of the most productive regions in the world, farmers have long relied on groundwater. But decades of excessive pumping — including during droughts, when aquifers went without replenishment — have literally caused the valley to sink, threatening future supplies and infrastructure. Like a bank account in overdraft, groundwater supplies are overdue for a top-up. And with climate change further squeezing resources, some land will have to be taken out of production. As part of his $100 billion “California Comeback” plan, Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a direct response to these complex issues: $500 million for “multi-benefit land repurposing” that provides “flexible, long-term support to water users.” Ann Hayden, senior director of the water program at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that would mean incentivizing farmers to transition their land to uses that allow for more groundwater recharge and provide other benefits like wildlife habitat, recreation space, or room for solar installations. ... ” Read more from Bloomberg City Lab here: Replenish overdrafted aquifers
Ultra-sensitive radiation detectors provide deeper dive into groundwater
“Scientists are gaining deeper insights into how agricultural practices affect groundwater, thanks in part to an isotope groundwater age-dating technique made possible by ultra-sensitive radiation measurements at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). In a recent study published in Science Advances magazine, physicists from PNNL partnered with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, U.S. Geological Survey, and Argonne National Laboratory to use isotope dating to estimate the age of groundwater samples from California’s San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater ages can reveal important clues about potential contaminants in the aquifer, and how often and from which sources the water table replenishes. … ” Read more from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory here: Ultra-sensitive radiation detectors provide deeper dive into groundwater
Sonoma Valley well owners invited to preview sustainability indicators of future groundwater issues
“Well owners in the Santa Rosa Plain, Petaluma Valley, and Sonoma Valley have been invited to participate in local community meetings on groundwater conditions and sustainable management of this critical water source. The Sonoma Valley virtual meeting will take place June 23 at 5:30 p.m. The meetings will preview proposed sustainability indicators, developed with stakeholder input, that are the heart of the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) being developed by these three groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs). The plans identify issues with current and future groundwater resources and provide means to address the problems. … ” Read more from the Kenwood Press here: Sonoma Valley well owners invited to preview sustainability indicators of future groundwater issues
Commentary: How an invisible water source will help Sacramento get through the upcoming drought
Jim Piefer, executive director of the Regional Water Authority and Sacramento Groundwater Authority, writes, “One look at Folsom Lake, the Sacramento region’s primary surface water storage reservoir, says all we need to know about California’s current water situation: We’re in another drought. Like reservoirs throughout the state, Folsom is shockingly low and won’t be refilled by snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada. Low reservoir levels are a big concern for the Lower American River, a critical habitat for salmon and steelhead. Local water managers are working closely through the Water Forum, a coalition of water providers, environmentalists, business groups and local governments, to monitor and address the river’s conditions with our federal and state partners. Many will request voluntary conservation, as we all play a role in helping preserve as much water as possible. … ” Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: Commentary: How an invisible water source will help Sacramento get through the upcoming drought
Sustainable farming helps Salinas Valley ag industry fight drought
“Have you ever been driving through the Salinas Valley and noticed how green the crops are against the golden hills? How do those crops get their water? The water comes straight from rainfall. It’s all local water. Monterey County is not part of the state water project. Rain that falls either directly waters the crops, accumulates in reservoirs or flows into the Salinas River. The water eventually seeps into the Salinas River basin for storage. … ” Read more from Channel 8 here: Sustainable farming helps Salinas Valley ag industry fight drought
Tulare County’s never-ending drought brings dried up wells and plenty of misery
“Severe drought is gripping most of California, but its misery isn’t spread equally. While most of the state compares today’s extreme conditions to previous droughts, people in Tulare County speak of drought — in the singular, as in a continuous state of being. “The drought has never stopped in north Tulare County. It never left,” said county Supervisor Eddie Valero. “Domestic wells are drying up at an alarming rate.” The entire West is suffering from extreme dryness, heat and fire risk, and the small, rural towns of northern Tulare County, outside of Visalia, are caught in its vortex. While officials around the state are devising strategies to restrict or conserve water, here in the upper San Joaquin Valley there isn’t much in the way of water to begin with. The spigot, for farms and for households, has been constricted to a trickle. For many residents, water comes in a bottle, delivered year-round by a truck from a county or social service agency. … ” Read more from Cal Matters here: Tulare County’s never-ending drought brings dried up wells and plenty of misery
The sinking Central Valley town
“In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the farming town of Corcoran has a multimillion-dollar problem. It is almost impossible to see, yet so vast it takes NASA scientists using satellite technology to fully grasp. Corcoran is sinking. Over the past 14 years, the town has sunk as much as 11.5 feet in some places — enough to swallow the entire first floor of a two-story house and to at times make Corcoran one of the fastest-sinking areas in the country, according to experts with the United States Geological Survey. … ” Continue reading at SJV Water here: The sinking Central Valley town
Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority: Mojave Pistachios must pay or quit pumping, Searles gets reprieve until July 1
“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority voted to take action against Mojave Pistachios for not paying the GA’s replenishment fee. The agency also voted to take action against Searles Valley Minerals, but not right away. Neither decision was unanimous. The actions were taken at a virtual meeting Wednesday that was troubled by technical difficulties with the live stream, which caused the meeting to halt at least once. The authority approved an order for Mojave Pistachios to either pay the GA’s the $2,130 per acre-foot replenishment fee or stop pumping, effective immediately. If they fail to do one or the other, the GA can then seek a court order for enforcement. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority: Mojave Pistachios must pay or quit pumping, Searles gets reprieve until July
State knocks ‘Deficiencies’ in Cuyama Valley groundwater plan
“Siding with Cuyama Valley conservationists, the state Department of Water Resources this month sent a local agency back to the drawing board to revise its 20-year plan for replenishing the groundwater basin, now severely depleted after decades of water-intensive, industrial-scale farming. In a June 3 letter to the Cuyama Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), the department praised its “aggressive approach” in proposing to reduce agricultural pumping in the valley by up to two-thirds by the year 2040. But the department also identified a long list of “deficiencies” in the plan and suggested “corrective actions” to address them. It was a victory of sorts for the community organizations and small-scale farmers who have long argued that a 20-year plan was too little, too late. … ” Read more from the Santa Barbara Independent here: State knocks ‘Deficiencies’ in Cuyama Valley groundwater plan
Dr. Graham Fogg and DWR’s Jenny Marr discuss the efforts underway to assess the potential for Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge (or Flood MAR)
At the April meeting of the California Water Commission, the Commission continued examining the state’s role in conveyance projects by hearing from two experts on flood-managed aquifer recharge, or Flood MAR. First, Dr. Graham Fogg, UC David professor emeritus of Hydrogeology, discussed scaling up Flood MAR and how that will likely present new conveyance needs. Then, Jenny Marr, Supervising Engineer at the Department of Water Resources, outlined the state’s approach to flood Mar.
GRAHAM FOGG: Flood-MAR Perspective: American-Cosumnes Basin Experience
Dr. Graham Fogg’s presentation gave the big picture perspective on Flood MAR and highlighted a case study underway in the American-Cosumnes basin as part of a UC Water initiative since 2014.
He began by pointing out California is not alone in having groundwater problems. Groundwater depletion is a global problem. Depleted aquifers are being increasingly written about all over the world. In some cases, it’s becoming an existential crisis in water security.
Why is that? Dr. Fogg noted that since we’ve been developing groundwater, which has only in the last 50-70 years at high amounts, we’ve concentrated mainly on pumping it.
“Typically, we pump the groundwater and hope for the best,” he said. “The alternative in terms of managing it, now we can pump groundwater, is that we can also do things that increase the groundwater storage; we can replenish the groundwater. So one way to look at it is we’ve worked a lot harder in the last 50 years or so in pumping groundwater than we have in replenishing it.”
Anita Milman, Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA and Michael Kiparsky, Wheeler Water Institute, UC Berkeley, USA
INTRODUCTION: Groundwater pumping exceeds naturally occurring recharge in many regions of the world. The resulting impacts to groundwater systems adversely affect human and environmental systems. Climate change adds urgency, as the combination of more extreme flood and drought regimes coupled with intensifying demand further push groundwater resources out of balance. In many or most groundwater basins, some reduction in groundwater extraction will be necessary to reduce outflows from stressed basins. Increasing inflows to these basins through Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is increasingly looked to as a mechanism to help bring aquifers into sustainable balance.
In this special collection, we examine deployment of MAR in examples from around the USA to illustrate the range of institutional approaches used as well as how those relate to the drivers and objectives of MAR. The overarching impetus for this work is the recognition that water managers often anecdotally agree that institutional elements are as important, or more important, than technical challenges to MAR in many cases.
Articles include the Kern Water Bank, Orange County Water District, and Recharge Net Metering in the Pajaro Valley.
Beneath the almond and citrus fields of the San Joaquin Valley lies an enormous system of aquifers that feeds some of the world’s most productive farmland. Hundreds of miles north and east, along the Nevada border, is the Surprise Valley, a remote, high-desert region undergirded by cone-shaped hollows of sediment that hold deposits of water. Both of these water systems, along with every other groundwater basin in California — a whopping 515 entities — must create individually tailored plans to manage their water use more sustainably. In scale and ambition, California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has few parallels. And the work becomes increasingly urgent as the climate crisis makes water shortages increasingly severe.
Passed in 2014, SGMA is a complicated law that addresses what appears to be a straightforward problem: California doesn’t have enough groundwater. For decades, water users have taken out more than they put back in, with little statewide oversight. SGMA changes all that by drawing boundaries around the state’s groundwater basins (some, but not all, had been already defined and locally regulated) and requiring each one to create a local regulatory body and its own sustainability plan. These agencies must work with myriad stakeholders — public water systems, Indigenous nations, domestic and municipal well users and historically disadvantaged communities, as well as the ecosystems themselves.