News Worth Noting: New Groundwater Sustainability Plan regulations released; Agencies sign MOU for Yolo Byapss flood and habitat projects; Notice of probable curtailment of permits and licenses subject to term 91; Metropolitan rescinds mandatory restrictions
New Regulations Will Guide the Sustainable Groundwater Management Plans of California Communities
From the Department of Water Resources:
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today released proposed regulations that will guide local groundwater sustainability agency management and regulation of California’s groundwater basins as outlined in the historic Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) enacted by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 2014. Improving Sustainable Groundwater Management is also a key element of the California Water Action Plan. These regulations will move California toward successful implementation of SGMA and more sustainable management of our groundwater resources.
Legislatively mandated to adopt the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Regulations by June 1, 2016, DWR today posted the GSP Regulations on its website in advance of presenting them to the California Water Commission at its May 18, 2016 meeting. The proposed regulations can be found here: http://www.water.ca.gov/groundwater/sgm/index.cfm.
From the outset, the SGMA was intended to recognize that groundwater is best managed on the local level and that each groundwater basin has unique characteristics and challenges. An inherently technical and complex task, managing groundwater requires regulations that can address the goal of sustainability across such a geologically and hydrologically diverse state as California.
These proposed regulations reflect DWR’s responsibility under SGMA. DWR must evaluate the development and implementation of GSPs, alternatives, and coordination agreements by local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies or Local Agencies. The regulations cover such provisions as technical and reporting standards, sustainable management criteria, monitoring, evaluation and assessment, and plan amendments.
The proposed GSP regulations are the result of extensive public engagement and reflect the wide variety of perspectives provided by numerous advisory groups and statewide stakeholders, the general public, the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Water Commission. Throughout 2015 and 2016, DWR regularly met with more than a dozen SGMA advisory groups, conducted public meetings and webinars across the state, published issue papers to educate the public on the issues, prompt public discussion and gather feedback.
Groundwater is vital to California and supplies over a third of the water Californians use, and as much as 60% or more in some areas during times of drought. SGMA requires local agencies to draft plans to bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge (Water Code §10733.2) which will help prepare communities for a changing climate and future droughts. High and medium priority groundwater basins identified as critically over-drafted must be managed under GSPs, adjudications, or alternatives by January 31, 2020. All other high and medium priority basins must be managed under a GSP by January 31, 2022. DWR offers technical and financial assistance to help local agencies develop their plans.
In some parts of the San Joaquin Valley, groundwater levels are reaching record lows—up to 100 feet lower than previous records. In August 2015, the Department of Water Resources released a new NASA report showing land in the San Joaquin Valley sinking faster than ever before, nearly two inches per month in some locations. Continued extensive groundwater pumping puts nearby infrastructure at greater risk of costly damage.
For more information regarding California’s groundwater please visit: http://www.water.ca.gov/groundwater/index.cfm
Agencies Agree to Coordinate on Flood and Habitat Projects in the Yolo Bypass Region
15 Separate Agencies Agree to Synchronize Efforts for Sake of Wildlife, Flood Risk Reduction, Agriculture, Water Supply, and Recreation
From the California Natural Resources Agency:
Fifteen branches of federal, state, and local government have agreed to work together on planning and projects in the Yolo Bypass and Cache Slough region in order to restore wildlife habitat, better manage floods, preserve farmland, improve water supply and quality, and provide economic development and recreation.
This partnership, formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding signed this month, will provide strategic input on the implementation of projects that include strengthening and setting back levees, removing barriers to fish passage, sustaining agricultural operations, and making it easier for salmon to rear on the Sacramento River floodplain. The MOU helps coordinate and synchronize efforts of 15 separate federal, state and local agencies in the Yolo Bypass, a 92-square-mile swath of farmland and wetlands that serves as a flood safety valve to protect the cities of Davis, Woodland, West Sacramento, and Sacramento, as well as important agricultural lands and several small communities. Designed in the early 1900s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in collaboration with the State of California, the 41-mile-long Yolo Bypass can carry four times the flow of the Sacramento River.
The Sacramento River once seasonally spilled across much of the Sacramento Valley, creating rich wildlife habitat, recharging groundwater, and providing abundant food for young fish. Today the river is bound by levees, but the Yolo Bypass still operates most winters as a floodplain, carrying floodwaters from the river in a wide channel that stretches from Knights Landing to Rio Vista. The Bypass safely deposits as much as half a million cubic feet per second of flow into the mouth of the Sacramento River in the western Delta. Besides helping to protect cities and rural communities from dangerously high flood flows, the Yolo Bypass supports abundant waterfowl and fish and offers good opportunities for habitat restoration. Most of the Bypass is privately owned and farmed, and the state holds easements that allow for regular flooding of the land. The state-owned Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area between Davis and Sacramento is popular with birdwatchers, hunters, and educational groups.
Efforts are underway in the Bypass to better mimic the river’s natural floodplains by allowing more water on the Bypass for longer periods of time. Studies show that the shallow flooding of the Bypass boosts production of food for salmon and other native fish. Other potential efforts include enhancing seasonal floodplain habitat, improving levees for regional flood management, and removing barriers to help adult and juvenile fish return from the floodplain to the river.
“The Yolo Bypass was built generations ago primarily to provide public safety protection to the greater Sacramento area,” said California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird. “Over time, there has been a greater appreciation for its role in meeting other needs as well. Working together with everyone’s interests in mind, this agreement can move the role of the Bypass to the next level – for flood protection, wildlife habitat, and the agricultural economy.”
“The intent of this MOU truly echoes the US Army Corps of Engineers’ focus on Integrated Water Resource Management,” said Sacramento District Command Col. Michael Farrell. “We can only achieve success by considering the plans and viewpoints of all other stakeholders in the watershed, and look forward to further collaboration on a long-term vision for the Yolo Bypass.”
“We are very pleased to take part in the signing of this agreement. It affirms a commitment to collaboration and aligns efforts across agencies to achieve outcomes that will help us improve flood conveyance, economic development, habitat, water quality and more in the Yolo Bypass and Cache Slough region,” said Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Regional Director David G. Murillo.
“Local agencies have been working hard to coordinate our efforts in the Yolo Bypass and Cache Slough region for a long time,” said Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza. “We welcome this opportunity to grow the conversation by working more closely with our state and federal agency partners.”
“This is exactly the kind of interagency partnership that is necessary to move forward in achieving flood protection, local economic sustainability, and the State’s coequal goals of habitat restoration and water supply reliability,” said Randy Fiorini, chair of the Delta Stewardship Council.
The parties to the non-binding, 10-year MOU recognize one another’s missions and authorizations and commit to greater collaboration and communication regarding federal, state and local actions — two critical ingredients for success in a landscape that provides so many benefits. The signatories are the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Natural Resources Agency, California Department of Water Resources, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Central Valley Flood Protection Board, State Water Resources Control Board, Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, Yolo County, Solano County, Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, Solano County Water Agency, and Reclamation District No. 2068.
A copy of the MOU is available here: http://resources.ca.gov/docs/160510-Memorandum_of_Understanding.pdf
Notice of probable curtailment of permits and licenses subject to term 91
From the State Water Resources Control Board:
The Division of Water Rights (Division) is giving this advance notice to advise affected diverters of the probability of a curtailment, if weather conditions remain on their current pattern. In the past, the Division issued a notice with the projected date when Term 91 curtailment would occur. However, storm events or drier weather conditions can quickly alter the date when notice of curtailment is actually required. To provide more timely information on potential curtailments under Term 91, the Division provides information on its drought web page. The web page is regularly updated to provide important information related to the availability of water. The address for the drought web page is:
The complex calculations to determine when Term 91 may go into effect are simplified in a graph that may be accessed from the following web page:
Upon an actual notice of curtailment from the Division, Term 91 requires that you cease diverting water under your permit or license when the Projects are releasing Supplemental Project Water (SPW) to achieve Delta water quality objectives and the Delta is in balanced condition. That SPW condition is depicted on the Term 91 Graph when SPW (shown in blue) turns positive (crosses the black dotted line). The graphic depiction is accompanied by a Delta Condition Status box showing when the Delta is in balanced or excess condition. Curtailments under Term 91 may go into effect when SPW is positive and the Delta is in balanced condition.
(Maven note: Term 91 is a provision included in many water permits issued by the State Water Resources Control Board that restricts specified post-1965 permittees from diverting water released by the SWP and the CVP into the Delta when natural and abandoned flows are insufficient to meet water quality standards and the water projects are supplementing flows with previously stored water to meet those standards. The primary intent of the provision is to ensure that water from the water projects that is being released to meet water quality standards is not diverted for other uses, thereby allowing the water to flow through the Delta to improve water quality.)
Improved supply conditions, reduced demand allows Metropolitan’s Board to rescind mandatory restrictions
Board declares Water Supply Alert asking for continued wise water use
From the Metropolitan Water District:
Lower demands achieved through the region’s water-saving efforts and improved supply conditions, particularly in Northern California, enabled the Southland’s largest imported water provider today to roll back mandatory water restrictions that were instituted last summer.
Metropolitan Water District’s Board of Directors, however, voted to maintain a Water Supply Alert calling for continued awareness and reinforced conservation throughout the district’s 5,200-square-mile service area.
“We join our member agencies and retailers throughout the region in thanking consumers for their continued water-saving efforts in response to the record drought. The fact is that we would not be taking this action today were it not for the public’s support and diligence,” said Metropolitan board Chairman Randy Record.
While Record called the board’s action a welcome reprieve from the shortage conditions the region has dealt with the last few years, he warned that Southern Californians cannot become complacent about using water wisely.
“Not only will continued conservation be necessary to replenish and maintain our storage reserves, sustaining wise water use remains as essential as ever,” he said. “Our long-term reliability plans revolve around the need to continue lowering demands through water use efficiencies.”
Metropolitan’s board action follows Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest executive order Monday to permanently harden certain conservation rules and the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed changes to emergency drought rules affecting the state’s retail water agencies.
Along with the water-saving response, Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said the decision to lift mandatory restrictions was made possible by supply improvements aided by this season’s storms. Although much-anticipated El Niño conditions never materialized in Southern California, the story was different in Northern California, where rain and snow in the Sierra was near normal.
As a result of the improved hydrologic conditions, Metropolitan’s allocation for State Water Project supplies stands at 60 percent, more than the last three years combined. The SWP typically provides about a third of Southern California’s water.
After drawing down its reserves since 2012 to meet demands, Kightlinger said the district plans to store water for the first time in four years. The district anticipates storing in the range of 400,000 acre-feet of water this year. (An acre-foot of water is nearly 326,000 gallons, about the amount used by two typical Southland households in a year.)
“We might be able to breathe a little easier since the severity of the drought has eased, but we all need to hold tight to the smart conservation practices we’ve adopted, like planting California Friendly™ landscaping, washing only full loads of laundry, fixing leaks, taking shorter showers and installing water-efficient devices,” Kightlinger said.
In the face of unmatched drought conditions—after the driest year on record in 2013, the hottest year on record in 2014 and the lowest Sierra snowpack ever recorded in 2015—Metropolitan began restricting wholesale deliveries to its 26 member public agencies last July to help save water and stretch available supplies. The cutback amounted to a 15 percent reduction in supplies and included stiff surcharges for member agencies that exceed their allocation.
“All of our member agencies met the water-savings targets we set, which is why we are confident that lower water use will continue into the future,” Kightlinger said.
In response to overwhelming public interest, Metropolitan also established the nation’s largest turf removal and water conservation program. Along with local rebate programs, the total regional investment surpassed half a billion dollars.
Lifting the allocation restrictions will allow local agencies with groundwater basins to purchase replenishment water from Metropolitan. Groundwater reserves were significantly tapped over the past several years to meet demands.
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About News Worth Noting: News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations. News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms. If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.