Ancient River Channels Could Speed Groundwater Recharge

By the time California finally began regulating groundwater use in 2014, most of the San Joaquin Valley was in critical overdraft. The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that groundwater pumping in the region has exceeded replenishment by an average of 1.8 million acre-feet per year over the last few decades. This imbalance was even worse during our last drought, when overuse shot up to 2.4 million acre-feet per year.

Overpumping puts groundwater aquifers at risk of compaction, permanently reducing their water storage capacity and making surface lands sink. Now, however, San Joaquin Valley groundwater managers must find and implement a fix. The state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act mandates balancing the region’s pumping with replenishment by 2040.

Managed aquifer recharge — diverting excess flood water so it can soak into the ground — is an obvious remedy. But accelerating recharge in the San Joaquin Valley is easier said than done. “Recharge is slow in silt and clay, and these are ubiquitous across the Central Valley,” explains Graham Fogg, an emeritus hydrogeologist at UC Davis.

Fogg and colleagues have found a new way to speed recharge in the Central Valley: ancient river channels where water can shoot underground.

Click here to continue reading this article at Estuary News.

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REPORT: At Risk: Public Supply Well Vulnerability Under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

“California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was designed to prevent significant and unreasonable chronic lowering of groundwater levels across the state, among other undesirable effects. Yet implementation often does not protect shallow wells.  This report examines public drinking water supply well vulnerability under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It focuses on wells and water systems in the San Joaquin Valley due to the area’s social and economic significance, high concentration of water-related challenges, and availability of developed groundwater sustainability plans. 

The report finds that 503 of the 1,200 public supply wells in the region, or 42%, are likely to be partially or fully dry at the minimum thresholds established in the region’s sustainability plans. It includes recommendations to support small water systems and domestic wells and improve the resilience of groundwater sustainability Plans, in line with the state’s Human Right to Water.  ... ”

Click here to read this report from Pacific Institute.

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Mitigating Domestic Well Failure for SGMA and Drought in the San Joaquin Valley

“Domestic wells serve sizable potable water demands in California and much of the world. These wells tend to degrade and fail with declining regional groundwater levels. In areas of irrigated agriculture, impacts to shallower domestic wells may occur from ongoing groundwater use and worsen during drought when agricultural pumping increases to compensate for diminished surface water supplies. Impacts on domestic wells include increased pumping lift, pump cavitation, well screen clogging, and wells running dry.

Our recent work examines the potential for managing these impacts in part of the San Joaquin Valley where groundwater sustainability plans were completed in 2020 as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. …

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Finding a balance between supply and demand to get to groundwater sustainability

From the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC):

“The San Joaquin Valley has begun to grapple with implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Figuring out the math of balancing water supply and demand in ways that cause the least economic harm to farmers and local economies is challenging, and difficult tradeoffs are inevitable. We talked with Emmy Cattani, a fifth-generation farmer from Kern County, about some options.

PPIC: Talk about ways that agriculture can reduce land fallowing in implementing SGMA.

EMMY CATTANI: More supply is critical. The biggest opportunity is to figure out how to capture water in big flood events, which are expected to become more common with climate change. … ”

Continue reading at the PPIC here: Finding a balance between supply and demand to get to groundwater sustainability

CA WATER COMMISSION: Merced River Watershed Flood MAR Study

Kamyar Guivetchi, Manager of DWR’s Division of Planning has often referred to Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge (or Flood MAR) as a “moon shot” for recharging depleted groundwater basins, but just how much Flood MAR can contribute to groundwater recharge in a watershed is unknown.  However, the Department of Water Resources’ Integrated Watershed Management staff is underway with a pilot study to look at the potential for Flood MAR in the Merced River watershed.

At the October meeting of the California Water Commission, Mr. Guivetchi and David Arrate, Senior Water Resources Engineer with the Department of Water Resources, gave a presentation on the study and shared some of the preliminary results.

Click here to read this article from Maven’s Notebook.

Funding a future for water in the San Joaquin Valley

From the California Water Institute:

For all of California’s problems with surface and groundwater, the one not receiving the attention it arguably deserves is the problem of funding for new infrastructure, as well as the ongoing maintenance of existing infrastructure, much of which is now old and decaying.  Nationwide, the American Water Works Association estimates that an investment of about $1 trillion in infrastructure is needed by 2035 to make sure that Americans have access to clean drinking water (Thompson 2015).  Just achieving this in California alone would require spending approximately $30 to $160 million more a year on infrastructure, which, along with flood control and ecosystem preservation, are believed to be more poorly funded than water storage infrastructure (Hanak et al. 2014).

Where will the necessary funding come from to develop, upgrade, expand, and refurbish the water infrastructure systems in the San Joaquin Valley?

Read the California Water Institute’s first in a series of reports about funding options and strategies for water infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley.  This first report, “Funding a Future for Water in the San Joaquin Valley: A Literature Review of Public Funding For Water Infrastructure” is available for review by clicking here. Special thanks to Professor Holyoke and his students in Fresno State’s College of Social Sciences for conducting this initial research effort.  We would also like to thank the generous contributions of our anonymous donor that graciously provided funding for this important work.  Stay tuned for the next reports.

Solutions to regional effort can only be made with regional input, we would like to hear your opinion! Please send any comments and or suggestions to this report to waterandsustainability@mail.fresnostate.edu.

Click here to download this report.

ELLEN HANAK: Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley

Ellen Hanak delivers four priorities for managing the implementation of SGMA in the San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley is California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply, producing more than half of the state’s agricultural output.  Irrigated agriculture is the region’s main economic driver and predominant water user.

However, the San Joaquin Valley is at a pivotal point. It is ground zero for many of California’s most difficult water management problems, including groundwater overdraft, contaminated drinking water, and declines in habitat and native species.  The Valley has high rates of unemployment and pockets of extreme poverty, challenges that increase when the farm economy suffers.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires local water users to bring their overdrafted groundwater basins into balance by the early 2040s.  With the largest groundwater overdraft in the State, the implementation of SGMA will have a broad impact on Valley agriculture in coming years, and will likely entail fallowing of significant amounts of farmland.

Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley” is the third installment of a research project by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Water Policy Center on solutions to the San Joaquin Valley’s water challenges. Ellen Hanak is director of the PPIC Water Policy Center and a senior fellow at PPIC. At the May meeting of the California Water Commission, she discussed the findings of their research and recommendations regarding the challenges facing the San Joaquin Valley.

Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.

Newman: Groundwater recharge project shows encouraging results

“A pilot project banking groundwater in the Newman area is showing positive results.  The project is a joint effort of the Central California Irrigation District and the Del Puerto Water District, said Chris White, CCID general manager.

The site is located on 20 acres of property west of Eastin Road, within the Del Puerto Water District. … ”

Read more from Westside Connect here:  Newman: Groundwater recharge project shows encouraging results

Friant Water Authority: FWA: Strathmore flooding not the result of canal subsidence or overflow

“The Friant Water Authority Tuesday morning issued the following statement regarding the flooding in Strathmore last weekend with the hope of clearing up some possible misunderstandings as to the cause of the flooding:

“The flooding experienced in a residential neighborhood in Strathmore near the Friant-Kern Canal over the weekend is not due to overtopping of the Friant-Kern Canal’s banks — which did not occur — and is also not related to subsidence problems or conveyance restrictions on the Friant-Kern Canal, but rather to drainage from Frazier Creek. The Friant-Kern Canal’s integrity has not been compromised. … ” 

Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Friant Water Authority: FWA: Strathmore flooding not the result of canal subsidence or overflow

Madera County growers tackle water issues

“Local growers and others met last week for a triple tour of Madera County water users Friday and an on-farm groundwater recharge workshop Wednesday.

What we’re trying to do is get different types of beneficial users together so that they can listen to each other’s successes and challenges,” said county Water and Natural Resources Department director Stephanie Anagnoson about the tours.

Participants visited AgriLand Farming Company in Chowchilla, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Fairmead, and the Ellis Recharge Basin in northeast Madera. The stops were part of a special meeting of the Advisory Committee for area groundwater sustainability agencies. … ”

Read more from the Madera Tribune here:  Madera County growers tackle water issues