SGMA in the News

LEGAL ALERT: Supreme Court of California Weighs In on Blanket Categorization of Well Construction Permit Approvals as Ministerial

September 3, 2020

From JD SUPRA:

Key points in this legal brief:

      • A permitting agency’s blanket designation of an entire category of permit decisions as ministerial for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) may be held to be improper if the agency has the ability to modify or deny the permit based on any concern that may be examined under CEQA review.
      • Courts will afford a larger degree of deference to an agency’s designation of a single permit decision as ministerial on a case-by-case basis.”

Click here to read the full legal brief.

Category: News Article

UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS on Integrated Regional Water Management, SGMA, Fees for GSP development, Equitable involvement in water planning

September 3, 2020

FREE WEBINAR: What is Integrated Regional Water Management?

September 10, 10am to 12:15pm

As a preview to the Statewide Virtual Summit, “Ensuring Equitable Engagement in Regional Water Planning” scheduled for October 8th, 13th and 14th, the Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Roundtable of Regions invites you to join us to learn more about:

    • Integrated Regional Water Management: the benefits of regional planning and who should participate in IRWM;
    • How to participate in your region’s IRWM; and
    • The role of the IRWM Roundtable of Regions and their “Disadvantaged Communities Working Group”

The webinar will also feature local representatives from three IRWM regions who will share their perspectives on the benefits, successes, and challenges of participating in their region’s IRWM program.

Who Should Attend this Webinar?

    • Community Members
    • Tribal Representatives
    • Water and Wastewater Service Providers
    • Local and State Elected Officials and staff
    • State Agencies
    • Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)
    • Anyone interested in regional water management

Click here to register.


VIRTUAL CONFERENCE: Western Groundwater Congress

September 14-17

In 2020, join your community of geologists, engineers and other groundwater thrill seekers for the third annual Western Groundwater Congress hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

You’ll find four half-day sessions dedicated to Water Resources, SGMA, Contaminants and a myriad of Hot Topics  related to the furtherance of GRA’s vision of Sustainable Groundwater for All.

Technical sessions will run from 8:30am to 12:30pm each day of the event. The Virtual Exhibit Hall will be available for attendees to explore and make contact with exhibitors for the entirety of the event and there will be wellness activities and networking opportunities throughout the week!

Click here for more information.


FREE WEBINAR: Financing Options and Strategies for Groundwater Sustainability Plan Development

September 17, 11am

Join BB&K Partner Lutfi Kharuf as he discusses structuring fees for initial planning and GSP implementation, rate-setting issues under Propositions 26 and 218, and other funding strategies.

Click here to register.


FREE WEBINAR: Successful Collaboration between IRWM and SGMA

September 23, 12pm to 1:30pm

Can IRWM and SGMA work together collaboratively to their mutual benefit? Join the webinar on September 23 from noon – 1:30 p.m. to hear three practitioners share their experience on the benefits of successful collaboration between Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) programs. This is the first in a series of webinars hosted by Maven’s Notebook exploring a range of topics relevant to IRWM and SGMA.

Lance Eckhart, General Manager, San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency, will moderate a panel of IRWM/SGMA practitioners including Rob Swartz, Manager of Technical Services, Regional Water Authority; David Orth, Principal, New Current Water and Land, LLC; and Angela Islas, Community Development Specialist, Self-Help Enterprises. They will share their experiences of successful partnerships between IRWM and SGMA.

This webinar will be of interest to:

  • IRWM Practitioners
  • SGMA/Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) Practitioners
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Community members
  • Tribal members
  • Local and State elected officials and their staff
  • State agencies
  • Anyone interested in regional water management

In addition to Maven’s Notebook, the webinar is being sponsored by the IRWM Roundtable of Regions, the California Department of Water Resources, the Local Government Commission, and the NGO Groundwater Collaborative.

Click here to register.


FREE ONLINE CONFERENCE: Ensuring equitable involvement in regional water planning

October 8, 13, and 14

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority and the Local Government Commission are sponsoring a no-cost statewide summit, with support by the Department of Water Resources to share strategies for engaging marginalized communities in regional water management as learned through local implementation of the Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Disadvantaged Communities and Tribal Involvement Program.

The 3-day summit will highlight best practices and resources developed through this program, and elevate how lessons learned from IRWM underrepresented community engagement can be shared across other water planning efforts.

Who Should Attend? 

    • IRWM Practitioners
    • Community Members
    • Tribal Representatives
    • State Agencies
    • Local Leaders

Click here to register.


NOTICE: Department of Conservation SGMA Watershed Coordinator Grant Program Application Deadline Extended

September 3, 2020

From the Department of Conservation:

On August 18, 2020, Governor Newsom declared a statewide emergency due to wildfires burning throughout California. The Department of Conservation recognizes that some Watershed Coordinator grant applicants may be adversely impacted by the 7,175 fires being reported by CALFIRE.

Due to the nature and extent of these fires, the Department of Conservation is extending the SGMA Watershed Coordinator grant application deadline to October 15, 2020.

All applications must now be submitted to wcp@conservation.ca.gov by 11:59pm on October 15. If you have any questions about this extension, please contact Department of Conservation watershed program staff at wcp@conservation.ca.gov​​​ or (916) 324-0850.

Information about the SGMA Watershed Coordinator grant program can be found at https://www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp/grant-programs/watershed.


SGMA in the news

September 3, 2020

Why conserving water today means more groundwater for tomorrow

Groundwater is California’s water savings bank account that can be tapped during dry years when water in lakes and rivers are low. Conserving water helps preserve groundwater, which is important for plants, animals and people.  Groundwater comes from rain and melting snow that seeps down into the ground and is stored in aquifers. An aquifer is a body of porous rock or sediment saturated with groundwater. Groundwater can move through the aquifer and resurface through springs or be pumped to the surface using manmade wells. … ”  Read more from DWR News here:  Why conserving water today means more groundwater for tomorrow

Paso Robles subbasin stands to lose up to $458 million annually if water use is reduced, says economic impact study

A new study released by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is projecting the potential economic impact of water reductions in the Paso Robles region resulting from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  The study, The Economic Impact on the Local Economy of Irrigated Agriculture in the Paso Robles Area and Potential Impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, performed by Lynn Hamilton, Ph.D. and Michael McCollough, Ph.D. of CalPoly, estimates that reductions to irrigated agriculture could potentially cost the local economy hundreds of millions of dollars and the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. … ”  Read more from Wine Business here: Paso Robles subbasin stands to lose up to $458 million annually if water use is reduced, says economic impact study

Tainted valley groundwater could stymie banking deals

The big kahuna of California water — Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — has stopped taking supplies from one Kern County groundwater bank because the water is heavily tainted with a cancer-causing agent that is pervasive in Central Valley’s aquifers.  While only one banking program has been affected so far, the emergence of this issue could have huge implications for water storage and movement in the Central Valley.  Increased underground storage has been key for agricultural water districts scrambling to comply with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which mandates balanced aquifers by 2040. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Tainted valley groundwater could stymie banking deals

Ridgecrest Groundwater Replenishment Fee

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority wrestles 7,000-percent cost increase or state takeover

The long-awaited conflict between California’s ambitious laws to limit groundwater use and the people of California has arrived.  The front: the Mojave Desert.  Friday, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority is set to hold a protest vote of its water users to determine if it will adopt a “basin replenishment fee.”  The fee is an element of the Authority’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan, a key guiding document required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority wrestles 7,000-percent cost increase or state takeover

Ridgecrest: What if the state takes over the water basin?

What would state intervention with local water management look like?  Well, for a start, local groundwater extractors can likely look forward to forced reduction of water use and forced monitoring courtesy of the state water board. And state control would be exerted directly, rather than through the groundwater authority. New fees would also be assessed, since local users would be expected to foot the bill to pay for the temporary government oversight. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  What if the state takes over the water basin?

Ridgecrest: Groundwater basin replenishment fee passed

The basin replenishment fee was passed by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority with a vote of four to one Friday afternoon. IWV Water District Director Ron Kicinski was the sole no vote.  The IWVGA voted after the basin replenishment fee protest hearing Friday failed. The IWVGA did not announce the number of protest votes received, although County counsel Phil Hall said it would take roughly 9,900 protest votes for the protest hearing to be successful. IWV Water District Director/IWVGA Vice Chair Ron Kincinski mentioned 4,000 votes, but it was not clear if this was the number received or just a figure of speech. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Basin replenishment fee passed

Desert water basin hopes to dive into California water market

If you’ve got water for sale, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has $50 million to spend.  Or, it will once it starts collecting a controversial, five-year, $2,000-per-acre-foot pumping fee that was approved by the authority last week.  Specifically, the desert groundwater basin about 100 miles northeast of Bakersfield in the Mojave Desert, is looking to buy rights to 5,000 acre feet a year from an as-yet-to-be-determined Central Valley source.  How it will get the water from the valley over the Sierra Nevadas is another question without any answers so far. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Desert water basin hopes to dive into California water market

Ridgecrest: Replenishment fee passed. Now what?

The four-to-one approval Friday of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority basin replenishment fee has left many wondering what comes next. The fee was approved by a majority vote of the IWVGA after a protest hearing against the controversial fee failed. IWV Water District Director Ron Kincinski was the lone no vote on the groundwater authority.  In a delay from the original timetable, the new fee will be assessed starting January 2021. The estimated fee would be $24 a month for the average residential user presuming a five-year repayment period, according to Gleason.  The fee would reportedly collect some $50 million which would be used to purchase water rights for imported water, presuming the same users continue using the water at roughly the same rate. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Replenishment fee passed. Now what?

Ridgecrest: Groundwater Authority approves transient pool, fallowing program

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority last week voted unanimously to adopt a transient pool and fallowing program and also approve findings that the programs are exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (or CEQA) review — meaning the programs are not considered to have a significant impact on the environment.  The decision came down after an intense two-day meeting Aug. 20 and 21 culminating with an unsuccessful protest hearing against the IWVGA’s basin replenishment fee and the authority’s subsequent four to one approval of the fee. IWV Water District Director Ron Kicinski was the lone no vote on the replenishment fee. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Groundwater Authority approves transient pool, fallowing program

Category: News Article

GSA SUMMIT: Addressing environment, disadvantaged communities, and domestic wells in the 2022 Groundwater Sustainability Plans

August 20, 2020

The groundwater sustainability plans that were submitted to the Department of Water Resources in January of 2020 were the first of the groundwater sustainability plans to be completed.  Public review of these plans has revealed some important lessons to be learned to be considered for those preparing the plans that will be due in January of 2022.  At the 3rd Annual Groundwater Sustainability Agency Summit hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association online in June, a panel of NGOs that had completed a review of the plans summarized their findings from the perspective of underrepresented beneficial users and with respect to stakeholder engagement, providing insights and recommendations for the upcoming plans.

Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.


NOTICE: DWR Sustainable Groundwater Management Office announces updates for translation services

August 20, 2020

From the Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Office:

DWR’s Written Translation Service is available to help groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs), or other groups assisting in local SGMA implementation efforts, communicate groundwater management activities with their non-English speaking constituents.

GSAs, or other groups, can submit written notices, letters, forms, presentations, fact sheets, pamphlets, and other materials to DWR for translation into one or more of the following languages: Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Laotian, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.  

A couple updates have been made to the Service:

  • The word limit has increased from 1,500 words to 5,000 words per groundwater basin/subbasin.
  • Applicants can now submit Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint files that include formatting. Please note that content spacing and formatting may be affected through the translation process and should be checked prior to finalization by the applicant.

For details, visit the Written Translation tab on the Assistance and Engagement webpage and to submit a request, fill out the short online application.  

Category: DWR Updates

SGMA in the news

August 20, 2020

Groundwater sustainability moves from planning to implementation

The recent completion of groundwater sustainability plans for California’s most over-pumped basins was a major step toward bringing basins into long-term balance, as mandated by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). As these plans move through the state approval process, the next stage is implementation. We talked to Trevor Joseph—the first SGMA employee at the Department of Water Resources (DWR), and now a member of a groundwater sustainability agency in the Sacramento Valley—about next steps and possible pitfalls.  PPIC: You’ve been involved with SGMA since its inception. What has surprised you the most about how it has unfolded?  TREVOR JOSEPH: I’m pleasantly surprised that SGMA has gone relatively well to date. … ”  Read more from the PPIC here: Groundwater sustainability moves from planning to implementation

Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency proposes groundwater extraction fee

The Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency has proposed a groundwater extraction fee to be charged to property owners within its district.  The ETGSA board approved providing its water rate study for public review at its meeting on August 6. The proposed fee is included in that water rate study. A public hearing videoconference on the proposed fee will be held at 2 p.m. October 1. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here: Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency proposes groundwater extraction fee

This Madera County community is running out of water — and the only well might fail

Residents of Fairmead, California worry they are on the brink of losing water service, as the town’s only community well shows signs it may fail before a new one can be built.  After years of planning, the Madera County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an engineering contract to design and manage upgrades to the system, including a new well to serve more than 500 people connected to the community water system.  Construction won’t likely begin until 2021. Norma Bustillos, a longtime Fairmead resident, worries that will be too late. … ”  Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  This Madera County community is running out of water — and the only well might fail

Paso Robles: SLO County and USGS ask landowners for help to study Adelaida groundwater

San Luis Obispo County and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are set to study the groundwater conditions in the Adelaida region of North County for the first time—and they’re asking local landowners for help.  The two agencies inked a partnership last year to undergo the study, which will collect and analyze data on the water supply, land uses, and groundwater flow over the mostly rural region west of Highway 101—north to Lake Nacimiento and south to Atascadero. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here: SLO County and USGS ask landowners for help to study Adelaida groundwater

Ridgecrest: Replenishment fee, ag buyouts on the agenda for Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s basin replenishment fee public hearing at 10 a.m. Friday, August 21 at City Hall will be a virtual meeting, with the public unable to attend in person. The meeting will be live streamed on the city of Ridgecrest Youtube channel.  The public hearing will technically be part two of the regular IWVGA open session virtual meeting scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, August 20. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Replenishment fee, ag buyouts on the agenda for Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority

Ridgecrest: Groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley: Replenishment fee — here are the FAQ

In our continuing series on groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley, here are some frequently asked questions about the upcoming Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority basin replenishment fee public hearing. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Ridgecrest: Groundwater in the Indian Wells Valley: Replenishment fee — here are the FAQ

SEE ALSOLetter to the Editor August 15 2020: Voting no on fee causes more problems than it solves

Ridgecrest: ‘Save Searles’ aims to save mineral plant from 7000 percent water fee hike

‘The “Save Searles” campaign was launched Tuesday, just three days before the IWV Groundwater Authority’s virtual public hearing intended to either approve or shoot down the controversial new replenishment fee.  The replenishment fee would increase water costs for Searles Valley Minerals by nearly $6 million a year, “pushing the company and the local community towards extinction,” according to the campaign’s announcement. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Ridgecrest: ‘Save Searles’ aims to save mineral plant from 7000 percent water fee hike

Carpenteria Valley Water District seeks drought proof supply

Although 2020 has presented many challenges, Carpinteria Valley Water District (CVWD) staff are working hard to keep making progress on many important matters while social distancing. The development of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) has begun and will help to ensure that we can manage the Carpinteria Groundwater Basin (CGB) sustainably, which is an important shared resource for the Carpinteria Valley.  … ”  Read more from the Coast News here:  Carpenteria Valley Water District seeks drought proof supply

Category: News Article

Water right permitting options for groundwater recharge: Avoiding unintended consequences

August 6, 2020

“Efforts to boost groundwater recharge are critical to making California’s limited, and increasingly volatile, water resources go further. Recharge is playing a growing role in maintaining groundwater as an effective drought reserve and in slowing or reversing the effects of years of unsustainable groundwater pumping.

But implementing recharge projects is not easy. Water managers face a range of hurdles. Even with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) on the books, and the increasing availability of technical assistance, local decision makers are left mostly to their own ingenuity to figure out how to shore up groundwater resources to meet future needs.

Many Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) expect recharge to help them meet their responsibilities under SGMA. But the details of how they will implement recharge projects are often unclear. … “

Click here to continue reading this article at Legal Planet.


When does a groundwater recharge project NOT need a water right?

August 6, 2020

Groundwater recharge projects already play an important role in California. That role is about to expand rapidly, as local groundwater managers begin to take more concrete actions to meet their responsibilities under California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

As we mentioned in our last post, an important part of developing a successful recharge project is securing a source of water and the legal right to use it.  In that post, we described the surface water right permit options administered by the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) that are potentially available for new groundwater recharge projects.  We also mentioned the central role of permitting, and water rights oversight more broadly, in ensuring that water diversion and use doesn’t harm other water users or uses.

But is a water right always necessary?  Below we explore when a recharge project might not need a water right at all (short answer: it’s complicated…and more than a little unclear)—and why it matters. … “

Click here to continue reading from Legal Planet.