SGMA in the News

GROUNDWATER RECHARGE: Balancing our depleted groundwater supplies and ecosystem needs

October 10, 2019

Groundwater managers across the state are looking to groundwater recharge as a potential solution to their community’s water challenges. However, there are concerns about how groundwater recharge in the age of SGMA actually works and how to ensure sufficient instream flows to protect those beneficial uses.

To address these questions, the Local Government Commission and the Clean Water Fund held a webinar to find out more about recharge, environmental flows, water rights, and permitting from a panel of experts.  First, Stacey Sullivan from Sustainable Conservation talked about Flood MAR; next Sam Boland-Brien from the State Water Resources Control Board talked about the Environmental Flows Workgroup and permitting issues for groundwater recharge; and then Pablo Garza with the Environmental Defense Fund discussed policy issues related to groundwater recharge.

Read more at Maven’s Notebook here: GROUNDWATER RECHARGE: Balancing our depleted groundwater supplies and ecosystem needs


Five years into SGMA, here are five important considerations for balancing groundwater quality and quantity

October 10, 2019

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), signed into law five years ago, requires local leaders to balance groundwater demand and supplies for the first time. Groundwater is an important foundation of California’s water system, and SGMA is a crucial way of strengthening that foundation and creating a more resilient future for the state.

However, balancing groundwater budgets will not be easy. And this major challenge is further complicated by the fact that activities designed to increase groundwater supplies can unintentionally cause new groundwater quality problems or worsen existing contamination.

A new working paper that Environmental Defense Fund co-authored with Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; Green Science Policy Institute; and the Energy and Environmental Sciences Area of Berkeley Lab outlines how groundwater management activities can affect not only the quantity but also the quality of groundwater.

Click here to read more and download the report: Five years into SGMA, here are five important considerations for balancing groundwater quality and quantity

Keywords: Water Quality

Dispute Resolution Processes: Thinking through SGMA Implementation

October 10, 2019

Building the capacity to resolve disputes and work together is critical for a sustainable water future.

However recent analysis conducted by Water in the West, the Gould Center for Conflict Resolution and Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis suggests that alternative dispute resolution processes are rarely used even when included in water management agreements.

Given the long and expensive history associated with litigation in California and beyond, these findings suggest that local and state agencies should be doing more to educate their members on the value of alternative dispute resolution processes, like mediation and facilitation.

Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: Dispute Resolution Processes: Thinking through SGMA Implementation

Keywords: Governance

Groundwater Governance Q&A with Anita Milman

October 10, 2019

An expert in water governance, Anita Milman’s research focuses on understanding the interplay of technical, institutional and social dimensions of water within governance processes. Milman is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Landreth Visiting Fellow at Stanford’s Program on Water in the West (WitW). Below, Milman discusses keys to successful groundwater governance, implications toward achieving water security and her research activities at Stanford.

Q: The UN and other agencies have called water ‘a crisis of governance’ – what does this mean?

A: Today’s water challenges arise from interactions between the physical aspects of water systems and human activities. Flooding, drought, groundwater depletion, water quality degradation, etc. negatively impact human and ecological systems. Yet, these conditions are frequently either caused by or exacerbated by actions taken by humans.

In essence, water governance defines and determines how humans use and manage water resource systems. …

Continue reading at Water in the West here: Groundwater Governance Q&A with Anita Milman

Keywords: Governance

Upcoming webinar on a new tool for evaluating groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs)

October 10, 2019
The Groundwater Collaborative is hosting a lunch-hour webinar on October 22 from 12-1PM to share a new tool that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs).
GSPs for critically overdrafted basins are due on January 31, 2020, and draft plans are being released weekly for communities, NGOs, and other interested parties to review and comment on.
The evaluation template can be used for stakeholders to review GSPs and guide their public comments, and for GSA member-agencies to self-evaluate their own GSP.
Click here to register.
For more groundwater events, check out the calendar at the Groundwater Exchange.

SGMA news from around the state

October 10, 2019

Santa Cruz commentary: Protecting our groundwater, and our future:  J. Miles Reiter writes, “The single greatest risk to the future of farms in California is a severe lack of water.  As a berry farmer in Coastal California my entire life, I have been a vocal supporter of groundwater regulation. This may surprise some, as ready access to water is the very lifeblood of our business. Our production areas have little to no surface water supplies, so we are almost completely dependent upon abundant, quality groundwater; something that has been deceptively available for the last 150 years. We are now seeing the profound risk of losing this critical resource, unless we collectively act soon to preserve groundwater resources for both the next decade and future generations. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Protecting our groundwater, and our future

City of Ventura and SB Channelkeeper Sign Interim Settlement on Ventura River Litigation:  “The City of San Buenaventura and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper are pleased to announce an interim settlement in the lawsuit regarding the pumping and diversion of water from the Ventura River Watershed. Both Channelkeeper and the City are dedicated to ensuring the protection of this finite water source and the habitat and species that rely on it while providing water now and for the future. This collaborative agreement brings us another step closer towards this goal. … ”  Read more from Edhat here: City of Ventura and SB Channelkeeper Sign Interim Settlement on Ventura River Litigation

Kern County groundwater overdraft numbers ‘don’t add up,’ and that’s a big problem, says Lois Henry:  “San Joaquin Valley farmers have pumped the basin’s groundwater so furiously and for so long that parts of the valley are sinking, endangering roads and bridges and even breaking one of the main canals that brings in water to support local agriculture.  Yet, here in Kern County, state-mandated water budgets presented by several large ag water districts and groundwater sustainability agencies have painted a far rosier groundwater picture.  So rosy, the numbers simply couldn’t be believed — and they aren’t. … ”  Read more from Bakersfield.com here: Groundwater overdraft numbers ‘don’t add up,’ and that’s a big problem

Cummings basin water users hear potential changes for allocations from TCCWD:  “The Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District is hoping property owners, existing customers and well owners within the Cummings Valley basin will agree to set ground water allocation amounts for residential and agricultural uses. More than 180 people were invited to a special board meeting Sept. 27 at the district’s office to hear more information on the topic.  “We need to manage this basin for the long-term preservation of everyone’s interest,” said Tom Neisler, general manager for TCCWD. … ”  Read more from the Tehachapi News here:  Cummings basin water users hear potential changes for allocations from TCCWD

Santa Clarita: Applications Still Being Accepted for Groundwater Advisory Committee:  “Applications are still being accepted for a public advisory committee to help develop a plan for sustainable management of the local groundwater basin in the Santa Clarita Valley. The application deadline has been extended to October 18, 2019 to ensure representation from all identified stakeholder groups. ... ”  Read more from the Santa Clarita Valley Signal here: Applications Still Being Accepted for Groundwater Advisory Committee

Antelope Valley: Water storage agreements OK’d:  “The Antelope Valley Watermaster gave preliminary approval to the first two water storage agreements to come before the Board tasked with overseeing the 2015 court settlement that set limits on groundwater pumping for users across the Valley.  The Watermaster Board reviewed applications from the Rosamond Community Services District and the Littlerock Creek Irrigation District regarding projects that would, in effect, store water underground in the aquifer by allowing it to percolate through the soil. It may then be withdrawn in the future through wells. … ”  Read more from the Antelope Valley Press here: Antelope Valley: Water storage agreements OK’d

Category: News Article

DWR’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program Offers $47.75 Million in Competitive Grants

September 26, 2019

From the Department of Water Resources:

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) released the final Guidelines and Proposal Solicitation Package (PSP) for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program.

The program provides financial assistance for sustainable groundwater planning and implementation projects through a competitive grant solicitation process. Entities that may apply for grants include Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) or partner agencies of GSAs.

The program is primarily funded by Proposition 68 from which $46.25 million is available for GSAs or GSA representatives to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). At least $1.5 million of additional Prop­osition 1 funds will augment Proposition 68 funding.

Grant applications can be submitted using DWR’s online submittal tool, GRanTS and will be accepted starting at 9 a.m. on September 9, 2019 until 1 p.m. on November 1, 2019.

For more information on document releases, new solicitations, upcoming workshops, and other grant-related announces, subscribe to the SGM Grant Program mailing list.

If you have any questions during the solicitation process, please contact the program at (916) 651-9613 or SGWP@water.ca.gov.

Category: DWR Updates

DWR update on Bulletin 74 — California Well Standards

September 26, 2019

From the Department of Water Resources:

Stakeholder engagement is a critical ingredient for the successful development and implementation of updated well standards. The Bulletin 74 team is committed to an outreach program that is proactive and interactive with information, ideas, and opportunities for two-way exchange. Following the June Kickoff Webinars, we’ve engaged with individuals and groups in a variety of settings and formats. Outreach efforts are ongoing, please reach out if you would like DWR to speak to your group about the well standards update.

Expert Panel

DWR will be forming an expert panel as a technical advisory group to provide input on focused and specific issues given the diverse needs of well standards. The expert panel will include experts in groundwater quality management and protection, well construction and destruction, permitting and environmental health issues, and administration and enforcement of well standards, among others. A primary task of the expert panel will be to review a preliminary draft standards content. The panel is still under development and more information will be provided as details are finalized.

Comments on Existing Standards

We’d like to thank those who have submitted comments on the existing well standards and there is still time to submit ideas. We continue to seek comments on Bulletin 74-81, Bulletin 74-90, and the 1999 GHEWs Draft. We encourage any and all suggestions to be submitted, so please share this request with anyone who may have an interest in well standards and/or groundwater quality protection. Comments can be submitted via the Comment Portal.

Accessibility Updates

DWR is committed to making our website equally accessible for all visitors. Our website is designed and maintained to comply with all applicable accessibility laws. We strive to maintain all information at applicable accessibility levels, but some content, including older documents, streaming video, and archived materials may not be fully accessible as of July 1, 2019. We are working diligently to make that content accessible. As such, some webpage content is being reorganized and updated and you may have noticed recent changes to the Well Standards webpage. If you have difficulty accessing any material on our website, please contact us and we will work to provide the information in an alternative format. Direct your request to accessibility@water.ca.gov or call (916) 653-6192.

Well Standards Update — Timeline

Category: DWR Updates

Five years into SGMA, here are five important considerations for balancing groundwater quality and quantity

September 26, 2019

From the Environmental Defense Fund:

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), signed into law five years ago, requires local leaders to balance groundwater demand and supplies for the first time. Groundwater is an important foundation of California’s water system, and SGMA is a crucial way of strengthening that foundation and creating a more resilient future for the state.

However, balancing groundwater budgets will not be easy. And this major challenge is further complicated by the fact that activities designed to increase groundwater supplies can unintentionally cause new groundwater quality problems or worsen existing contamination.

A new working paper that Environmental Defense Fund co-authored with Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; Green Science Policy Institute; and the Energy and Environmental Sciences Area of Berkeley Lab outlines how groundwater management activities can affect not only the quantity but also the quality of groundwater.

Our paper aims to help groundwater sustainability agencies and local communities avoid inadvertently contaminating supplies as they change management practices to comply with SGMA. In fact, it’s even possible for some SGMA projects aimed at increasing groundwater quantity to actually improve groundwater quality, too, the paper notes.

Click here to read more and download the paper.

Category: New reports

SGMA News from around the state …

September 26, 2019

California’s chronic water overuse leads to sinking towns, arsenic pollution: “When you walk through Jeannie Williams’s sunny orchard, you don’t notice anything wrong. But the problem’s there, underfoot. The land around her — about 250 square kilometres — is sinking. “It’s frightening,” Williams says. “Is the land going to come back up? I don’t know.” She points out the well from which she obtains all of the water she needs to grow organic fruits and vegetables. The well is small and shallow; she only has two acres of crops to water. But her neighbours are far more thirsty, and have been for a very long time. ... ” Read more from CBC here: California’s chronic water overuse leads to sinking towns, arsenic pollution

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Butte County: Supervisors shelve groundwater plan until next month:  “The Butte County supervisors chose to hold off on an agreement for a new groundwater sustainability plan Tuesday.  The agreement will now be moved onto the next Butte County Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 8, as more information was needed from staff.  The agreement that was scheduled to be approved Tuesday would have ushered in groundbreaking research for the Butte subbasin’s groundwater supply, according to Paul Gosselin, director of the county’s Department of Water and Resource Conservation. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Butte County: Supervisors shelve groundwater plan until next month

Meeting Monday on proposed new water district:  “A new water district has been proposed for northwestern Butte County, and a meeting has been scheduled for Monday evening in Durham to provide information and answer questions.  The proposed Tuscan Water District would cover all of Butte County west of Highway 99, from the Tehama County line south to the agricultural water districts in the southwest county. California Water Service’s Chico District, the Durham Irrigation District and the M&T Ranch would be excluded. … ”  Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here: Meeting Monday on proposed new water district

BAY AREA

Cities in north Santa Clara County explore water recycling technologies for a sustainable, resilient water supply:  “With increased water demands due to climate change and population growth, solutions for a sustainable and resilient water supply are more critical than ever. That’s why the Santa Clara Valley Water District, now known as Valley Water, and the cities of Palo Alto and Mountain View are exploring a potential partnership to help fill the need for future drinking water supplies through new regional water reuse programs. Water reuse can include either traditional recycled water for non-drinking purposes such as irrigation and industrial needs, but it can also include reusing water for future drinking water supplies through advanced water purification technologies. … ”  Read more from Valley Water News here: Cities in north Santa Clara County explore water recycling technologies for a sustainable, resilient water supply

CENTRAL COAST

Mid-Santa Cruz County groundwater protection planning winds down:  “A group of policymakers planning for the long-term water supply sustainability of Santa Cruz County’s mid-county region are in their final leg of a multi-year process.  The Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency staff members are in the process of generally responding to a handful of public comments on its state-mandated 20-year plan to revive and secure regional groundwater supplies, the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. The 60-day deadline for comment closed last week after two open houses with nine general public comments, three public agencies — Soquel Creek Water District, National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife — and the Nature Conservancy and a consortium of other non-governmental environmental organizations. … ”  Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Mid-Santa Cruz County groundwater protection planning winds down

Marina leverages new groundwater law to fight Cal Am on desalination project:  “Four years and hundreds of meetings ago, the farmers and elected leaders of the Salinas Valley set out to prove that they can manage their own groundwater supply. They drafted a plan to limit pumping on more than 130 square miles of mostly agricultural land and to invest their own money to end the seepage of ocean water into freshwater aquifers.  This effort – organized by the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency – seemed to be coalescing ahead of a Jan. 31, 2020 deadline imposed by state law. Then, Marina came along. … ”  Read more from Monterey Weekly here: Marina leverages new groundwater law to fight Cal Am on desalination project

County steps into Salinas Valley, Marina groundwater dispute:  “The county is considering a move aimed at resolving a dispute between the Salinas Valley and the city of Marina over control of the Cemex sand mining plant site potentially threatening local groundwater management efforts.  On Tuesday, County Administrative Officer Charles McKee announced a formal referral from Board of Supervisors chairman John Phillips that requests the county consider declaring itself as the groundwater sustainability agency over any disputed areas of the Salinas Valley basin’s 180/400-foot subbasin. That would include the 450-acre Cemex site where California American Water is planning to drill its desalination project intake wells. … ”  Read more from the Monterey Herald here:  County steps into Salinas Valley, Marina groundwater dispute

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

California farmers face ‘catastrophic’ water restrictions. Can they adapt to survive? It was 2015 and, as far as John Konda knew, farming still had a viable future in the San Joaquin Valley.  So he expanded.  The Tulare County grower planted 75 acres of pistachios, adding to a farm he’s owned since 2003. Two years later, in order to augment his water supply, he drilled two new groundwater wells. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: California farmers face ‘catastrophic’ water restrictions. Can they adapt to survive?

How the Central Valley became the ‘Appalachia of the West.’ Now, new threats loom for economy:  ” … Water shortages, already the scourge of the Valley, are about to get worse. A powerful state law called the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will curb access to water and shrink agriculture’s footprint in the next two decades. Thousands of acres will be turned into solar-energy farms and other non-agricultural uses. The long-term effect of climate change, meanwhile, will squeeze water supplies even more.  All of which suggests a bleak future for a region that is among America’s poorest. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here: How the Central Valley became the ‘Appalachia of the West.’ Now, new threats loom for economy

Merced Irrigation District workshops continue to discuss groundwater sustainability:  “The Merced Irrigation District (MID) Board of Directors met recently to discuss and receive an update during a public workshop on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  Established by the state legislature in 2015, the law requires communities with overdrafted groundwater basins become sustainable by 2040.  This means that a community is not taking more water than can be replenished back into the local groundwater basin. All groundwater pumpers in the basin are expected to cooperate and provide the best outcome. … ”  Read more from the Merced County Times here: Merced Irrigation District workshops continue to discuss groundwater sustainability

Higher groundwater pumping fees are coming to Oxnard:  “The conversation about increased pumping fees for groundwater in the Oxnard basin continues with seawater invasion and how it relates to the groundwater locally.  The Fox Canyon, Groundwater Management Agency, held its fourth workshop, Aug. 21, and discussed the reasons why the area will reduce pumping in the future to meet its sustainability goals as it moves toward 2040. … ”  Read more from the Tri County Sentry here: Higher groundwater pumping fees are coming to Oxnard

INDIAN WELLS VALLEY

Ridgecrest: Current Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority projections look grim: “The future budget looks grim for the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority, according to a report given by its acting general manager Don Zdeba. Zdeba provided the IWV board of directors with an update on the finances at the Thursday meeting. He noted that while the state has approved a reimbursement check under the Proposition 1 grant it received, and the IWVGA currently has a positive balance, projections aren’t good. The IWVGA’s 2019 budget was approved with $1.71 million in projected revenue and $3.57 million in expenses. ... ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Current Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority projections look grim

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board structure talks future admin structure:  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority rolled out concepts for an administrative structure that could eventually cement the new agency as an independent entity — should money ever be found to fund them.  IWVGA Acting General Manager Don Zdeba presented a draft organizational chart, which places the board members for the five voting member agencies at the top. For administrative staff, the roles would include general manager, followed by an administrative assistant and a joint financial officer/benefits coordinator. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board structure talks future admin structure

Category: News Article