SGMA in the News

The public trust and SGMA

October 10, 2018

Brian Gray at the California Water Blog writes,

In a recent decision in litigation over flows and salmon survival in the Scott River system, the California Court of Appeal has ruled that groundwater pumping that diminishes the volume or flow of water in a navigable surface stream may violate the public trust. The public trust does not protect groundwater itself. “Rather, the public trust doctrine applies if extraction of groundwater adversely impacts a navigable waterway to which the public trust doctrine does apply.”

The court also concluded that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) does not preempt or preclude independent application of the public trust to groundwater pumping, finding “no legislative intent to eviscerate the public trust in navigable waterways in the text or scope of SGMA.”

These interpretations follow from both hydrology and law. …

Read more from the California Water Blog here:  The public trust and SGMA


The stormwater opportunity

October 10, 2018

From the Pacific Institute:

“Navigating around puddles that form on streets and in parking lots after a rainstorm can be a nuisance. But this water, technically known as stormwater, has the potential to become an important water supply for many Californian communities. For example, one study showed enough potential supply from stormwater in major urban and suburban centers in California to annually provide millions of gallons for the recharge of local aquifers.

In addition to providing valuable water supply, effective stormwater management can help reduce local flooding and prevent trash and other pollution from getting into streams or the ocean. What’s more, many stormwater capture projects have further co-benefits, such as providing habitat, reducing urban temperatures, reducing energy use, creating community recreation spaces, and increasing property values.  … ”

Read more from the Pacific Institute here:  The stormwater opportunity

Category: New reports

New guidebook: Rivers that depend on aquifers: Drafting SGMA groundwater plans with fisheries in mind

October 6, 2018
A Guidebook for using California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to protect fisheries

From the Center on Urban Environmental Law at Golden Gate University:

“In California, surface waters have historically been regulated as if they were unconnected to groundwater. Yet, in reality, surface waters and groundwater are often hydrologically connected. Many of the rivers that support fisheries such as salmon and trout are hydrologically dependent on tributary groundwater to maintain instream flow. This means that when there is intensive pumping of tributary groundwater the result can be reductions in instream flow and damage to fisheries.

For this reason, stakeholders concerned about adequate instream flows for fisheries in California’s rivers, streams and creeks need to be effectively engaged in the implementation of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). …

Each SGMA Groundwater Plan must detail how the groundwater basin will be managed to avoid overdraft conditions and, importantly for fisheries, to avoid adverse impacts on hydrologically connected surface waters.

Although groundwater sustainability agencies and fishery stakeholders recognize that the groundwater-surface water connection needs to be addressed in SGMA Groundwater Plans, at present there is limited guidance on how to do this. That is, what are the specific types of information, modeling, monitoring, and pumping provisions that should be included in SGMA Groundwater Plans to ensure that groundwater extraction does not cause significant adverse impacts on fisheries? The purpose of this guidebook is to provide such guidance.”

Click here to download the guidebook.
Category: New reports

Marin County may redraw water basin boundary

October 5, 2018

From the Point Reyes Light:

“In an effort to sidestep the need to form a new governmental agency and management plan, Marin County has filed an application with California’s Department of Water Resources to reconfigure the boundary of the water basin below Tomales and Dillon Beach.

The move, which supervisors authorized last month, will save the county “a lot of time and a lot of money,” Rebecca Ng, deputy director of Environmental Health Services, said. … “

Read more from the Point Reyes Light here:  Marin County may redraw water basin boundary

Category: News Article

Streamflow availability ratings identify surface water sources for groundwater recharge in the Central Valley

October 4, 2018

From California Agriculture:

“In California’s semi-arid climate, replenishment of groundwater aquifers relies on precipitation and runoff during the winter season. However, climate projections suggest more frequent droughts and fewer years with above-normal precipitation, which may increase demand on groundwater resources and the need to recharge groundwater basins. Using historical daily streamflow data, we developed a spatial index and rating system of high-magnitude streamflow availability for groundwater recharge, STARR, in the Central Valley.

We found that watersheds with excellent and good availability of excess surface water are primarily in the Sacramento River Basin and northern San Joaquin Valley. STARR is available as a web tool and can guide water managers on where and when excess surface water is available and, with other web tools, help sustainable groundwater agencies develop plans to balance water demand and aquifer recharge. However, infrastructure is needed to transport the water, and also changes to the current legal restrictions on use of such water. … “

Continue reading from California Agriculture here:  Streamflow availability ratings identify surface water sources for groundwater recharge in the Central Valley

Category: Journal article

Groundwater sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley: Multiple benefits if agricultural lands are retired and restored strategically

October 4, 2018

From California Agriculture:

“Sustaining the remarkable scale of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley has required large imports of surface water and an average annual groundwater overdraft of 2 million acre-feet (Hanak et al. 2017). This level of water demand is unsustainable and is now forcing changes that will have profound social and economic consequences for San Joaquin Valley farmers and communities. Land will have to come out of agricultural production in some areas. Yet, the emerging changes also provide an important opportunity to strike a new balance between a vibrant agricultural economy and maintenance of natural ecosystems that provide a host of public benefits — if the land is retired and restored strategically.

Once characterized by widespread artesian wells, the San Joaquin Valley now averages groundwater depths of over 150 feet below the surface, exceeding 250 feet in many areas. Decades of groundwater withdrawals have led to the declining reliability and quality of groundwater (Hanak et al. 2015; Harter et al. 2012), widespread land subsidence exceeding 25 feet in some areas (CADWR 2014; Farr et al. 2017) and degradation of groundwater-dependent ecosystems (The Nature Conservancy 2014). … “

Continue reading from California Agriculture here:  Groundwater sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley: Multiple benefits if agricultural lands are retired and restored strategically

Category: News Article

Paso Robles: Worried about North County water? Here’s how to speak your mind on groundwater levels

October 4, 2018

From the San Luis Obispo Tribune:

“Water management agencies in North County are making big decisions about the future of the Paso Robles Basin — including setting future targets for groundwater levels.

That matters because the agencies will eventually propose restrictions to cut back demand — or projects to increase supply to meet those targets in the aim of sustainability, said Carolyn Berg with San Luis Obispo County Public Works Department.

When the rate of pumping is greater than the rate of infiltration, the water table drops and shallower wells run dry. This bureaucratic process will determine what is an acceptable level for the water table. … “

Read more from the San Luis Obispo Tribune here:  Worried about North County water? Here’s how to speak your mind on groundwater levels

Category: News Article

Is Groundwater Recharge a ‘Beneficial Use’? California Law Says No.

October 4, 2018

From Water Deeply:

Groundwater depletion is a big problem in parts of California. But it is not the only groundwater problem. The state also has many areas of polluted groundwater, and some places where groundwater overdraft has caused the land to subside, damaging roads, canals and other infrastructure. Near the coast, heavy groundwater pumping has caused contamination by pulling seawater underground from the ocean.

But if you wanted to obtain a permit from the state to manage these problems by recharging groundwater, you could be out of luck. … “

Read more from Water Deeply here:  Is Groundwater Recharge a ‘Beneficial Use’? California Law Says No.

Category: News Article

This week at the Groundwater Exchange …

October 3, 2018

Do you have questions about groundwater?  The Groundwater Exchange can help you find answers!  You can search the Groundwater Exchange using the search bar in the upper right hand corner of the main page, or search the California Water Library for documents.  If you can’t find an answer there, you can ask a question in the forum, or use the Ask an Expert feature, which will connect you with experts from the USGS and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Participate in the forum and share your knowledge, as well as ask questions.   An active forum with knowledgeable participants would be an incredible resource!  There’s a new question in the forum: Clark has a question on agricultural water reuse.  Can you help?  (Note: Registration is required to participate in the forum, but it’s easy and free.  Click here to register.) The State Water Board will hold a public workshop on Groundwater-Surface Water interactions on December 3rd in Sacramento.  The goal of the workshop is to provide water managers, including GSAs and others, with a menu of approaches to consider as they contemplate managing their own watersheds to prevent or manage depletions of interconnected surface water.  To attend, you’ll need to RSVP before October 21st.  Click here for more detailsView this event and other groundwater events at the Groundwater Exchange calendar (also available on the main menu bar). Do you have website suggestions or feedback?  Please let us know!  Feel free to email me at Maven@groundwaterexchange.org.  Our hope is that the Groundwater Exchange will be a valuable tool for implementation of SGMA, so if you have an idea on how this website can be improved or if you have resources to share, do let us know!

Category: This week

Butte County: Comment taken on groundwater management area boundaries

October 2, 2018

From the Chico Enterprise-Record:

“Comment is being taken on proposed boundary changes related to the managing of groundwater beneath Butte County.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires development of plans to manage groundwater beneath California to avoid undesirable results like land sinking or wells going dry.  The plans are required for defined subbasins of the larger aquifers underground.

The Butte County Department of Water and Resource Conservation has applied to change the subbasin boundaries locally in response to requests by involved agencies, and that’s what the public is being invited to comment upon. …. “

Read more from the Chico Enterprise-Record here:  Comment taken on groundwater management area boundaries

Category: News Article