” … For decades, farmers and businesses have pumped groundwater out of California’s aquifers, the permeable layers of rock that hold water underground, and the results have been frightening. As aquifers drain faster than rain can replenish them, the ground actually sinks, a phenomenon called “subsidence.” In areas where building and roads rest atop the ground, this can cause damage. …
If California is going to prevent further depletion of aquifers and survive droughts like the one that afflicted it from 2011 to 2017, the state will need to manage its groundwater usage. In the central valley, a group of organizations is working on a project that could stem the tide by combining two technologies: the internet of things (IoT) and Blockchain. … ”
Read more from Digital Trends here: Blockchain is overhyped, but it’s also perfect for California’s drought problem
“The passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 was a watershed moment, establishing the first statewide framework for managing California’s critical groundwater resources. Under this framework, one of the key challenges facing newly formed local government agencies responsible for groundwater management is to establish and implement quantitative metrics for sustainability.
To help local agencies do this, a new report from Water in the West examines how four special act districts in California have used quantitative thresholds to adaptively manage groundwater.
These case studies provide valuable insights on the development and implementation of performance metrics and will be important in guiding local agencies. … ”
Read more from Stanford News here: Measuring success in groundwater management
“Heavy rains this winter will help replenish groundwater aquifers and benefit projects that use excess surface water to recharge groundwater basins. Water managers say such projects will be key to addressing California’s groundwater woes.
At the California Department of Water Resources, planners focus on a voluntary strategy known as Flood-MAR, which stands for “managed aquifer recharge.” The strategy combines floodwater operations and groundwater management in an effort to benefit working landscapes, and could also aid local groundwater agencies as they implement the state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to be in balance by the 2040s. … ”
Read more from Ag Alert here: Wet winter aids groundwater replenishment
“In some California basins, sustainable groundwater management can mean the difference between whether a species goes extinct or a community’s drinking water becomes contaminated. The stakes are high.
Felice Pace, an activist who works for the North Coast Stream Flow Coalition, talks to Clean Water Action about salmon, surface flows, and the importance of community involvement in the Smith and Scott River Groundwater Sustainability Plans.”
“The Colusa County Groundwater Authority – in coordination with the Colusa County Groundwater Commission – will be hosting a series of town-hall style public outreach meetings, providing landowners the opportunity to hear the latest updates and local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. … ”
Read more from the Appeal Democrat here: A series of town hall meetings on groundwater
Ann DuBay writes,
“You can’t see them. You can’t swim in them. But groundwater aquifers are one of the most important sources of water in the North Coast. Aquifers are water-rich underground areas. They aren’t like lakes or pools but are composed of water-filled areas between rocks, sands, and gravels. Plants and animals benefit from groundwater when it’s near the surface, and feeds creeks and streams.
Humans tap into aquifers through wells used for drinking, irrigating crops and operating businesses. People who live in rural areas rely almost exclusively on groundwater, and while cities in Sonoma and Mendocino counties get most of their water from the Russian River, groundwater provides a critical back-up source that is used during droughts or in emergencies. … ”
Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here: Russian River: Groundwater, our invisible but critical water source
“The landscape here is more Martian than Earthly, rust and tan plains that rise in the distance to form the Old Woman Mountains to the east and the Bristols and Marbles to the north and west. Almost everything here is protected by the federal government.
The opportunity or threat, depending on your point of view, lies beneath the dusty surface that, after a recent rain, blooms with sprays of yellow desert dandelion.
There is water here in the Mojave Desert. A lot of it. … ”
Read more from the Washington Post here: A massive aquifer lies beneath the Mojave Desert. Could it help solve California’s water problem?
“The Groundwater Sustainability Agency of Siskiyou County, in association with the Shasta Valley Resource Conservation District will host a public workshop regarding groundwater and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on Thursday, March 14, from 2–6 p.m.
The meeting will take place at the Best Western Miner’s Inn Convention Center in Yreka and will include a review of what SGMA is; the role of Department of Water Resources; Siskiyou County’s roles and responsibilities; current status of SGMA implementation and on-going matters related to groundwater and SGMA both locally and statewide. … ”
Read more from the Siskiyou Daily News here: Groundwater in Siskiyou County: Understanding the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
CA IRRIGATION INSTITUTE: Groundwater Sustainability Plan development: How is it going on the ground?
A San Joaquin Valley perspective, a Sacramento Valley perspective, a researcher’s perspective and a consultant’s perspective on GSP development
Since the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, people across the state have been working to implement the legislation. With Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) formed to manage the groundwater basins that are subject to SGMA, the agencies now turn to the major task at hand: developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan that will meet the requirements of the legislation.
Developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan is a complex and intensive process and the deadline for plan adoption is coming up fast. Critically-overdrafted basins have less than a year; their Groundwater Sustainability Plans must be adopted by January 31, 2020. All other GSAs must adopt their plans by January 31, 2022.
So how are GSAs around the state progressing in developing their plans? At the recent California Irrigation Institute conference, four speakers gave their perspective on plan development. Seated on the panel was Jerritt Martin, the Deputy General Manager at Central California Irrigation District (CCID); Mary Fahey, Program Manager for the Colusa Groundwater Authority and Water Resources Manager for Colusa County; Tara Moran, Research Associate and Program Lead for Sustainable Groundwater at Stanford’s Water in the West; and Dan Dooley, principal with New Current Water and Land LLC, a strategic consulting firm on water and land-related issues.
New report finds at least half a million acres of farmland will need to be fallowed to balance groundwater use with supply
The San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply, is on the brink of a major transition as it seeks to balance its groundwater accounts.
Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—will bring great change to the valley’s agricultural sector, regional land use, and the local economy.
The pace of groundwater pumping accelerated during the 2012–16 drought. Over the past three decades, the valley’s annual groundwater deficit has averaged nearly 2 million acre-feet—or about one Don Pedro Reservoir’s worth of water a year.
Only about a quarter of this deficit can be filled with new supplies at prices farmers can afford. Ending overdraft could require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of production.
These are among the key findings of a report released today by the PPIC Water Policy Center.
The new report breaks the issues into three key areas and presents priority actions for tackling them: balancing water supply and demand, addressing groundwater quality challenges, and fostering beneficial solutions to water and landuse transitions.
“The large and complex scope of the changes coming to the valley will require cooperative solutions that bring multiple benefits and get more ‘pop per drop’ from scarce water supplies,” said Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center and a coauthor of the report.
One promising solution is to increase water trading, which can significantly reduce the impacts of ending groundwater overdraft by allowing farmers to maintain the crops that generate the most revenue and jobs. If farmers can freely trade water within their basin, it will reduce the costs of this transition by nearly half. And if they can also trade more broadly across the region, it will cut their costs by nearly two-thirds.
In addition to water shortages, the valley must respond to serious water quality problems. More than 100 rural communities have persistently contaminated tap water. Valley farmers must also meet new requirements for protecting groundwater from the buildup of nitrate and salts. The most promising tool for augmenting supplies—groundwater recharge—poses some tradeoffs with water quality goals if not managed properly.
“The solutions to the valley’s water quality problems don’t fall neatly into traditional political and institutional boundaries―and with 120 new groundwater agencies, it’s gotten even more complex,” said Sarge Green, a coauthor of the report and director of the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State. “Many players will need to be involved in devising long-term solutions to these complex problems.”
The lands fallowed to achieve groundwater balance could be converted to uses such as solar energy, groundwater recharge, and restored habitat. Getting the greatest benefit from idled lands will require new levels of planning and cooperation.
Governor Newsom focused on the valley’s groundwater, water quality, and poverty problems in his recent State of the State speech and included funds to address safe drinking water problems in his first budget.
The PPIC report recommends key areas where state leadership could help—including providing clarity on how much water is available for recharge, establishing a reliable funding source for safe drinking water challenges, and supporting broad planning processes, among others.
“Leadership from state and federal partners will be critical,” said Hanak. “But the valley’s future is in the hands of its residents. The stakes are high—but the costs of inaction are higher.”
The report, Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley, was supported with funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the TomKat Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Water Foundation. In addition to Hanak and Green, it was authored by Alvar Escriva-Bou, a research fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Brian Gray, a senior fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Thomas Harter, the Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair in Water Management and Policy at UC Davis; Jelena Jezdimirovic, a research associate at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis; Josué Medellín-Azuara, associate professor at UC Merced; Peter Moyle, associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis; and Nathaniel Seavy, a research director at Point Blue Conservation Science. A public event on the report’s findings will take place at Fresno State on February 22.