The details of how a groundwater sustainability plan will be implemented are defined by the setting of sustainable management criteria (or SMC). With several undesirable results to consider, a range of technical analyses to perform, data gaps yet to be filled, and potentially conflicting stakeholder interests, the process to establish sustainable management criteria is often involved and challenging.
At the Groundwater Resources Association’s 3rd annual GSA Summit, a panel reviewed how the process went for the groundwater sustainability plans that were submitted to the Department of Water Resources earlier this year, focusing on four of the six sustainable management criteria: water levels, water quality, land subsidence, and interconnected surface waters.
Recharging groundwater with rain and snowmelt is one strategy water managers are embracing to help balance groundwater supply and demand and comply with the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Depending on the location, recharge can also deliver other valuable benefits, such as additional habitat for wildlife and a more resilient water supply for people.
With support from EDF, four UC Santa Barbara graduate students have developed a new mapping tool for California’s Central Valley to identify the best locations for groundwater recharge to secure these bonus benefits.
- Water Foundation’s drinking water analysis of 2020 GSPs
- LCJA’s Human Right to Water GSP Scorecard
- CWC, LCJA, and SHE’s Drinking Water Well Mitigation Framework
Other resources mentioned:
- State Water Boards’ well consolidation website
- American Rivers: Invest in Rivers Storymap
- American Rivers: Economic Outcomes for Urban Floodplain Restoration
- Local Government Commission: Borrego Springs Case Study articles on lessons learned from coordinated water and land-use planning
From the Colusa Sun-Herald:
The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with the Colusa Groundwater Authority, is now accepting applications for an on-farm Multi-Benefit Groundwater Recharge Incentive Program scheduled to take place this fall.
According to a release issued by the Nature Conservancy, the program provides an opportunity for growers to receive financial compensation for recharging groundwater during the course of normal farming operations on a variety of crops while also providing critical wetland habitat for waterbirds migrating along the Pacific Flyway.
“The program requires short-term commitments from growers to irrigate and maintain shallow depths on enrolled fields and pays for field preparation, irrigation and water costs,” read the release.
Farmers doing more with less need help from above: “Joel Ackerknecht manages about 3,500 acres of land north and west of Bakersfield and south of Arvin for DM Camp and Sons, a more than 80-year-old Kern County farming operation that grows a variety of specialty crops, including wine grapes, nuts and sweet potatoes. A combination of expanding global demand for California produce, stretched water resources, receding ground water levels and increasing government regulations caused Ackerknecht to search for ways to do more with less. Ackerknecht turned his attention to the sky for help. ... ” Read more the Bakersfield Californian here: Farmers doing more with less need help from above
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act enters crucial period: “As Covid-19 and social unrest dominates news headlines, another problem beneath Central Valley residents’ feet is coming to surface. This was the first year plans had to be submitted for many irrigation districts through the state of California as part of 2014’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Sustainability plans developed by groundwater sustainability agencies (GSA) outline how water users can restore depleted water sources. But fights have arisen and disputes about the reliability of those water sources have come to light. … ” Read more from The Business Journal here: Landmark groundwater act enters a crucial period
New study finds media coverage could discourage many from guiding groundwater use: “Superficial media coverage of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) could discourage democratic engagement on resource-management issues by having focused on relatively few stakeholders, a new study from UC Merced shows. Because water is essential to everyone, all have a stake in how groundwater is managed., Media reports published from January 2014 to April 2019 about the SGMA, however, tended to be simplistic, presenting only one stakeholder instead of considering holistic management, the study’s authors said. Media coverage portrayed stakeholders as limited to major economic interests, such as agriculture, the study found. … ” Read more from UC Merced here: New study finds media coverage could discourage many from guiding groundwater use
Report: California groundwater sustainability plans are inadequate: “Though California has allocated billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded bonds to clean up its drinking water and make it more available, one report says it is not working. Even with implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) under way, upwards of 12,000 drinking wells may go dry by 2040, causing over 120,000 people to lose their primary source of water. The grim report by the Water Foundation, a charitable organization based in California that is focused on clean, reliable water for people and nature, predicts the groundwater sustainability plans written by the various districts in the San Joaquin Valley will not achieve what SGMA purports to do – that is, sustainably manage groundwater resources. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here: Report: California groundwater sustainability plans are inadequate
Sonoma County workshops provide residents an opportunity to share groundwater concerns: “Sonoma County’s three groundwater sustainability agencies are holding “virtual” community workshops in July. The meetings are an opportunity for well owners, farmers and others in Petaluma Valley, Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa Plain to learn about groundwater in these basins and to help define local, sustainable groundwater management. … ” Read more from Patch here: Sonoma County workshops provide residents an opportunity to share groundwater concerns
Proposed changes to Paso Robles Groundwater Basin boundaries draw anger and skepticism from landowners: “After seven years of water restrictions over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, San Luis Obispo County is redrawing the basin’s boundaries, which will subject hundreds of new property owners to a moratorium on irrigating and other rules. The revised map is part of a package of changes to the county ordinance that regulates the 684-square-mile aquifer in North County. Passed in 2013 amid an ongoing drought, the ordinance was recently extended to 2022 to buy time for the Paso Groundwater Sustainability Plan—which is currently being reviewed by the state—to get implemented. … ” Read more from New Times SLO here: Proposed changes to Paso Robles Groundwater Basin boundaries draw anger and skepticism from landowners
West Valley Water District joins Regional Groundwater Council: “On behalf of the San Bernardino Basin area Groundwater Council, the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (SBVMWD) announced that the West Valley Water District (WVWD) will join the basin area council. The San Bernardino Valley has experienced historically low rainfall over the past 20 years, resulting in ongoing and sustained drought. This has resulted in groundwater storage levels in the San Bernardino Basin being at a historic low. Due to our tendency to long periods of drought, ensuring water supply reliability and long-term groundwater sustainability is even more important in this region. ... ” Read more from the Community News here: West Valley Water District joins Regional Groundwater Council
Ventura County: Completed project for groundwater recharge captures stormwater: “According to the state, this year is the 11th driest snowpack on record since 1950 and with the State Water Project announcing it will deliver only 20% of requested water supplies in 2020, projects like the Piru Stormwater Capture for Groundwater Recharge Project are critical to Ventura County’s important water supplies. This project will provide a sustainable source for recharge of the Piru Groundwater Basin and improve water quality in Piru Creek. ... ” Read more from The Patch here: Completed project for groundwater recharge captures stormwater
UPCOMING EVENTS: Drinking water tools in SGMA; SGMA fees for GSAs and Prop 218 Pitfalls; Groundwater quality data; Western Groundwater Congress
FREE WEBINAR: Drinking water tools in SGMA
Thursday, July 16th, 3pm
Join the NGO Groundwater Collaborative on July 17th at 3pm for a 90-minute webinar to learn more about new tools and resources for evaluating drinking water needs in groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs). There is no registration required – you can join the webinar by clicking this link.
Our panel includes Debi Ores, Senior Attorney for Community Water Center (CWC), Amanda Monaco, Policy Coordinator of Water Programs for Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability (LCJA), and Angela Islas, Community Development Specialist at Self-Help Enterprises (SHE).
The panel will be discussing three new resources for addressing drinking water needs in GSPs:
- Water Foundation’s drinking water analysis of 2020 GSPs
- LCJA’s Human Right to Water GSP Scorecard
- CWC, LCJA, and SHE’s Drinking Water Well Mitigation Framework
Each presentation will be followed by Q&A.
WEBINAR: SGMA Fees: GSA Implementation, GSP Projects and Prop 218 Pitfalls
Wednesday, July 22nd, 12pm
It will cover funding options for the development and implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs), including a Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s (GSA) authority to impose fees, and the purpose and types of fees. It will also cover the intricacies of fee setting and the benefits and disadvantages of different fee structures.
Case studies will be presented to illustrate SGMA fees in action.
The presentation will be followed by a facilitated discussion and Q&A opportunity.
WEBINAR: Groundwater Quality Data in California’s Uncertain Future
Wednesday, August 5th, 12pm
VIRTUAL CONFERENCE: 3rd Annual Western Groundwater Congress
September 14 to 17
You’ll find four half-day sessions dedicated to Water Resources, SGMA, Contaminants and a myriad of Hot Topics related to the furtherance of GRA’s vision of Sustainable Groundwater for All.
Technical sessions will run from 8:30am to 12:30pm each day of the event. The Virtual Exhibit Hall will be available for attendees to explore and make contact with exhibitors for the entirety of the event and there will be wellness activities and networking opportunities throughout the week.
The implementation phase of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act has now begun for the basins designated as critically-overdrafted. Getting to this point has been an unparalleled journey as communities, farmers, water suppliers, and others navigated through uncharted territory to develop local solutions for sustainable groundwater management. At the Groundwater Resources Association Third Annual Groundwater Sustainability Agency Summit held online in June, a panel of managers from four of the critically overdrafted basins reflected on the hard work of developing and adopting a groundwater sustainability plan.
Seated on the panel were Gary Petersen from the Salinas Valley Basin GSA; Eric Osterling from the Mid Kaweah GSA; Deanna Jackson from TriCounty GSA; and Patricia Poire from the Kern Groundwater Authority. Collectively, these GSAs are having to deal with all six of the undesirable results, from subsidence to groundwater levels to seawater intrusion, and they overly five of the 21 critically overdrafted basins.
Each panelist then discussed the process that they went through in developing their plans, the lessons they learned, and their advice for those developing the plans that will be due in January of 2022.
At the end of January of this year, the state’s critically overdrafted groundwater basins submitted their adopted groundwater sustainability plans (or GSPs), meeting an important deadline in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act; the remaining basins subject to SGMA will be submitting their plans in January of 2022. The Department of Water Resources will now have two years to review the plans to determine their adequacy.
At the Third Annual GSA Summit, Craig Altare, chief of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan section at the Department of Water Resources’ Sustainable Groundwater Management Office or SGMO, reflected on the GSPs and how the implementation of SGMA is playing out.
Have you checked out your basin page recently? We have reformatted the page and integrated it with the California Water Library so if there are documents in the library pertaining to your basin, they will be displayed at the bottom of the page. Find your basin on this page.
Curious about coordination agreements? Check out this page where they are all collected for you to look at. It’s curious to note that the agreements you think would be most complex, such as the San Luis Delta Mendota Basin with 24 basins preparing 6 GSPs is only 55 pages, while the Kaweah Subbasin with 3 GSAs and 3 GSPs has a coordination agreement that’s 609 pages long. Check out the coordination agreement page by clicking here.
Resources on water budgets: Water budgets are a key requirement of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Learn more about water budgets on the the All About Water Budgets page.
STAY TUNED! There are more changes on the way. We’re working on a new main page, an easier forum to navigate, and other changes. In the meantime, if you have a comment or a suggestion on how this website could be more useful to you, please send me an email.
UPDATED TOOL: New features added to Water Tracker, a tool that displays the distribution of surface water across the Central Valley
From Point Blue Conservation Service:
With summer in full swing, it may be time to begin evaluating plans for the coming fall and winter seasons. If you are interested in learning more about the distribution of surface water across the Central Valley both in the past and in near real-time, we invite you to explore some exciting new features at Water Tracker – www.pointblue.org/watertracker
Two layers are available:
Wetland vegetation type, aka moist soil seed plants (swamp timothy, watergrass, cocklebur, etc.)
Habitat structure (tall emergent, open water, bare ground, etc.)
Summaries of water from custom areas. You can now upload a shapefile or draw a custom spatial area and then, both download the data, AND get a summary of water in that area over time with interactive time-series plots. See an example here.
Coming soon. In the next several months we plan to make more data layers available including fallow fields (2000-2017), bird distribution/suitability (4 shorebirds, 4 waterfowl), giant garter snake distribution/suitability, groundwater recharge (based on Basin Characterization Model) and more!
What do managers need?
At the Central Valley Wetland Managers meeting in March, we shared spatial data we are currently developing, including fallow fields, wetland vegetation and types, groundwater recharge potential, bird and snake distribution/suitability maps, as well as some of the forecasting tools (within-year and long-term) in development.
A survey of participants in the meeting resulted in helpful feedback:
(1) most wetland managers’ first priority is their wetland complex
(2) for data to be most helpful for decision-making it should be made available in February/March and July/August, and
(3) visualizations and semi-custom summaries and/or reports appear to be the most appealing at this point.
We want these data and technologies to be useful and help wetland managers do their jobs, so we will be working to make sure that Water Tracker can deliver on these needs for wetland managers. Any feedback from the community is welcome. Email us at email@example.com to let us know what you need.
Overall, based on data from Water Tracker, the first 5 months of 2020 had, on average, 10% lower open water than the 2013-2019 average for these months. Only April had more open on the landscape water than the previous 7-year average and February had the lowest with a 17% reduction from average conditions. This is not surprising given the dry spell this winter. The estimated extent of open water in seasonal wetlands was also lower (-5%) across the first 5 months of 2020 compared to the recent 7-year average.
What is Water Tracker?
As a reminder, Water Tracker uses Landsat satellite imagery to update the distribution of open surface water in the Central Valley. It’s refreshed every 16 days. Water Tracker displays where open surface water is in the Central Valley in map form and also provides data summaries.
Anyone can quickly and easily get a picture of where the water is and isn’t, now and in the recent past. Data are available starting in 2013 (as far back as 2000 can be requested). Data can also be downloaded directly from Water Tracker.
There are a multitude of ways these data can inform decisions. Recent examples include 1) using the tool to decide on the best places to add water for the millions of waterbirds that rely on the Central Valley, and 2) to better understand the impacts of extreme drought on waterbird habitat availability.
Tell us how you are using Water Tracker
Please share your stories with us about how you are using Water Tracker at firstname.lastname@example.org. The best way for us to support this free, open-source resource is through understanding and highlighting how it is most useful.
Thank you for using and sharing Water Tracker in an effort to work towards meeting the water needs of both wildlife and people.