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. … “
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
From Ellen Hanak at the PPIC Blog:
“When strong winter rains finally ended the recent five-year drought, many water districts seized the opportunity to recharge depleted aquifers. How did they do, and what barriers did they face? A public forum brought more than 30 experts together to discuss the benefits, opportunities, and barriers to groundwater recharge. The event was hosted by the California State Board of Food and Agriculture and the state Department of Water Resources.
My presentation focused on recharge in the San Joaquin Valley—a region that is home to more than four million people, half the state’s agricultural output, and most of its critically overdrafted groundwater basins, where pumping exceeds replenishment. Consequences include dry wells, sinking lands, and reduced supplies to weather future droughts. … “
From Stanford’s Water in the West:
“Imagine trying to fly a plane while it’s still being built. Impossible, right? Yet, this is how one presenter at a recent Groundwater Resources Association meeting described the challenge that lies ahead for many newly formed agencies responsible for managing groundwater basins in California.
For local agencies involved in managing groundwater, the past few years haven’t been easy ones. But not just because the state was gripped by extreme drought. A new state law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014, required local agencies, in consultation with groundwater users, to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) before June 30, 2017. Otherwise, the state could step in. … “
Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: California’s groundwater basins get new “pilots” – and in some cases, several
“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. … “