Presentation at the California Irrigation Institute conference highlights this critically-overdrafted basin’s creative approach to meeting the requirements of SGMA
The Borrego Valley is a small valley in the northeastern part of San Diego County, about 60 miles northeast of San Diego. Groundwater is the sole source of water supply for the valley; there isn’t any surface water or imported water available. After decades of excessive pumping, the Borrego Groundwater Basin is considered critically-over drafted and dramatic reductions in pumping – up to 70% by the latest estimate – will be needed to reach sustainability.
The town of Borrego Springs is small – about 3500 folks. Tourism is a major industry in for the area, which is a popular destination in the winter months for ‘snow birds’ coming from colder climates to enjoy the mild temperatures. Borrego Valley has four public golf courses, a tennis center, and horseback riding, as well as being surrounded by the Anza-Borrego State Park. About 30% of the land use is agriculture, mainly tree and citrus farms.
After the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, the Borrego Valley GSA was formed and work began on the development of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan with the goal of meeting the January 30, 2020 deadline for critically-drafted basins to develop and adopt a GSP. However, unable to reach agreement, the basin has decided to take a different route to meet the requirements of SGMA.
At the 2020 California Irrigation Institute conference held in January of this year, Michele Staples, a shareholder in the Irvine office of Jackson Tidus, gave a presentation on the creative way the basin came up with complying and implementing SGMA.
One area in California will tap regional planning to respond to the state’s groundwater law. Here’s how it could help farmers.
Now that critically overdrafted groundwater basins in the Central Valley have submitted their sustainability plans, the hard work begins for them to balance groundwater supply and demand in ways that minimize economic disruption.
A state program called Regional Conservation Investment Strategies (RCIS) can help.
RCIS wasn’t created to help groundwater basins comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Rather, it was established in 2016 as a framework for regions to prioritize and develop measurable habitat conservation outcomes including those needed to adapt to climate change.
This week, however, the Kaweah Subbasin was awarded $515,000 from the state’s Wildlife Conservation Board to develop an RCIS plan, becoming the first region in the Central Valley to leverage the process in response to SGMA.
For the past several years, California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act has been the talk, not only of the town and of the state, but also of the national and international groundwater and environmental policy community.
What’s the big deal?
SGMA fundamentally changes groundwater management in California – a big deal to be sure. Equally important, as we discuss in a recently published paper, is the broader conceptual significance of the SGMA experiment. That significance lies in SGMAs governance structure.
One key challenge for the authors of SGMA was navigating the complex distribution of authority over water and land in the state. To achieve this, SGMA bridges state agencies, local agencies, and outside entities, providing a role for all of them in governance. Understanding this complex system of simultaneous governance processes is important for policy makers striving to successfully implement the new law, and for decision makers at all levels who are adapting to the new regime.
This post very briefly summarizes our paper.
From the Department of Water Resources:
The Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Annual Report module is available on the Department of Water Resources’ SGMA Portal. Groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) with adopted GSPs can upload their annual reports, which are due April 1, 2020. Downloadable templates for basinwide data are available on the GSP Reporting System webpage and must be submitted with the GSP Annual Report. Additional resources are also available:
- Annual Report Elements Guide
- GSP Annual Report Module User Manual
- Frequently Asked Questions on 2020 GSP Annual Reports
Annual reports, which can be viewed by the public once they are submitted, provide information on groundwater conditions and implementation of the GSP for the prior water year. For questions or more information, please email GSPSubmittal@water.ca.gov.
From the State Water Resources Control Board:
Since 2010, the GAMA Groundwater Information System (GAMA GIS) online interface has integrated and standardized groundwater quality data from various resources as part of the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. Data can now be queried based on well depth and well type. In addition, the GAMA GIS now directly accesses a library of geographic information that allows users to spatially compare groundwater quality data to various land and groundwater features, geology, disadvantaged communities, and many other layers. To further its mission, a new data connection tool has been implemented to facilitate data uploads into the GAMA GIS.
Data collected and analyzed by the GAMA program is standardized with data from other organizations into the GAMA GIS. This allows users to query data across multiple sources in one location, while providing tools for custom queries. All data is public and available for download. Data download tables have been improved to include standardized data source fields. Data collected and analyzed by the GAMA Program is also available via the state’s open data platform.
The GAMA Program Online Tools web page includes a growing list of map-based applications to evaluate specific groundwater issues and trends, including applications to support efforts like the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the Human Right to Water initiative. Enhancements include new tools for analyzing trends in groundwater quality accessed by public drinking water wells, estimates of groundwater quality accessed by domestic wells, and areas of potential groundwater recharge.
For example, applications for 1,2,3 trichloropropane (123 TCP), nitrate, and groundwater age/recharge provide an increased understanding of factors that may affect drinking water quality. The new trend tool analyzes statistically relevant trends in 28 inorganic constituents in groundwater dating back to 1974, and allows a user to select long-term, recent, reversing, and seasonal trends graphically, including the magnitude and directions of water quality trends.
Feedback is welcome. Please visit the GAMA Program Online Tools web page to access all tools listed above.
‘Surviving is a real question’: can small farms endure under California’s landmark water law? “Nikiko Masumoto began her farming career in the summer of 2011, just as California was entering its worst drought in recorded history. Masumoto is the fourth generation of her family to farm this land in Del Rey: 80 organic acres of stone fruit in eastern Fresno county in California’s fertile Central Valley, its most perfect peaches bound for the epicurean Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. For four years in a row, the farm survived only on the water it could draw from underground. And as the drought persisted, the perfect peaches grew less perfect – smaller, malnourished. The farm lowered its wells and pumped more so Masumoto could keep the trees alive. The farm made it through by way of grit and preparation. But even with plenty of both, said Masumoto, “surviving is a real question.” … ” Read more from The Guardian here: ‘Surviving is a real question’: can small farms endure under California’s landmark water law?
Willits: LACO, City seek input from residents regarding Groundwater Management Plan: “Representatives from LACO Associates and the City of Willits held the first of two Little Lake Valley (LLV) Groundwater Plan public workshops on Feb. 20 at City Hall. Willits City Council recently approved the development of a Groundwater Management Plan (GWMP) for the LLV Groundwater Basin in order to fulfill the commitment required to receive Proposition 1 funds. Once the required GWMP is completed, the California Department of Water Resources will supply $500,000 to help the City bolster its water supply, which could be threatened in times of drought, fire and other natural disasters. The purpose of the public workshops is to garner stakeholder participation in order to help develop and establish groundwater management opportunities, concerns and objectives. … ” Read more from Willits News here: Willits: LACO, City seek input from residents regarding Groundwater Management Plan
State refuses to accept groundwater plans for the Madera subbasin: “In the first indication of how strict state officials will be with new groundwater sustainability agencies, the Department of Water Resources has refused to accept groundwater plans covering the Madera subbasin because one of those agencies did not sign a coordination agreement. The DWR has not posted the submitted groundwater sustainability plans on its website and notified all the GSAs that it is talking with the State Water Resources Control Board — the state’s enforcement arm — about the issue. … ” Read more from SJV Water here: State refuses to accept groundwater plans for the Madera subbasin
Kern County: Price of water going up as the snowpack shrinks: “Another block of water has been offered for sale in Kern County at $950 per acre foot. With a dry January and extremely dry February, California’s water outlook has worsened. And that has bumped the price of water for those who have it to sell. Buena Vista Water Storage District on the western edge of the valley in Kern already sold 4,500 acre feet of water at $770 per acre foot, said General Manager Tim Ashlock. And this latest block of 4,000 acre feet at $950 per acre foot is going fast. … ” Read more from SJV Water here: Price of water going up as the snowpack shrinks
Property owners get six-month extension in Ventura River lawsuit: “A judge on Thursday granted a six-month extension for roughly 14,000 Ojai Valley and Ventura property owners facing a potential water adjudication. In January, the city of Ventura sent thousands of legal notices and summonses to people with property near the Ventura River or one of the area’s groundwater basins. The property owners were given 60 days to pay $435 in court fees and possibly hire an attorney to join the litigation or risk losing their ability to do so later. The city has said it doesn’t want a full adjudication but instead to reach a negotiated settlement among water users. ... ” Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Property owners get six-month extension in Ventura River lawsuit
Hydrologist Derik Williams discusses the different paths GSAs are taking to get to sustainability, plus the three things every GSP should include
Derik Williams is a professional geologist and certified hydrologist with more than 30 years of experience managing groundwater in California. He’s recently completed the development of two Groundwater Sustainability Plans (or GSPs) in critically overdrafted basins along the Central Coast and is starting on 5 other GSPs for non-critically overdrafted basins. In this presentation from the California Irrigation Institute’s conference, Mr. Williams gave his perspective on some common themes in SGMA implementation and the different paths that groundwater basins are taking towards sustainability.
ACWA/State Water Board webinar presentation outlines temporary and permanent options, including a new streamlined permitting pathway for standard water rights permits
Almost five years ago, in the midst of a historic drought, the legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA). The centerpiece of the legislation is the principle of local groundwater basin management, requiring the establishment of local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (or GSAs) and the preparation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (or GSPs) for groundwater basins statewide. The plans detail how the basin will be managed to avoid undesirable results, such as salt water intrusion or land subsidence, and to achieve sustainability managed basins over a 20 year planning and implementation horizon.
As many groundwater basins work to achieve sustainability, many if not most will look to groundwater recharge as a tool to help balance supplies and demands. At a webinar held at the end of last year, State Water Board staff discussed new permitting options for Groundwater Sustainability Agencies pursuing recharge projects.
DWR has released a draft single-volume Handbook for Water Budget Development: With or Without Models, which presents existing information on various methods and data sources for developing water budgets. The Water Budget Handbook can help inform the development of water budgets for any geographic area and time period, using modeling and non-modeling approaches.
The Department of Water Resources will hold a public webinar to provide an overview of the Water Budget Handbook. The link will be posted to this page when available. No pre-registration required.
For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions on the Water Budget Handbook.
The comment period is now open on the draft document and closes on April 7, 2020. Email comments to email@example.com, attention Abdul Khan.
For information on the Water Budget Handbook visit the Reports tab on the Data and Tools webpage.
Groundwater Law and Legislation Forum
March 11, Sacramento
You will learn from the leading practitioners in the field regarding the most pressing issues in California groundwater law and legislation, including the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Recharge and Imported Water Considerations, Groundwater Funding Issues, and Groundwater Quality.
You will hear from California legislators regarding groundwater concerns on the horizon in the new California Legislative Session, and have the opportunity to network with your peers in the California groundwater space.
Biennial Symposium on Managed Aquifer Recharge
April 1-3, Phoenix
The conference is a collaborative effort between AHS and the Groundwater Resources Association (GRA) of California. BSMAR 17 will feature oral presentations, poster presentations, an awards luncheon, and optional workshops and field trips.
Two half-day workshops are scheduled for April 1st. Thursday, April 2nd, includes a Plenary on “Managed Aquifer Recharge” and “California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Opportunities and Challenges.” Additionally, the BSMAR17 Technical Program on April 2nd and 3rd includes 48 presentations.
UC Davis Shortcourse: Introduction to Groundwater, Watersheds, and the Nuts and Bolts of Sustainable Groundwater Plans
April 22-23, UC Davis
This shortcourse will review the fundamental principles of groundwater and watershed hydrology, water budgets, water quality, and water law and regulation in an intuitive, highly accessible fashion. Through real world examples, participants will learn about the most common tools for measuring, monitoring, and assessing groundwater and surface water resources.
The course will then review the key elements of a GSP. Case studies are used so participants learn about
• development of conceptual models, water budgets, and GSP sustainability criteria;
• designing minimum thresholds and operating targets (measurable objectives) for GSPs and how to link those to monitoring networks;
• methods for addressing climate variability and climate change;
• recharge as a tool to enhance groundwater supplies;
• GSA governance; and
• available online planning resources.
The course is specifically geared towards an audience that is or will be involved in the management, assessment, and protection of groundwater and surface water resources under SGMA, but also engages with, e.g., source water assessments, urban water management plans, and integrated regional water management plans. Course attendees, who may have some experience with but no formal training in hydrology or related engineering or science fields, will benefit from the basic and intuitive, yet comprehensive approach of this course.
3rd Annual GSA Summit
The Third Annual GSA Summit in Sacramento, June 10-11, is an opportunity to celebrate a significant milestone with the first round of GSP submittals (due at the end of January) and to exchange information, ideas and best practices for successful GSP development and implementation.
This year’s discussion sessions will include new information and approaches to topics such as:
- Lessons learned from 2020 GSPs
- Best approaches for effective stakeholder engagement
- Challenges and successes of governance
- A fresh look at financing
- Different ways to establish sustainable management criteria
- Data gap assessment and GSP implementation
- And a lot more!
Don’t miss this opportunity to share and mingle with other SGMA practitioners during interactive lunch, networking breaks and the social mixer.
Western Groundwater Congress
You’ll find three full day sessions dedicated to Water Resources, SGMA, contaminants, and a myriad of special topics related to the furtherance of GRA”s vision of sustainable groundwater for all.