Implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

Groundwater Sacramento Valley sliderbox #
Panel at the California Water Law Symposium explores the issues and potential conflicts around implementation of groundwater management at the local agency level

In the face of severe ongoing drought, many farmers and communities have turned to groundwater basins to supplement or replace their unavailable surface water supplies,. with disastrous results in some cases.  Over-pumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, caused wells to run dry, and the resultant land subsidence in some areas has caused roads, bridges, and other infrastructure to be damaged.

To address these challenges, California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014, providing a regulatory framework for sustainable groundwater management for the first time in the state’s history.  The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, focuses on local control of groundwater basins, but providing a state backstop should sustainable management on the local level not occur.

At the 2016 California Water Law Symposium, Nathan Metcalf, a partner with Hanson Bridgett, moderated a panel discussion with Erik Ekdahl of the State Water Resources Control Board; Michael Frantz with the Turlock Irrigation District; and Laurel Firestone with the Community Water Center.

Here’s what they had to say.

Nathan Metcalf kicked off the panel by noting how the last three years have been the hottest and driest in the state’s recorded history. “It’s also the historically been a very bad drought, and as the tree ring data shows, it’s the driest four year stretch in a thousand years,” he said. “It’s the drought that got us over the hurdle as far as groundwater management legislation goes. California’s been trying for a long time; the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was really the first.”

California is the only western state that doesn’t have some sort of management system for its groundwater,” he said. “Generally there’s no permit required for extracting groundwater, and unless you are a county agency that has legislative authority or adjudicated basin, it’s generally a free for all when it comes to groundwater. … What happens during a drought when there’s not a lot of surface water, people that do have groundwater start pulling from groundwater and we’ve seen a lot of subsidence and other groundwater issues as a result of the drought. The other issue is people in wet years are reluctant to store water in groundwater because there’s no guarantee that you’re going to be able to get your water back out that you put into the groundwater.”

On September 16, 2014, the Governor signed SGMA into law,” Mr. Metcalf said. “SGMA is the management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the plan and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results. Undesirable results are reduced groundwater storage, sea water intrusion, chronic overdraft, subsidence, and impaired quality, and those are all definitions from SGMA. It’s set up to be managed from the local level. It is state legislation, so there is some state oversight.”

Mr. Metcalf then turned it over to Erik Ekdahl from the State Water Board for the state’s perspective on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

ERIK EKDAHL, State Water Resources Control Board

Erik Ekdahl began saying he’d give a brief overview of the State Water Board’s role in sustainable groundwater management. “There is a bit more regulatory teeth to SGMA than in IRWM and some of the state’s other water management efforts, so I’ll talk about what specifically the State Water Board’s role is, because the State Water Board has that regulatory stick associated with it.”

California has had virtually no groundwater management law for the last 100 years, and then all of a sudden we have SGMA, so how did we get here?” he said. “The first thing is this clear and very significant drought. All of a sudden there was a different use of California’s groundwater resources, much more significant use and the recognition that the state really did rely on this resource in times of drought.”

Ekdahl_Page_06 The other driver is the growth in population: Shasta Dam was completed when the population of California was 8 million people; when Oroville Dam was constructed in 1972, there was about 20 million people, he said. “There have been lots of other locally derived storage projects and many groundwater banking projects, so this isn’t the only water infrastructure that California has invested in the last 40 years, but most of the big state infrastructure was developed in this period between 1944 and about 1974, about 40 to 70 years ago,” he said. “If we look at where our population is today, we’re about 38-39 million, with an estimated population of somewhere between 42 and 47 million possible at the end of the spectrum, so we’re not plumbed for this. There are different needs and different calls on what is a limited resource in the state, and the state needs to engineer their way out of this dilemma.”

Ekdahl_Page_08Lastly, there have been local drivers, such as the increase in the amount and types of crops grown in the San Joaquin Valley, particularly more permanent crops, which has led to a hardening of demand. “Those local drivers are how local entities choose to manage their land resources, and managing the resulting or consequential water needs that go a long with it.”

Ekdahl_Page_09Add all those together and what you get is a scenario where groundwater is being overused in many parts of the state,” he said. “There are significant groundwater elevation declines in many parts of the state and significant infrastructure impacts associated with that groundwater use: subsidence, sea water intrusion, overdraft in general, complete with the drought, and so the legislature decided to adopt a series of bills collectively referred to as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act or SGMA, which really focused groundwater management at the local level.

SGMA Basics

Mr. Ekdahl then briefly discussed the basics of the legislation. “SGMA requires formation of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency or GSA and the development of groundwater sustainability plans in 127 high and medium priority basins across the state,” he said. “SGMA authorizes management tools for local agencies, and those management tools include fee authorities, the ability to regulate or limit pumping at the local level, the ability to conduct monitoring studies and investigations, and to really do what they need to do at the local level within a locally derived agency to directly manage their own groundwater resources.”

SGMA also defines a time frame for accomplishing these goals of 20 years from plan adoption, which puts the SGMA finishing line at either 2040 or 2042, he said. He noted that SGMA also provides an alternative if users can show that the basin has been sustainable, and that it also creates a backstop where the State Water Board can directly step in.

Ekdahl_Page_12SGMA is based on DWR’s groundwater basin prioritization system by the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring Program or CASGEM, which devised a four tier prioritization system for groundwater basins in the state,” he said. “I want to emphasize is that this prioritization system is not an assessment of basin health. What it is is an assessment of how much groundwater is relied on in the basin, and that’s a very important distinction because people look at this and say what about these other smaller basins? … CASGEM prioritization doesn’t address that directly, it is a component of that prioritization but it wasn’t specifically intended to address overall basin health.”

The CASGEM prioritization process considered several criteria in determining a groundwater basin’s priority, including the overlying population; projected population growth; number of wells; overlying irrigated acreage; reliance on groundwater as the primary source of water; and the impacts on the groundwater, including overdraft, subsidence, saline intrusion, and other water quality degradation. “SGMA applies to the high and medium priority basins and there are 127 of them, essentially all of the Central Valley, most of Southern California, and most of the Central Coast,” he said. “The low and very low basins are typically the high desert and the north coast region where there is a bunch of tiny little basins that are generally very low priority.”

The key timelines for SGMA:

  • Basins designated as high or medium priority are required to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies by summer of 2017.Those can be comprised of one or more local agencies, but if there is more than one agency per basin, the GSAs must coordinate together,” he said.
  • Groundwater Sustainability Agencies must prepare Groundwater Sustainability Plans; basins considered in conditions of critical overdraft must complete their plan by 2020; the deadline is 2022 for all other high and medium priority basins. Groundwater sustainability plans have to include measurable objectives and include implementation milestones; there are annual reporting requirements to DWR that include data on water use, extraction, and change in storage aggregated at the GSA level, he said.

SGMA specifically defines sustainable groundwater management as management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results,” Mr. Ekdahl said. “It further defines undesirable results as one of these six things: the chronic lowering of groundwater levels, or significant and unreasonable reductions in groundwater storage, sea water intrusion, degradation of water quality, land subsidence, and interestingly, surface water depletions adversely affecting beneficial uses.”

The role of the State Water Board

Ekdahl_Page_16Mr. Ekdahl then discussed the triggers for State Water Board intervention.

After June 30, 2017, if you do not have a Groundwater Sustainability Agency that covers the entire basin, the State Water Board has the grounds to step in a directly start recording groundwater use in those unmanaged areas of the basin,” he said. “For basins in conditions of critical overdraft, the trigger is if after January 31, 2020 there is either no plan or the DWR has evaluated that plan and found the plan to be either inadequate or not being implemented correctly; this same trigger occurs in 2022 for the other priority basins that are in critical conditions of overdraft, with the added clause that in these other basins, the State Water Board needs to make an additional finding that the basin is in a condition of long-term overdraft. There is another trigger at January 31, 2025, if DWR finds that the plan is not being adequately implemented and there are significant depletions of interconnected surface waters.”

The key takeaway point is that in all of these triggering events, intervention is the result of failures by locals to create a GSA or adopt and implement a groundwater sustainability plan,” Mr. Ekdahl said. “There’s no scenario where the State Board, at least under SGMA, can decide to unilaterally step in and just start directly managing groundwater resources. There has to be a concrete triggering action first.”

The State Water Board coordinates with the Department of Water Resources throughout this whole process, he said. “SGMA sets up an interesting dynamic where the DWR is responsible for providing technical assistance, writing the regulations that govern what goes into a plan, reviewing those plans when they come in, and then deciding whether or not further intervention is needed. When that intervention is needed, the State Water Board steps in, so both agencies have to be very tightly coordinated together to actually make this program work effectively.”

In an intervention, the State Water Board has two roles: one as a data manager and one as a basin manager, Mr. Ekdahl said. “The role as data manager is specific to what I call Potentially Unmanaged Areas, or PUMAs, which are the areas that don’t have a groundwater sustainability agency,” he said. “When there’s no groundwater sustainability agency, there’s a requirement in the water code that groundwater extractors need to start directly reporting to the State Water Board, so in that circumstance, we become managers of that data. We’re looking at the data, we’re looking at the groundwater extraction levels in the basin, and we’re going to use that data to decide if we need to take eventual actions that further manage the basin so that we’re actually managing the basin at that planning level itself.”

Groundwater users in the PUMAs must name and address, the place of extraction or well location, monthly records of volume, the purpose of use, and description of place of use to the State Water Board, he said. “If we take additional steps, we can designate the basin as a probationary basin, and in those circumstances, we can actually ask for more data than just what is listed here if we can justify it.”

Ekdahl_Page_19Once we look at that data and we decide we need to take action, we need to help the locals effectively manage their own groundwater resources, and so we become effectively a basin manager,” he said. “As we manage the basin, we’ll need to set fees as we’re actually required to recover costs associated with state intervention. We’ll designate a basin as probationary; the probationary basin leads to an interim sustainability plan which is written and implemented by the State Water Resources Control Board to directly manage groundwater resources at the local level. Those interim plans manage the basin until local efforts come up to speed.”

Mr. Ekdahl said it’s hard to say at this point exactly what a State Board intervention would look like, but there are some broad guidelines. “Data-wise, you’re going to need to report the same data that you would have collected anyway, but instead of reporting it to the local level, you’re going to be reporting it to a state agency. It’s going to likely be at a higher frequency, so by statute, we’re required to record this data at the monthly level. There will be fees associated with reporting and recovery of costs; the SGMA statute specifically spells out different types of things we can recover costs for, including monitoring plans, well construction, facilitation, technical studies, and models. In addition, we will have to implement CEQA or some component of CEQA when we develop an interim plan, and presumably that cost will also be passed onto the locals.”

If we look at what the State Board has the authority and the capability of doing, SGMA specifically spells out that we can consider physical solutions, we can look at what has been locally developed in the basin, but by far, the most straightforward and direct avenue is to institute pumping restrictions,” he said. “Looking at what we do have the technical authority to do on our own, it’s unlikely that the State Water Board will develop your own physical solution for you. If the locals had something that had basically set up that is possible that the State could do that, but it’s unlikely.”

And with that, I’ll turn it over to the next speaker …

MICHAEL FRANTZ, Turlock Irrigation District

Michael Frantz, a director with the Turlock Irrigation District, then gave the perspective from the irrigation district and local implementation point of view.

Turlock Irrigation District is the oldest irrigation district in the state of California, and I want to talk to you from the perspective of a farmer, but also a governmental agency that has a long history of being wise stewards with the water which I think our track record will show,” Michael Frantz began. “I want to draw some parallels between how we use water and the water we have, and how we’re able to put it to beneficial use. I’ll also talk about SGMA and how we are where we are in the early adoption process.”

CWLSProgramPanel6_Page_09TID has 150,000 acres of irrigated land overlying about half of the subbasin. They share the Tuolumne River with the Modesto Irrigation District to the north, as well as the city and county of San Francisco. “We are a unique ag urban like partnership where millions of people, both farmers and ratepayers from the Bay Area, share a common resource,” he said.

He then discussed some of the challenges and difficulties they have had to overcome as a local agency tasked with implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Inside the Turlock groundwater subbasin, there are 20 agencies that have jurisdiction as defined by SGMA. He acknowledged that it’s overwhelming because many of the agencies have minimal communication and minimal collaboration with each other, and some are quite small and siloed. “So when we talk about implementing SGMA, and groundwater that moves down gradient across the basin, there has to be more collaboration and more cooperation, even at the local township level.”

Mr. Frantz said that the TID and others do think that SGMA is needed. “You may think of farmers often as anti-SGMA and anti-pumping restrictions, but the reality is the farming industry in general recognizes that in order to prevent the tragedy of the commons, we have to make sure that we don’t pull out more than what we can put back in during times of plenty.”

He presented a slide of the Turlock groundwater subbasin, noting that the blue represents TID’s territory, and the green is non-irrigated land to the east of their boundary. “What the slide is showing is based on sea level, the cone of depression to the east of TID’s boundaries that is a result of substantial new permanent crops that have been planted over the last 20-30 years that rely exclusively on groundwater to water their crops,” he said.

We like SGMA because of its reliance on local government governing the regulation,” he said. “We think that we know more about our subbasin than anyone else, and we think that by partnering with the local agencies inside of our subbasin, we can even be stronger and be more effective in governing what’s under our own farms and right in our backyard. And so it seems like regardless of your philosophy on government, that those who are closest to the soil and closest to the water, if their feet are held to the fire, they have the most potential to be successful when it comes to implementing complicated regulations.”

Mr. Frantz said that groundwater users in the Turlock groundwater basin have been meeting and talking about groundwater for a long time, primarily because the cities of Turlock, South Modesto, Ceres, and Hughson all rely on exclusively on groundwater, and given that several hundred thousand people depend on that groundwater, the cities have been concerned about groundwater for a very long time.

What we’re doing today is still mostly talking,” he said. “We’re meeting in accordance with the outline that SGMA and DWR has outlined, and we’re trying to come together and begin to form initially a form of governance, most likely a JPA, that allows us to begin the process of collaborating in a way that we break down barriers, but we’re still able to retain our each individual jurisdiction’s authorities. It is really challenging.”

CWLSProgramPanel6_Page_15Mr. Frantz then presented DWR’s map of critically drafted groundwater basins, noting that the basin underlying Turlock Irrigation District and the Modesto Irrigation District is not considered in critical overdraft. He explained that this is because they have some of the most senior water rights in the state and therefore have adequate supplies of surface water in most years.

In addition to having good, strong water rights, we also historically have flood irrigation,” he said. “Our districts are very old and very flat; they are some of the prime farmland in the Central Valley. Because it was cheap to irrigate using Mother Nature and using gravity, that’s the way the water was always applied. And it turns out that’s the only way you can irrigate long-term and pull out groundwater during times of shortfall is if you put plenty back in during times of plenty, and that’s what’s been done around the greater Modesto area and the maps show that.”

Flood irrigation has been the whipping child of the ag efficiency movement for a long time, because by our own admission, a portion of the water and sometimes a substantial portion of the water that would otherwise drawn up by the tree or drawn up by the crop, instead percolates down into the groundwater basin, he said. “Historically that’s been perceived as something negative because it feels like you’re wasting water, but the reality is and the facts will show that we have one of the few sustainable groundwater basins in the south half of the Central Valley.”

CWLSProgramPanel6_Page_18He then presented a slide with tables taken from their most recent ag water management plan that shows the amount of water returned to the groundwater basin each year inside TID. “It doesn’t reflect 2015,” he noted. “2015 was the first year in the last 50 that we went negative, so this is the first year, based on the lowering and lowering of our surface water allocation because of the drought, and the increase of pumping because of the need to water their crops out of the ground, that we actually pulled more water out of the ground than we put back in.”

CWLSProgramPanel6_Page_19Mr. Frantz presented a slide showing groundwater losses in the Central Valley. “It shows primarily the Tulare Lake basin, and how over time as their access to surface water via the SWP and the CVP have diminished and their groundwater pumping has increased because of the increase in crops that have been put in the south valley and how long-term, even during times of wet, they are hardly able to replenish, and the curve is quite negative – this is proof that SGMA is needed,” he said.

The north Sacramento Valley and my basin, the San Joaquin basin, are more or less stable, again because of their access to surface water. So one positive, I believe, outcome of the drought and of SGMA is the interconnection understanding of surface water and groundwater. Clearly they are tied together, the nexus is obvious, but it isn’t a conversation that has been in the public forum until recently.”

Obviously we all want to be efficient with water and we need to be efficient with water, it’s in our state constitution, but sometimes it’s easy to miss the forest through the trees,” Mr. Frantz said. “We think that what we’ve been doing all along is a beneficial use of water, and that is recharging our basin.”

CWLSProgramPanel6_Page_22The State Water Resources Control Board is charged with updating their basin plans on a regular basis, and we believe that groundwater impacts is something they have to further take into consideration, based on the changes to the water code in SGMA,” he said. “This is another competing use for water, another need beyond what was historically considered as the State Board made their basin plans. We can’t ignore groundwater anymore when we do our basin plans. We can’t keep drawing out of a source of water without admission that we have to be able to put it back in during good times.”

The Tuolomune River a tributary to the San Joaquin River, one that the current Bay Delta water quality control plan is currently revisiting. “The current proposal which is coming back out here soon from the State Water Board is potentially going to call for a substantial change in the flow regime that has historically been enjoyed by the farmers in our basin,” Mr. Frantz said. “Clearly, we all have to do our part to protect fish and wildlife, and there are a lot of additional measures, primarily non flow measures that can and should be done in the Tuolumne River, but we have to be cognizant of the impacts to groundwater when we make substantial changes to surface water use and surface water diversions.”

There are other challenges ahead for SGMA, another being how to interpret the law, Mr. Frantz said. “There are some who will hang their hat on saying that the water rights can’t be changed, and that nothing in the law will change what a farmer may or may not wish to pump; others will hang their hat on the fact that the SGMA local agency is charged with regulating groundwater,” Mr. Frantz said. “Where the rubber meets the road is how much power is the local agency going to be given? This is hotly contested, because limiting groundwater is implicit in SGMA. But the significant challenge is that there are some who will interpret the law to say that my water rights are unaltered, therefore no one can change what I do.

Going forward, how are we going to get pumping limitations established without the data to be able to definitively say what sustainable yield really is?” he said. “This is where the need for more technology comes in and more money. We are concerned that Prop 218 may limit our ability to incur fees if it can’t pass a Prop 218 hurdle. So there are challenges there on the funding side that may be a concern if we’re not able to get our need for funding to pay for data collection and pay for enforcement through a local 218.”

I want to be clear and end on the up note that we are optimistic and we believe that even now, with the initial conversations we’ve had, that we are confident that local control is still the solution,” Mr. Frantz said. “The bottom line is, the stakes keep bigger; our water needs continue to increase, and the state has a finite pool of water. The Governor’s been good to call for additional storage whether it’s above ground or below ground, whether it’s desal, whether its recycling, so we really have to expand our pot.”

If you look at Southern California and their adjudication processes, the way they got it done was by bringing in additional surface waters from the north,” he continued. “Were it not for the increased water supplies, likely the settlements that happened in Southern California never would have happened. So it’s my perspective that we’re going to need water markets where farmers can more readily trade water from farmer to farmer and possibly region to region in order to promote sustainability and keep their farms viable, but also we’re going to need to have additional water supplies in order to keep the pool from being chopped up in so many ways that nobody wins, environment included.”

Thank you.

LAUREL FIRESTONE, Community Water Center

WLS_SGMA_Presentation2016_Page_1Laurel Firestone, co-founder and co-director of the Community Water Center then provided perspective on the environmental justice and stakeholder aspects of SGMA implementation.

The Community Water Center is an environmental justice organization based in the San Joaquin Valley the works with some of the most disadvantaged communities in the state. “I’ve been working for over a decade with communities that lack access to safe drinking water every day,” Ms. Firestone said. “This problem started before the drought and it’s gotten really acute since the drought. Our goal is to ensure that we actually achieve the human right to water in the state of California and ensure all Californians have access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water.”

“We really can’t achieve that unless we achieve a secure supply of groundwater,” she said. “Groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley is the only supply for more than 90% of the drinking water systems in the San Joaquin Valley. It’s what we have and we have to manage it and secure it in order to have this basic necessity for life in the Valley.”

WLS_SGMA_Presentation2016_Page_2The Community Water Center’s main office is in Tulare County which is really ground zero for critical overdraft, she said. “We’ve had multiple communities run out of water this year; some of which have been for over 2 years with no running water in their house because of dry wells. Whole towns have gone dry. There are hundreds of communities in the state that rely on a single well, so if anything happens to that one well, if the water level drops below where we can pump, they have no supply at all. There’s no water at all for your basic human needs.”

Finally there’s more visibility of these challenges that existed before the drought but have gotten even more acute since, she said. “Imagine not being able to flush the toilet, take a shower, wash dishes, cook, drink without going out and hauling water from neighbors, from supermarkets, and doing that if you’re one of the poorest Californians in the state, and you have limited access to transportation and resources for your other basic human needs.”

Communities are not alone,” Ms. Firestone said. “Species are also facing extreme battles for their existence as well, as are many farmers, and local businesses who are also rely on water for their lifeblood.”

The Community Water Center is engaged locally in local SGMA implementation, participating in over twenty different local groundwater sustainability formation processes just in their area. “You would think because we’ve been doing these integrated regional water management planning and working together, that there would be a foundation there to be able to work together,” she said. “There are examples where that is probably happening smoothly, but it still hasn’t transitioned into that smooth, collaborative governance model that I think all of us would have hoped. I think the reason that some of these areas are in critical overdraft is because we haven’t been managing it; it hasn’t been working well and it’s not going to be easy to transition into a governance structure to make it work well. There’s not a shortcut to achieving that, unfortunately.

WLS_SGMA_Presentation2016_Page_6The law has requirements for stakeholder engagement, Ms. Firestone noted. “I think that really reflects this understanding that in order to successfully manage your common resource, you have to have all the diverse interests at the table to successfully implement sustainable management,” she said. “There’s substantive requirements to consider all beneficial uses and users of groundwater; there’s an explicit list of particular ones that includes and it really will depend on local conditions – who are the local beneficial uses and users of groundwater; it also includes the environment.”

There is a requirement to encourage the active engagement of the diverse number of stakeholders; the key is that the engagement has to be really meaningful. “In order to successfully manage, you have to have buy in from all the people that are going to be reporting or paying into a fee structure, that are going to have to cut back, and in order to do that, you have to help them build trust. People don’t trust things that aren’t transparent and that they can’t understand well.”

WLS_SGMA_Presentation2016_Page_7In Tulare County, they are permitting new groundwater wells in the thousands; their permitting approvals are 24-hour approval, there’s no oversight as to whether there’s a supply and that county is still struggling to even start to develop any interim groundwater ordinance,” she said. “Stanislaus County is ahead of the curve some, but most of the other San Joaquin basins are still behind. I think that there’s a growing recognition that we need to start with some interim restraint in order to have any chance of being successful of achieving sustainability, but there are a lot of folks that still aren’t there, and that’s going to be key to the success locally.”

There are also a number of other issues, such as well construction ordinances. “As we focus on supply and water supply, we have to also acknowledge how tied that is into water quality issues,” she pointed out. “A lot of the issues are in groundwater well ordinances affect water supply and quality, and this leads into some of the emerging issues that I think will be key to the success of SGMA implementation.”

Data access and transparency is going to be key to making management plans work and building trust and political will locally and there’s no shortcut, she said. “That’s a major cultural shift, especially in our area which up until recently, had to be forced just to release well logs. There’s such a fear of being transparent with data, and I think that’s going to be necessary if we’re going to actually be successful. Managing it and getting people to trust the kinds of decisions and policies that are going to have to be made. The ability to establish and secure funds locally is going to make or break the success of this as well.”

We have to better figure out how we’re going to link land use policy and water and that’s something that SGMA didn’t fully address,” she said. “There’s more work to be done there.”

Water quality is important, Ms. Firestone emphasized. “There are great examples how complex and interconnected water supply is, and when we talk about sustainable management and some of these ideas that flood irrigation is actually an effective management strategy for recharge I think is a great example,” she said. “You have to also build into that water quality issues. In a lot of these agricultural areas, you have nitrates stored in the soil from decades and decades of fertilizer application, and as we flush that through, there’s going to be pulses of nitrate coming through. It’s just a complicated resource to manage and I think it’s something we will struggle with in the coming decades as we try to manage.”

There are no easy answers. This is definitely one of the laws where we’re having to go at it the hard way and we’re just at the beginning of that,” Ms. Firestone concluded.

Discussion period highlights

An audience member questions the timeline for implementation. After going through establishing the governance, stakeholder engagement, and creating the plan, then 20 years to implement it, will there be any water left?

I’m going to respond by mangling a quote and you can look up the right one, but there’s a Leonard Bernstein quote that says two things are required for a great achievement: the first is a plan and the second is not quite enough time,” said Erik Ekdahl. “So with that in mind, yeah, I think we’ll still have water but it will be complicated and it will be maybe close in some areas, but hopefully every place will have water.

I think it will continue to be low income communities and small disadvantaged communities that are hit the hardest and unfortunately we’ll see more run out of water before that time,” said Laurel Firestone. “We are hoping for the state to recognize that it needs to be stepping in early and making sure we’re on track a lot earlier. Even now, trying to insure through its funding programs and oversight that locals are taking actions now and not waiting.”

I believe that the timeline is necessary in order to give us time to build trust in the farming community,” said Michael Frantz. “These are people whose livelihoods are staked on doing what they’ve done for a very long time, so there’s a need to build trust over time. There are some, for example San Luis Obispo and Stanislaus County, who recognize that the time is now, and we don’t have till 2042 to get it done.

The Governor I think said it best: We have to get past the fish versus farmers,” said Mr. Frantz. “Until there’s a recognition that we all have to eat … and until the farming recognizes that if the fish aren’t healthy, ultimately their farms won’t be either, so until we get beyond this logjam of fish versus farmer, we’re going to continue to be stuck in this contentious spot where nothing happens, and so I applaud the governor for his comments. We really need to do that.”

For more …

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