SGMA in the News

A massive aquifer lies beneath the Mojave Desert. Could it help solve California’s water problem?

March 4, 2019

“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?

Category: News Article

Groundwater in Siskiyou County: Understanding the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

February 28, 2019

“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?

February 27, 2019
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.

Click here to continue reading at Maven’s Notebook.


“All Hands on Deck” Approach Needed to Manage Growing Water Stress in the San Joaquin Valley

February 27, 2019
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.

Category: New reports

PPIC Seminar Fresno State February 22, 2019

February 27, 2019

Coverage by Don Wright, Water Wrights:

“The Public Policy Institute of California held a seminar on Friday, February 22, 2019 at California State University Fresno’s Satellite Student Union. “Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley” was the title of the day’s event. This is also the title of the report prepared by PPIC and FSU.

Things kicked off at 8:30am with delicious sausage, egg and cheese English muffin sandwiches and fresh pastries with coffee and orange juice. Why even mention this? I go to a lot of meetings and I notice when folks start with a decent breakfast the day really does go better. PPIC has a reputation for staging pretty good shows and starting with good food really tied the “ag thing” together. They did something right because the room was packed with folks standing in the aisles. There were more than 300 people is my guess. … “

Click here to continue reading at Water Wrights:  PPIC Seminar Fresno State February 22, 2019


Agencies plan for water rationing under SGMA

February 27, 2019

“Local groundwater regulatory agencies set up under 2014 legislation in California are discussing future rationing schemes with irrigators as they scramble to submit long-term aquifer sustainability plans to the state by a deadline of early next year.

The plans are required by January 2020 for the state’s 21 most critically overdrafted or important basins. Most of those basins are in the San Joaquin Valley, where surface water cutbacks in recent years led to an overreliance on wells. … ”

Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  Agencies plan for water rationing under SGMA

Category: News Article

Navy to Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority: Groundwater ‘No. 1 encroachment issue’

February 22, 2019

“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority meeting Thursday ended on a surprise note, when Commander Peter Benson delivered a letter from NAWS Commander Captain Paul Dale. Benson is the non-voting member representing the Department of the Navy on the groundwater authority board.

Dated Feb. 20, 2019, and addressed to the Indian Wells Valley Ground Water Authority Board of Directors, the letter states that it is intended as a formal communication that “Commander Navy Region Southwest (CNRSW), in consultation with U.S. Navy commands located within the Indian Wells Valley, deems groundwater resources as the number one encroachment concern/issue which has the potential to impact missions enabled on and around Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.”

It goes on to state that “Water sustainability is critical to NAWSCL’s mission accomplishment.” … ”

Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Navy to Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority: Groundwater ‘No. 1 encroachment issue’

Category: News Article

No budget approved, Navy weighs in at IWV Groundwater Authority meeting:

February 22, 2019

“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority met at City Hall on Thursday morning, first with an hour-long closed session meeting, covering potential litigation, followed by a five-hour regular meeting.

The 2019 IWVGA budget was not approved, after several board members and a handful of residents voiced their concerns over the presentation.  For starters, the budget that was presented was different from the one that was in the packet. A handful of numbers had been updated, including the total revenue (pump fee revenue and stressed counties grant revenue reimbursements) as well as a couple of lines in the expenditures section. … ”

Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  No budget approved, Navy weighs in at IWV Groundwater Authority meeting

Category: News Article

Commentary: Analysis says to end Valley’s groundwater overdraft, farmland must be retired

February 21, 2019

Ellen Hanak, Alvar Escriva-Bou, and Sarge Green write:

“The San Joaquin Valley is on the brink of a major transition as it seeks to balance its groundwater accounts. California’s largest farming region has the state’s biggest groundwater deficit — almost 2 million acre-feet per year by our estimates.

To put it in context, that’s about one Don Pedro Reservoir’s worth of water a year.  Groundwater overdraft — pumping more than is replenished over the long term — makes wells go dry, increases energy required to pump water and causes land to sink, which in turn damages major regional infrastructure. These harmful impacts have become increasingly costly to address. … ”

Read more from the Fresno Bee here:  Analysis says to end Valley’s groundwater overdraft, farmland must be retired


Roseville testing groundwater storage plan

February 21, 2019

“The city of Roseville is taking full advantage of the recent storms and water surplus going into Folsom Reservoir to fully test its groundwater storage plan.  The city currently has six groundwater pumping stations that were used during the drought. But the stations have the ability to pump water back into the aquifer as well.  The Folsom Dam currently has three gates open to release enough water so it has room to capture flood water. … ”

Read more from Fox 40 here:  Roseville testing groundwater storage plan

Category: News Article