“To improve groundwater management we need to focus on more than the quantity our aquifers can supply. We also need to focus on quality.
Groundwater levels have been dropping in many of the state’s major aquifers, especially in parts of the Central Valley. This chronic issue was made worse by increased pumping during the latest drought. Lower water tables have resulted in increased pumping costs, the need for deeper wells, land subsidence, and salt-water intrusion into groundwater.
But groundwater supply is also harmed by pollutants, particularly nitrate and salt. Nitrate is widespread in many rural areas. Its major source is nitrogen fertilizer and manure. Salt, one of the most common pollutants, is in fertilizers, manure, and treated urban wastewater, and also occurs naturally. Both pollutants can compromise and ultimately reduce drinking water supplies. Salty groundwater is damaging to crops. In some areas, other contaminants such as naturally occurring arsenic also pose problems for drinking water. … “
“California’s water management is a complex stew with many cooks. At the local level, hundreds of irrigation districts and urban water agencies and a few thousand small drinking water suppliers are responsible for a wide variety of water-related issues. And it just got more complex: as of June 30, more than 250 newly formed Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) were added to the mix.
The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) directed local agencies to develop institutions, plans, and implementation strategies to sustainably manage their groundwater resources for the long run. As a result, more than 250 local agencies have formed GSAs in 140 “priority basins” (those that account for most of California’s groundwater use). More than 70 percent of the new GSAs are in the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento Valley—regions whose large groundwater basins supply farms, cities, and small rural communities. … “
SGMA IMPLEMENTATION: Sharing Groundwater: A Robust Framework and Implementation Roadmap for Sustainable Groundwater Management in California
From Maven’s Notebook:
“Undoubtedly for some, the specter of the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is a fearsome and expensive thing, fraught with difficulties and expensive science. But what if there was actually a simpler way to manage groundwater in a way that can provide opportunity and wealth for the community? At a recent presentation in Bakersfield hosted by the Water Association of Kern County, Professor Mike Young gave his framework for creating such a system. … “
From Maurice Hall at the Growing Returns blog:
“California’s historic winter ended the drought in many parts of the state and piled up record levels of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. With so much precipitation, surface water infrastructure – our network of dams, reservoirs and levees – has been called into action like never before, and in some cases has struggled to handle the influx of flows.With spring temperatures on the rise, snowmelt and runoff have accelerated, adding another wave of stress to the system. And with snowpack still at 192% of average, there is even more runoff on the way.
So where will all this water go? … “
From Ann Hayden at the Growing Returns blog:
“Stewardship of our land and water resources has always played a central role in my life.
I grew up “out in the country,” as we call it, on a-five acre “farm” in Yolo County, California – large enough for raising pigs and sheep, which my older brothers and I would show at the annual 4-H Fair in nearby Woodland.
Living in the Central Valley, we could always count on very hot, dry summers and occasional consecutive dry years, which inevitably were followed by years of heavy rains and even flooding. From a very young age, I understood how important it was to be smart about how we managed our water supply and the surrounding landscape for people, wildlife and the environment. … “
Fromat the PPIC Blog:
“Agriculture is by far the biggest water user in the San Joaquin Valley, accounting for 89 percent of the region’s annual net water use. As such, the farm sector will have to play a crucial role in tackling the valley’s various water challenges―from sustainably managing groundwater resources to addressing a number of water-related environmental and public health concerns. Valley farms vary greatly in size, and broad regional solutions to the valley’s resource management challenges must take this into account.
Water Stress and a Changing San Joaquin Valley looked at the number of irrigated farms in the valley and their corresponding acreage over time. The valley is home to nearly 20,000 such farms, including some of California’s largest, but also numerous small and mid-size ones. … “
From Stanford’s Water in the West:
“Prior to the passage of the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, groundwater withdrawals in California were largely unregulated. As part of initial compliance with this Act’s requirements, groundwater basins designated by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) as high or medium priority must form new agencies—Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs)—by June 30 of this year. These agencies will be responsible for developing and implementing plans to ensure that each basin is managed sustainably within 20 years of plan adoption.
DWR estimates that the 127 high and medium priority basins account for 96 percent of groundwater pumping in the state. However, basins like the San Mateo Plain Subbasin (Basin) that are not currently used as a primary water supply source (and thus have been categorized as low and very low priority and not subject to SGMA regulations), are increasingly being looked at to serve as a supplemental water supply. This blog post follows the public process that the County of San Mateo initiated last year to better understand the Basin. … “
Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: San Mateo Plain Groundwater Subbasin: A Local Case Study
From Lori Pottinger at the PPIC Blog:
“California’s groundwater basins can store much more water than surface reservoirs. After years of unchecked depletion of many groundwater basins, communities are now coming together to figure out how to manage them sustainably. We talked to Helen Dahlke, a hydrologist at UC Davis and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center’s research network, about efforts to recharge groundwater basins to help bring them back into balance.
PPIC: Where do we stand with groundwater recharge? … “
From Stanford News:
“Researchers from Stanford and the University of Calgary have transformed pulses of electrical current sent 1,000 feet underground into a picture of where seawater has infiltrated freshwater aquifers along the Monterey Bay coastline.
The findings, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Hydrology but are available online now, help explain factors controlling this phenomenon, called saltwater intrusion, and could help improve the groundwater models that local water managers use to make decisions about pumping groundwater to meet drinking or farming needs. … “
Read more from Stanford News here: Stanford scientists map seawater threat to California Central Coast aquifers
From Lori Pottinger at the PPIC Blog:
“The complex challenges that the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act aims to resolve don’t lend themselves to quick fixes. With the deadline for the first major step—forming “groundwater sustainability agencies” in affected basins—coming up in June, we asked Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, about progress to date.
PPIC: How are California communities doing in implementing the law so far? … “