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

“All Hands on Deck” Approach Needed to Manage Growing Water Stress in the San Joaquin Valley

New report finds at least half a million acres of farmland will need to be fallowed to balance groundwater use with supply

The San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region and an important contributor to the nation’s food supply, is on the brink of a major transition as it seeks to balance its groundwater accounts.

Implementing the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act—which requires overdrafted groundwater basins to achieve balance between supply and demand by the 2040s—will bring great change to the valley’s agricultural sector, regional land use, and the local economy.

The pace of groundwater pumping accelerated during the 2012–16 drought. Over the past three decades, the valley’s annual groundwater deficit has averaged nearly 2 million acre-feet—or about one Don Pedro Reservoir’s worth of water a year.

Only about a quarter of this deficit can be filled with new supplies at prices farmers can afford. Ending overdraft could require taking at least 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland out of production.

These are among the key findings of a report released today by the PPIC Water Policy Center.

The new report breaks the issues into three key areas and presents priority actions for tackling them: balancing water supply and demand, addressing groundwater quality challenges, and fostering beneficial solutions to water and landuse transitions.

“The large and complex scope of the changes coming to the valley will require cooperative solutions that bring multiple benefits and get more ‘pop per drop’ from scarce water supplies,” said Ellen Hanak, director of the PPIC Water Policy Center and a coauthor of the report.

One promising solution is to increase water trading, which can significantly reduce the impacts of ending groundwater overdraft by allowing farmers to maintain the crops that generate the most revenue and jobs. If farmers can freely trade water within their basin, it will reduce the costs of this transition by nearly half. And if they can also trade more broadly across the region, it will cut their costs by nearly two-thirds.

In addition to water shortages, the valley must respond to serious water quality problems. More than 100 rural communities have persistently contaminated tap water. Valley farmers must also meet new requirements for protecting groundwater from the buildup of nitrate and salts. The most promising tool for augmenting supplies—groundwater recharge—poses some tradeoffs with water quality goals if not managed properly.

“The solutions to the valley’s water quality problems don’t fall neatly into traditional political and institutional boundaries―and with 120 new groundwater agencies, it’s gotten even more complex,” said Sarge Green, a coauthor of the report and director of the Center for Irrigation Technology at Fresno State. “Many players will need to be involved in devising long-term solutions to these complex problems.”

The lands fallowed to achieve groundwater balance could be converted to uses such as solar energy, groundwater recharge, and restored habitat. Getting the greatest benefit from idled lands will require new levels of planning and cooperation.

Governor Newsom focused on the valley’s groundwater, water quality, and poverty problems in his recent State of the State speech and included funds to address safe drinking water problems in his first budget.

The PPIC report recommends key areas where state leadership could help—including providing clarity on how much water is available for recharge, establishing a reliable funding source for safe drinking water challenges, and supporting broad planning processes, among others.

“Leadership from state and federal partners will be critical,” said Hanak. “But the valley’s future is in the hands of its residents. The stakes are high—but the costs of inaction are higher.”

The report, Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley, was supported with funding from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the TomKat Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Water Foundation. In addition to Hanak and Green, it was authored by Alvar Escriva-Bou, a research fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Brian Gray, a senior fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Thomas Harter, the Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair in Water Management and Policy at UC Davis; Jelena Jezdimirovic, a research associate at the PPIC Water Policy Center; Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis; Josué Medellín-Azuara, associate professor at UC Merced; Peter Moyle, associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis; and Nathaniel Seavy, a research director at Point Blue Conservation Science. A public event on the report’s findings will take place at Fresno State on February 22.

PPIC Seminar Fresno State February 22, 2019

Coverage by Don Wright, Water Wrights:

“The Public Policy Institute of California held a seminar on Friday, February 22, 2019 at California State University Fresno’s Satellite Student Union. “Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley” was the title of the day’s event. This is also the title of the report prepared by PPIC and FSU.

Things kicked off at 8:30am with delicious sausage, egg and cheese English muffin sandwiches and fresh pastries with coffee and orange juice. Why even mention this? I go to a lot of meetings and I notice when folks start with a decent breakfast the day really does go better. PPIC has a reputation for staging pretty good shows and starting with good food really tied the “ag thing” together. They did something right because the room was packed with folks standing in the aisles. There were more than 300 people is my guess. … “

Click here to continue reading at Water Wrights:  PPIC Seminar Fresno State February 22, 2019

Acampo vineyard flooded in experiment to recharge aquifer

From the Stockton Record:

 “The setting was a 14-acre grape vineyard, but the mismatched background noise was that of a babbling brook.  The roots of some of the old-vine Zinfandel plants were submerged in foot-deep water pumped in from the Mokelumne River, a half-mile away. Other old-vine Zinfandel plants were bone dry.

A science experiment being conducted by the nonprofit Sustainable Conservation is taking place on land owned by 81-year-old farmer Al Costa, an enthusiastic participant. … ”

Read more from the Stockton Record here:  Acampo vineyard flooded in experiment to recharge aquifer

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

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

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

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

Groundwater loss prompts more California land sinking

From the Cornell University Chronicle:

“Despite higher-than-normal amounts of rain in early 2017, the large agricultural and metropolitan communities that rely on groundwater in central California experienced only a short respite from an ongoing drought.

When the rain stopped, drought conditions returned and the ground has continued to sink, by up to a half-meter annually, according to a new Cornell study in Science Advances. … “

Read more at the Cornell Chronicle:  Groundwater loss prompts more California land sinking

New groundwater rules hurting ag land prices

From the Business Journal:

“Groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) in Tulare, Fresno, Kings and Kern counties have until 2020 to develop plans for long-term viability of their regions’ supplies.  In other California counties where state officials deem the groundwater overdraft problem less critical, their GSAs will have until 2022 to finalize their plans.

Once those plans are done, the various groups will have 20 years to implement them, with a common goal of halting in their areas the overdraft of groundwater.

The law requiring these plans, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), already is having a big effect on prices for agricultural land, particularly in the areas from Madera County down to Kern county, where some of the most severe over drafting in the state commonly occurs. … “

Read more from The Business Journal by clicking here.