SGMA in the News

How “Weather Whiplash” Could Change California

May 1, 2018

From Lori Pottinger at the PPIC Blog:

“First came the drought, then the floods: California has long bounced between the two weather extremes―most recently when the latest drought segued into 2017’s record-breaking rain and snow. Such “weather whiplash” could become much more common as the climate changes, according to a new study. We talked to Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA—and the study’s lead author—about what to expect.

PPIC: California already has a highly variable climate. How will this be different? … ”

Continue reading at the PPIC Blog by clicking here.

Category: PPIC Blog

Can California’s groundwater basins be managed collaboratively?

April 19, 2018

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

“For local communities, complying with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the law passed in 2014 that was California’s first statewide framework for managing groundwater, has been no easy task.

A recent study in the journal California Agriculture examined some of the challenges rising to the surface in large, agriculturally-oriented basins as local governments form groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs), particularly for agricultural water users who have been pumping groundwater with private rights for decades. These GSAs are required to develop groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) by 2020 in critically overdrafted basins, or by 2022 in other high and medium priority basins.

The analysis highlights that creating effective governance at the basin scale, while still accounting for the interests of agricultural water users, is best pursued through multi-level governance structures that include nongovernmental entities, such as nonprofits, farmers, and ranchers. … “

Read more from Water in the West here:  Can California’s groundwater basins be managed collaboratively? 

Ecosystems Need Groundwater Too

April 6, 2018

From Lori Pottinger at the PPIC Blog:

“Groundwater is a critical resource for most living things in California. But while human communities can increase groundwater pumping when surface supplies diminish during droughts, ecological systems often have no backup supply. We talked to Sandi Matsumoto, associate director of the Nature Conservancy’s California Water Program, about determining which ecosystems are particularly dependent on groundwater and what can be done to help them cope with dropping water levels.

PPIC: What are “groundwater-dependent ecosystems”? … “

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Category: PPIC Blog

Why we can’t just suck it up: The challenges of groundwater recharge in California

March 31, 2018

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

“California is on track to have the wettest water year in the 122-year period of record and replenishing our drought-stricken groundwater basins is a critical part of California’s vision for a sustainable water future. However, the state’s ability to take full advantage of this precipitation to recharge our depleted aquifers remains limited.

One of the many tools designed to help agencies and water managers comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is groundwater banking or any effort to retain or place water in an aquifer that would not otherwise occur. This effort can take various forms including: conjunctive use—the substitution of surface water for groundwater to reduce pumping); in-lieu recharge—the supply of surface water to users who otherwise rely on groundwater; and managed aquifer recharge (MAR)—the active recharge of groundwater with surface water through dedicated infiltration basins or injection wells. Maximizing these tools, however, will require rethinking both water management and infrastructure. … “

Continue reading at Stanford’s Water in the West here:  Why we can’t just suck it up: The challenges of groundwater recharge in California

GROUNDWATER RIGHTS PRIMER: What Agencies & Project Developers Need to Know

March 7, 2018

From Maven’s Notebook:

“California depends on groundwater for a major portion of its annual water supply, and sustainable groundwater management is essential to a reliable and resilient water system. In recognition of this, the legislature passed a three-bill package known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that set in motion a plan to sustainably manage the state’s groundwater basins.  The centerpiece of the legislation is recognition that groundwater management is best accomplished at the local level, and so SGMA requires the creation of groundwater sustainability agencies to develop and implement locally-developed groundwater sustainability plans, allowing 20 years to achieve sustainability.

The legislation explicitly states that it does not alter any water rights: the legislation adds Water Code section 10720.5(b) that states that nothing in the legislation “determines or alters surface water rights or groundwater rights under common law or any provision of law that determines or grants surface water rights.”  However, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and project proponents must address such rights in groundwater sustainability plan development, projects to increase yield such as recharge projects, and reducing pumping to reach sustainability.

California’s structure of groundwater rights is notoriously complex, directly related to hydrologic conditions, and complicates the goal of sustainable groundwater management.  At the McGeorge School of Law’s Executive Training on Water Rights in Groundwater: A Deep Dive into California Groundwater Rights, Professor Jennifer Harder and Hydrogeologist Derrik Williams discussed the convoluted world of groundwater rights as it exists in California. … “

A Bottom-Up Approach to Groundwater Sustainability

February 28, 2018

From Lori Pottinger at the PPIC Blog:

“California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires communities with ongoing groundwater deficits to bring their aquifers into balance in the coming years. This will be a difficult and complex process, but it’s also an opportunity to devise workable solutions at the community level. We talked to Eric Averett of the Rosedale–Rio Bravo Water Storage District about groundwater management innovations being tried in his Kern County district and lessons learned that might have wider application.

PPIC: What are the priority areas for addressing groundwater sustainability in your district? … “

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Category: PPIC Blog

What can Nebraska teach the American West about managing water? A lot.

February 23, 2018

From Christina Babbitt at the Growing Returns blog:

“Nebraska is one of the top producers of corn, soybeans and hogs in the country. With 91 percent of the state’s total land area dedicated to agricultural production, a lot of water is needed to support all of Nebraska’s farms and ranches.

Fortunately, the state sits atop one of the largest underground aquifers in the world. The High Plains Aquifer, commonly referred to as the Ogallala Aquifer, underlies parts of eight states from Texas to South Dakota, and is a vital resource to Nebraskan farmers.

But as farms have expanded and demand for agricultural products has grown, pressure on the aquifer has increased and groundwater levels have been in steady decline for decades. … “

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What’s the Potential for Increased Groundwater Replenishment in California?

January 17, 2018

From Maven’s Notebook:

“With implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) fully underway, the newly formed Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) now turn their attention to developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for their basins.  For basins that are critically overdrafted and many others, bringing groundwater basins under sustainable management while maintaining current acreage in production means finding a way to recharge their basins.

At the the recent ACWA conference, a panel of groundwater experts discussed the potential for increasing groundwater recharge across the state. … “

Continue reading at Maven’s Notebook by clicking here.

Sunshine, beaches and…saltwater intrusion? Solving for groundwater decline on California’s coast

December 11, 2017

From Christina Babbitt at the Growing Returns blog:

“For much of its history, California was the Wild West when it came to groundwater. Thirsty cities and farms could freely pump from underground aquifers with little to no oversight. If you could build a well you could take the water.

Recognizing the negative impacts of unchecked pumping, the state stepped in and, in 2014, passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). SGMA makes local agencies responsible for bringing priority groundwater basins into sustainability – meaning many water managers now need to find new ways to meet their water needs. … “

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Local Management Plans May Not Protect California Groundwater from Climate Change Risk

November 13, 2017

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

“While hundreds of local agencies across California draft their plans to ensure the sustainability of groundwater basins, water experts say in a white paper released today that these state-mandated plans need to incorporate climate change impacts to be sustainable. The paper is intended to serve as a resource to help agencies do just that. The white paper was published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Stanford University’s Water in the West program.

“Many water managers are not trained in the climate science needed to understand how best to estimate the future impacts of climate change on their water resources,” said Geeta Persad, Ph.D., post-doctoral scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford and co-author.” Yet the law requires them to incorporate climate change into their plans, which is extremely difficult to do on the scale of a groundwater basin, even with more funding and expertise. This white paper aims to help them navigate the process of incorporating climate change projections appropriately,” she said. … “

Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: Local Management Plans May Not Protect California Groundwater from Climate Change Risk

Keywords: Climate Change