On March 24, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the California Environmental Protection Agency held a workshop to gather ideas, proposals and feedback on sustainable groundwater management actions.
The second panel focused on local authority, specifically the tools, authorities and incentives that are needed to manage groundwater sustainably. On this panel, Professor Leon Szeptycki, a Professor of the Practice at the Stanford Institute of the Environment and the Executive Director of Water in the West; John Sweigard, the General Manager of the Merced Irrigation District; Eric Averett, the General Manager of Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District; Supervisor Linda Seifert from Solano County on behalf of CA State Assn of Counties; and Vanessa La Piedra, Senior Water Resource Specialist from the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
Professor Leon Szeptycki, Executive Director, Water in the West, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
Professor Leon Szeptycki began by explaining that Water in the West is a program that fosters interdisciplinary research on western water issues at Stanford University. The group has done some work on comparative groundwater policy, so in his presentation he will be summarizing their work.
Rebecca Nelson, a researcher with the program, has extensively studied groundwater management plans throughout California and tried to identify what was in those plans that was positive and was working, he said. The results showed that there are a lot of different tools, authorities, and incentives that are available, and they are largely being already being used, just not all being used in the same places and at the same time, he said. “There is a diversity of local entities that some might consider chaotic, but a huge benefit of diversity is like it’s a Petri dish and these districts have been trying lots of different things, and some of them have been working.”
Mr. Szeptycki said he would identify the elements in groundwater management plans that Ms. Nelson identified, and all of these meet three criteria: they are actually in use, they are central to good groundwater management, and they utilize authorities that localities have, although they could be made clearer under existing law and more uniformly applied.
The overarching issue that the research found is that one problem with the AB 3030 plans is that there is not a clear mandate in the statute that they even be implemented, he said. “In many cases, it’s even hard to find information about the extent to which the plans have been implemented, so one overarching message is that there needs to be some clearer program, whether it’s under AB3030 or some other version of the law, where the plans actually get implemented, and that there is some follow through,” he said. “The status of the implementation of the plans needs to be assessed, reported on, and that the plans are flexible and can be changed, depending on how well things are going on the ground.”
He then listed the critical elements:
Basin management objectives must be expressed numerically. “I’m not saying the state has to tell the localities exactly what parameters they should be managing for, as every basin is different and there could be different metrics in every basin for what constituted sustainable management. The localities could be free to choose those, but it is important that the goals, whatever those metrics are, that they be expressed quantitatively or numerically.”
Groundwater planning needs to be closely linked with local land use planning decisions. “The standards and procedures in the groundwater management plan have to be linked to standards and procedures in local land use ordinances that includes both water use and demand management, and also protection of recharge areas, which is, particularly in California, critically important. Obviously the mechanics of this would have to be worked through in the law, but when local land use changes outstrip groundwater use, it puts groundwater managers in a difficult position who are then facing hardened demand.”
Local authorities need clear authority for controlling withdrawals and limiting drawdown of the groundwater basin. “The current AB 3030 law puts a priority on replenishment and alternative supply, and it only gives localities the authority of limiting extraction if they’ve found that those options – replenishment and alternative supplies are insufficient or infeasible. It’s a question of local control and what’s best for that locality, but it could be that in a given locality, demand management and controlling extraction is a better tool, and it could be in other localities that replenishment and alternative supply is a better tool, but it needs to be clear that localities have both authorities.”
Data collection. “It has to be made clear that there has to be some element of uniformity and the data has to be shared. You can’t make good decisions without good data, but more importantly, the public can’t understand the decisions that are being made unless that data is shared publicly and in an effective manner. So it’s not just that the data has to be collected, it’s not just that it has to be available, but it’s really important that the data be communicated to the public in a way that they can understand the issues facing the basin.”
Recognize the connection between surface water and groundwater. “It has to be clear that groundwater basin management objectives have to include some assessment of the effects of withdrawals on surface water. It has to also be included in any definition of sustainable yield that the groundwater withdrawals aren’t having a measurable effect on surface water.”
Protection of environmental values in groundwater dependent ecosystems. “This is closely related to the effects on surface flow, but I would suggest it should be clear that localities that have important ecosystems that are dependent on groundwater that they want to protect, that it be clear that they can build protection of those ecosystems into their basin management objectives.”
“The last thing I’ll say is that in other states that have done this, in most cases the research has shown that when groundwater supply is reliable and certain, it actually stimulates economic activity because sustainable management of groundwater is critical for economic growth in all sectors that use water,” said Mr. Szeptycki.
John Sweigard, General Manager at Merced Irrigation District
John Sweigard began by stating that the Merced Irrigation District has 45 years of conjunctive water management experience. “Our district has had a lot of success, although because of activities occurring around us, our basin has some challenges, just like every other basin,” he said.
When we talk about groundwater, we have to talk about it holistically, he said. “We have to look at surface water and groundwater interactions, we have to look at runoff and direct flow, stored water, recycled water, and we have to be allowed as local water managers to exercise the storage, both groundwater and surface water. We need to begin looking further at stormwater recharge within the allowable cultural practices for agriculture, wetlands, and refuges,” he said. “I think for this process to be successful, it needs to be science and engineering-based exercise. It’s always a challenge, but we have to try to do our best to remove the politics from this, both locally and otherwise.”
In order to manage groundwater the right way, it is necessarily a somewhat time consuming process, he said. “From an engineering perspective, you have to have a water balance – it has to be 3D, it has to identify the boundaries correctly, you have to look at groundwater and surface water interaction, you have to do monitoring to provide data to input into your model, you have to do model runs, and then you have to make decisions on how you are going to manage your basin and how you’re going to implement that management plan,” he said. “Then you have to do more monitoring, and then you have to compare your model and your management activities to see where you are and see if the assumptions were correct. You need to adjust and you need to keep moving forward towards success.”
“It’s a very deliberative process and it requires a lot of education,” he said. “We’re water managers and we discuss these issues every day; we know what we’re talking about, but generally the public does not, so I can’t stress enough that education is something that has to occur. A deliberative process with education also builds trust at the local level.”
A reasonable time frame is needed, he said. “We don’t need to rush; every basin is at a different condition. We need cooperation and coordination and these things do to take time. Trust building takes time. I think if we rush legislation, I think we’re going to put everybody into a somewhat defensive mode, at least in some basins, and that’s going to cause them to not want to work together. … Every basin is unique; there are nuances within the basins and we all have our own local political issues that are unique that we have to overcome.”
In Eastern Merced County, a group called Merced Area Groundwater Pool Interests was formed that includes Merced Irrigation District, three cities, a special district, the County, and other pumpers within the basin, he said. “We’ve got some results, but it’s taken a decade. They came up with a plan prior to my arrival, some of it sat on the shelf and some of it resulted in implemented projects that have slowed the decline of groundwater reduction in our area, but one thing that it did do as far as results is provided an opportunity to educate everybody in the basin. Although it has taken quite awhile, we’re at the point now where we have a model, we’ve all agreed upon the runs that are going to be run through the model, and after a decade, we’re still partners, we’re still talking, and we’re still working together.”
The Integrated Regional Water Management Planning process has been a good process, he said. “It has provided funding for a variety of projects in our basin. We were able to get 75% funding for a disadvantaged community drinking water project, a watershed management study, and a local stormwater capturing and spreading program. These are things that we need to continue to explore as they relate to groundwater management, and I would suggest that one thing the state could do is strengthen and increasing the funding for integrated regional water management.”
Funding is obviously needed, he said. “The state can provide assistance by continuing a lot of their grant programs through their propositions, as in my experience, those have been very helpful. I think when the funding is provided by the state, it shows that the state has some interest; the locals would obviously provide some type of effort or funding. And I think you can help basins get to where we are, and I think you can help us as a basin take the next steps that we need to take to have success.”
“I don’t want to leave here today without stressing the importance of surface water,” he said. “Without surface water in these basins under existing water rights, there’s only one answer to a lot of the things that have occurred, and that’s restrictions. Restrictions are going to have economic devastation. We’re all dealing with decisions that were made by others and we have hardened demand in these basins, both in ag and in urban, and I think we need to make sure that whatever we do doesn’t strand those investments and hurt our local economies.”
One of the most effective tools is wet year surface water, he said. “In-lieu recharge is something that we’re very proud of at MID. We do our best to get as much of our water rights in these wet surface years as we can into the basin and to get wells shut off, and quite frankly, turning wells off in years when there isn’t drought is a very good tool, not only for management, but for reducing what could be drawdown conditions. We need that surface water so we can consider above ground and below ground storage . … At the local level, we need to address infrastructure also so we can get more of that wet year water into our basins.”
“I would suggest a several step process,” he said. “The discussions about local effort are great, but at the end of the day, a lot of basin locals are going to have to make tough decisions. There’s the real possibility at the local level that the leadership may not be there, and there may be some basins that decide to punt. I think having the state there is okay as a very last resort, but I think the state needs to consider some type of middle step – a mediated process, maybe not an adjudication, but something that’s more abbreviated that still can get some results and stop decline in the areas where it is.”
“I think there’s just going to be some distrust at the local level if the state comes in too early and they are not given an opportunity to complete what they’ve started,” he said. “And finally whatever we do, this process has to stand up to legal challenges because they will come. There will be self interests and there will be folks that will be willing to take on the system because they’ve got a lot of investment, and we need to be very cognizant of that because in my experience, it’s always better to be collaborative at the local level than challenge each other and hold off efforts where we can actually make a difference.”
Eric Averett, General Manager, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District
Eric Averett began by saying that he is the General Manager for the Rosedale Rio Bravo Water Storage District, and also one of the participants in the Kern Groundwater Management Committee. The Committee has been working for three years to bring water interests within Kern County together, with the effort culminating recently with the drafting and execution of a Joint Powers Authority. “What’s interesting is when the JPA was circulated, 99% of the comments were focused on limiting the authority of the authority, and so that I thread I think will weave through the discussion today which is primarily focused on what authorities, tools and incentives are needed for us to become sustainable,” he said.
The California Water Action Plan identifies five challenges: Overdraft, land subsidence, sea water intrusion, declining ecosystems services and degraded water quality, he said, noting that overdraft, land subsidence and degraded water quality have been identified in the CASGEM reports as impacts in Kern County groundwater basins.
“Sustainable means different things to different people, and while the word has yet to be defined in the context of legislation, these provide us a good understanding of what people are looking for when they discuss sustainability,” he said. “I would note that fundamentally the sustainability of a basin is, by a large measure, gauged by the balance of supply and demand. In fact, I would argue that land subsidence, sea water intrusion, declining ecosystems and degraded water quality are the symptoms of overdraft.”
“First let me talk about responsibility with authority,” he said. “The California Water Action Plan calls for legislation that gives local and regional agencies comprehensive authority to address groundwater challenges. That authority must exist within the local level and it must be able to be implemented in a way that overcomes a lot of the distrust that local water agencies have. We worked for three years collaboratively, but yet when it came time to actually take action, there was a lot of concern about who had that authority and how it would be exercised.”
The existing authorities that we have are very limited, he said. “In fact, most of them reside within land use planning agencies such as the County to issue well permits and other land use activities,” he said. “Water districts have really very limited authority with respect to groundwater management.”
“We do have a number of tools however,” he said. “The CASGEM information is a tool that water districts and groundwater management planning entities can use to understand where their basin is, and also, groundwater management planning acts such as the AB 3030 and SB 1938 are also tools as well as the IRWMP process. However, these are primarily monitoring and reporting focused; they don’t actually allow us to get in there and address and resolve challenges within the basins.”
“And then finally, we do have some incentives through grant funding,” he added.
With respect to what’s needed, we need some authorities that currently do not exist to provide some level or measure of local control, he said.
A connection between the land use planning entities and the groundwater management planning entity: “The ability to have a will-serve approach to well permits where there is that connection and the coordination between the two different entities.”
Groundwater metering: “We need the ability to quantify the amount of groundwater used; however, while this is critical, we should all look towards alternatives, such as satellite based imaging and other tools which can be functionally equivalent and yet cost significantly less.”
Demand management: “I hate to say that because that basically is limitations on pumping. It must be however one of the authorities given to the local agencies. Without the ability to limit extractions, there is no ability to reduce demand if and when necessary.”
Data collection and reporting. “While this is linked to metering, it extends to other items such as water quality. Local agencies will need the authority to collect and report groundwater quality as well as quantity data to understand the current and future conditions of their basins.”
The ability to assess fees: “I think this represents one of the more significant challenges. Absent the ability or the authority of a local agency to raise or collect fees, then the state will be required to backstop all funding requirements. As I am sure we are all aware, there are a number of issues pertaining to 218 elections and the local agency’s ability to generate revenues.”
Enforcement authority: “The ability to actually enforce those provisions that the local agency will need to implement in order to achieve a sustainable basin.”
“Local agencies will be coming to this issue with a wide range of issues as well as expertise,” said Mr. Averett. “While there are many examples where local agencies have been able to actively manage their basin, others will have very little practical experience with most if not all of the issues raised. The tools that are needed should be developed to reflect the diversity of the organizations or entities that do step forward to manage their basins. The tools, in essence, are primarily driven by technical support and assistance … maybe a list of protocols and approaches that a local agency can select from in order to achieve their sustainability goals and objectives. Those could include measuring complex interaction between surface activities and then mapping that to inform and to inventory groundwater resources and aquifer parameters.”
Increased monitoring, building upon the concept of CASGEM with clearly defined requirements for local control, he said. “This will allow us to focus our resources where needed and direct what we are managing towards. Groundwater modeling is an excellent tool, but yet those models are not necessarily available in all of the basins, so there’s going to be technical expertise and tools that will be needed for those.”
“There are 515 groundwater basins within the state and we don’t need to create a new wheel for each one,” he said. “Perhaps the locals just to get to decide how many spokes or what the spokes look like on the wheel, but there should be a standardized template that’s available for people to choose from.”
“One of the biggest challenges I see is the ability to convince local interests that local control is better than a state backstop or an adjudication,” he said. “Local control when compared to the alternatives should be a more attractive option, but currently, any backstop is intangible. As a local water manager, going forward with a group and saying we should develop a local entity to manage the groundwater basin, the first question that the water interests ask is what is the alternative and is this better. Before we push them into the loving embrace of the state board, we should understand what that is.”
Technical support is critical, he said. There are some basins that have limited technical or financial resources, and in addition, many of them have local groundwater pumpers that are outside of any organized district or entity creates additional challenges trying to bring local control to the table, he said.
Funding is critical to accomplishing the goal, and it should be the primary carrot, he said. “Allow funding to be delegated to the local entities with the expectation that they would use that funding to achieve and manage their basins sustainably,” he said.
“State water policy must be part of a groundwater sustainability discussion,” Mr. Averett said. “Groundwater and surface water are an interconnected single resource, and in Kern County groundwater impacts that we see are a symptom of surface supply reduction. And finally, limitations on groundwater pumping will be economically devastating for many areas. With respect to solutions in groundwater management, we should focus on both supply restoration as well as demand management.”
Linda Siefert, on behalf of the California State Association of Counties
Linda Siefert began by noting that she is the Chair of the Solano County Board of Supervisors, as well as the Chair the Ag and Natural Resources Committee for California State Association of Counties (CSAC), the latter of whom she is testifying on behalf of today. “Counties do have a firsthand understanding of the current challenges facing all of our citizens as it relates to addressing water issues in general, and certainly groundwater has its own set of unique challenges.”
CSAC conducted a survey of the 58 counties to collect their thoughts with regards to groundwater management, she said, noting that 25 counties responded. “First of all, the survey said that counties are saying that groundwater resources are clearly best managed at the local level. Each area is unique and one of the things that was real clear was that that one size does not fit all and that there are really very some unique circumstances that are different depending upon locale.”
“The second takeaway from the survey was that to really maintain and protect our groundwater resources, we really must have expanded and adequate surface water availability and that the interconnection between the two of them really can’t be ignored,” she said. “In addition, the survey does mention the need for a stable source of funding, a stable source of technical assistance and a clarification of county authority.”
Regarding funding, the survey results showed a consensus among both small and large counties regarding the need for fiscal assistance to support and update technology to improve data gathering locally and for management and analysis, she said, noting that they also expressed support for investment in existing and new grant programs and integrated water management planning efforts. “Prop 218 presents a major impediment for local agencies who are attempting to pay for improved groundwater management actions,” she said.
“We also want to emphasize the frustration that’s been expressed by counties regarding the numerous strings that are attached to existing financial mechanisms and existing grant programming,” Ms. Siefert said. “While counties appreciate and understand the need for safeguards, we urge you to simplify the processes and to expand and to embrace the need for flexibility and creativity by applicants. Keep in mind that some processes will work for larger jurisdictions but for small and rural counties, it becomes nearly impossible to submit applications and to qualify for funding, so some consideration should really be given to allocating funding based upon the needs of specific jurisdictions.”
On issue of technical assistance, one of the reasons that some areas have been able to advance groundwater management is because the technical assistance has been provided by the state, such as the technical information on local and regional hydrology, monitoring, technical review and guidance, she said. “One survey respondent captured the overarching theme of county comments on the topic of technical and financial assistance and this is what that person wrote: ‘It is difficult to develop this science-based information needed to garner public support and the local political will to address groundwater issues and fund groundwater programs. Technical and financial assistance by the state can help advance local understanding of groundwater conditions and convey the importance of groundwater management to local stakeholders and decision makers.’”
The counties were asked what new or modified statutory administrative authorities they needed to manage groundwater more effectively, Ms. Siefert said. “There have been a wide array of comments and ideas expressed regarding the enhancement of local authority, and those fall into the following categories: existing governance structures must be respected; there is the need to clarify county authority to perform activities such as allocating groundwater or controlling pumping and accessing groundwater or well information, and finally to collect fees for such activities like under the Prop 218 issues. And then the need to provide appropriate protection from liability for any agency responsible for groundwater management that undertakes the process to limit and/or restrict groundwater extraction in an overdrafted basin.”
“So those are a few of the highlights from the survey and I will take a minute to talk about what’s happening in Solano County,” Ms. Siefert said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and so with that in mind, let me give you a quick overview of what we do in my county.”
In Solano County, there is a collaborative groundwater management process that includes virtually all of the local agencies, she said. “Our collaborative spirit is truly demonstrated by the fact that our Solano County Water Agency board is composed of all the members of the Board of Supervisors, the mayors of all seven cities, and the directors of our three irrigation districts, so we do have all of our water users represented in a single place,” she said.
“We do have abundant surface water resources so groundwater can be used sustainability and is coordinated with our surface water supplies,” she said. “We do not have the geology to directly recharge groundwater basins through groundwater recharge ponds so we must and do carefully monitor groundwater levels and their use.”
“The Solano County Water Agency (SCWA) coordinates the groundwater monitoring research and reporting, and the cities and the districts that pump groundwater are all involved with our groundwater activities,” she said. “While long term monitoring shows that our groundwater levels are not declining, we’re currently investigating if those groundwater basins can be used more in the future as our water demands increase. SCWA also funds our geotechnical studies of the groundwater basins and has installed groundwater monitoring wells and land subsidence monitors.”
“SCWA has sponsored a pilot groundwater conjunctive use project where agricultural districts pump groundwater instead of using their surface water and transfer the unused surface water to cities,” she said. “This type of program could be expanded if groundwater needs increase in the future. We also have received state grants to do research on groundwater basins and to study conjunctive use on groundwater.”
“Those are the practices that we undertake in Solano County and are satisfied that we are serving our constituents very well in that regard,” Ms. Siefert concluded.
Vanessa La Piedra, Senior Water Resource Specialist with Santa Clara Valley Water District
Vanessa La Piedra began by noting that the Santa Clara Valley Water District is the groundwater management agency, treated water wholesaler and watershed steward for the 1.8 million residents of Silicon Valley. The District is a special district formed in 1929 to address groundwater overdraft and land subsidence that totaled over 13 feet in downtown San Jose, she said. “For more than 80 years, our water supply strategy has been to maximize reliability through conjunctive water management. We depend on groundwater to meet nearly half of our annual water needs and we manage our basins to be the primary reserve during droughts, so in years like this, we’re drawing even more heavily on our basins,” she said.
“Our success in sustainably managing groundwater basins is based on a strong local framework and key authorities and tools available to us are, first and foremost, the authority to implement and fund conjunctive water management projects,” she said. “Additional tools are clear basin management goals and adequate to data to assess basin conditions.”
“Our district act gives us the statutory authority to protect and augment groundwater resources and to levy groundwater production charges to fund related efforts, and with the support of the community, we’ve made significant investments in groundwater replenishment and also in in-lieu groundwater recharge through the provision of treated water supplies and also through water conservation and recycling programs,” said Ms. La Piedra. “Together, those efforts have had a dramatic effect in restoring groundwater storage and halting permanent land subsidence in our County.”
There are clear basin management objectives which are derived from the district act as well as the Board of Directors policies, she said. The Board has adopted a groundwater management plan which identifies the local basin management objectives as well as sustainable targets for groundwater storage, groundwater quality, and land subsidence, she said, noting that it is updated every 5 years.
“In order to measure our performance against those objectives, we need to have a good understanding of basin conditions, and be able to evaluate changes to the basin, so to that end we conduct extensive monitoring of water levels, groundwater quality and land subsidence, and we monitor hundreds of wells throughout our County every year,” she said. “We meter water use and we also measure managed recharge which allows us to evaluate our groundwater budget. We use groundwater models to be able to forecast water levels and groundwater storage under various water supply scenario and different hydrologies, and that’s a very helpful tool that we use very often and more so in years like this.”
Basin conditions are regularly assessed in relation to the plan targets to assess whether the programs are working as expected, or if they need to be modified, or new programs put in place, she said. These assessments also inform our operational decisions, she noted. “An example of that is in our water shortage contingency plan, the stages for various demand reduction measures are based on the projected end of year groundwater storage,” she said.
“With regard to groundwater quality, we have the authority to implement a well ordinance program,” she said. “We register and permit new wells and also permit the destruction of wells, and that’s a way for us to ensure that those activities are done in way that won’t impair drinking water aquifers. We work closely with local water retailers and basin stakeholders and we make information on basin conditions readily available to the public through reports and other data that is accessible through our website.”
These are just a few examples of some of the authorities and tools that have served us well in Santa Clara County.
“In terms of additional tools that would be helpful, one would be the ability allocate or influence pumping through fees, particularly during dry years,” she said. “This can include financial disincentives for pumping above allocated amounts, potentially with those funds going towards securing additional water supplies if they are available or funding programs to reduce demands on the basin such as conservation and recycling.”
“Opportunities to increase conjunctive management are key to protecting against overdraft and addressing droughts, climate change, and other risks, and local agencies need adequate tools and funding to secure supplemental water supplies and implement projects to either add water to the basin using raw water or recycled water, or to reduce demands again through conservation and recycling,” she said. “The state can support these efforts by reducing barriers to the implementation to those types of projects and by providing technical assistance and funding.”
“An improved statewide water system including long term resolution of Delta ecosystem and conveyance constraints and completion of state and regional storage projects would also support more sustainable groundwater management by furthering conjunctive use,” she added.
“We concur that a one size fits all approach isn’t appropriate for groundwater management and that it is best addressed at the local level, and maintaining the flexibility for local agencies to manage groundwater for local conditions and stakeholder interests is key,” said Ms. La Piedra. “Existing authority and tools have resulted in well managed basins in many areas and we can build upon these approaches to further sustainable groundwater management throughout the state.”
Discussion highlights …
John Sweigard: “I think one of the questions is who is going to lead in each basin. In our basin, we look at ourselves as leaders in water management, but other folks may not necessarily see it that way. We’re holistic in our conjunctive program, we’re a net positive on the aquifer, but because of other activities around us, the aquifer still suffers a bit, so we’re working towards a cooperative relationship … ”
John Sweigard: “These basins didn’t’ get to their conditions overnight, it took awhile, and I would suggest a 5 or 6 year time frame would be appropriate. It may sound like a long time but again, there are a lot of educational and political obstacles at the local level that have to be overcome.”
Eric Averett: “It pains me greatly to say this, but there is a template that I think which should maybe be looked at which is the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program which created an incentive for those who were willing to step forward and address the issue and it allowed the backstop for those who weren’t – it pains me greatly to say that, but I think we need to have a structure that acknowledges and rewards those that come to the table and say we’re willing to do our part, and it doesn’t penalize them if some one or two entities in the basin choose not to. So we need to make sure to balance that.”
Coming tomorrow …
Ellen Hanak with the Public Policy Institute of California, Michael Markus with the Orange County Water District, Dave Bolland with the Association of California Water Agencies, and Robert Reeb, Exective Director of the Valley Ag Water Coalition discuss the key financing mechanisms for groundwater management, as well as the barriers and potential solutions to those barriers.