CA WATER COMMISSION: Local perspectives on groundwater management
With the deadline to form groundwater sustainability agencies looming just weeks in the future, at the April meeting of the California Water Commission, commissioners heard from three groundwater managers about how implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is playing out in their respective regions.
BRIAN LOCKWOOD, Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency
The first presenter was Brian Lockwood, interim General Manager of the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency. He has served as a technical lead for programs related to ground water, hydrologic modeling, managed aquifer recharge, recycled water use, sea water intrusion and water conservation.
The Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency was formed in 1984 to provide water management for the Pajaro Valley. The agency’s jurisdiction includes the City of Watsonville and parts of Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties. Their activities include basin management planning, well metering, hydrologic monitoring, supplemental water creation and delivery, and conservation programs.
The agency’s jurisdiction is the area at the end of the Pajaro River watershed; the watershed is depicted in the blue line and the statutory boundaries of the agency is depicted by the black line. The agency is governed by a seven-member board of directors; four are elected and three are appointed.
“Our board has really been proactive, forward thinking and progressive in their policy setting to allow us to do the things that we've been doing to manage the basin,” he said.
State of the Pajaro Valley Basin
For the last thirty-plus years, agency staff has been collecting data on surface water, ground water, supplemental water supplies, and land use; this data feeds into the models, reports, and basin management. The rainfall in the Pajaro Valley averages about 21 inches a year; 12 of the last 20 years have been below average. “In many years we may not get enough rainfall to induce deep percolation; we know that we need about 16 or more inches to deep percolation to get rainfall into the aquifers,” said Mr. Lockwood.
The agency does land use mapping annually; the map shows the distribution of irrigated agriculture which accounts for about 37% of the land in the valley. About 28,000 irrigated acres produces little over $900 million a year of high value fruit, vegetable, and cut flower crops. These include vegetables, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. The valley was dominated by apples in the 40s; changing land use and changing crop types has led to increase water demand but also to higher value crops.
Virtually all water use comes from groundwater; 1% comes from surface water and another 1% from recycled water. There are about 2,000 wells within the agency’s service area.
All of the wells are metered except for domestic wells. On the bar graph, dark blue shows metered production for agriculture; light blue is the household water use; the purple bar at the top is the supplemental water supply facility; the green bar is rainfall.
“During the peak of the drought, we were at over 60,000 acre feet in the year, although our average is more like 55,000 acre feet a year,” Mr. Lockwood said. “It’s pretty small scale compared to a lot of other basins in the state, but we are also entirely disconnected from the state's water supply infrastructure so we're using only local resources.”
From the spring of 2011 to the spring of 2015, water levels throughout the valley declined by about six feet, or about one and half feet per year over the drought. However, from the fall of 2015 to the fall of 2016, they got about a foot of recovery, and early indications for this year show possibly two or more feet of recovery after the exceptional wet winter the state has had.
Mr. Lockwood then presented groundwater contour maps showing the groundwater surface elevations in the fall of 2013 and the fall of 2016. He noted that it’s a two-dimensional representation of what is really a three-dimensional reality, so there’s a lot of simplifications in the map. “We have a stacked aquifer system and so each aquifer sometimes has the potential at least for a different water level,” he said.
Mr. Lockwood noted that they have seen some recovery; the areas which have recovered the most are those that are near the Pajaro River and in the areas where their water supply facilities are delivering water that serves as in-lieu recharge.
He next presented a map of seawater intrusion, noting that the map illustrates a chloride concentration of 100 parts per million which shows the inland migration through time which has drastically slowed since the water supply facilities began delivering water.
“It is also interesting to point out that we've age-dated some of this water in the late 90s with the USGS, and some of the water is recent, meaning the seawater intrusion is recent – less than 50 years old, and some of the seawater that is deep in the aquifers is very old, like 25,000 years, so more an impact of depositional environments and modern day pumping.”
Water supply facilities
In order to balance the basin and stop sea water intrusion, the agency has supplemental water supply facilities that deliver surface water to the area shown in purple on the map. The facilities include a managed aquifer recharge facility that has recharged 8,000 acre-feet since it was constructed in 2002, and a recycled water facility came online in 2009 with a capacity of producing 4,000 acre-feet per year.
The managed aquifer recharge basin is 8 acres and about 25 feet deep; the recharge water comes from winter flows that would otherwise flow into Monterey Bay. An added benefit is that studies by UC Santa Cruz and Stanford have indicated a 50% rate in denitrification from the water that percolates through the first meter of the basin, Mr. Lockwood said.
The water recycling facility uses UV light as the disinfectant to meets Title 22 standards before it's distributed to crops. “We've delivered over 11 billion gallons of water since 2002 and those water deliveries have really had an impact on the ground water levels we see in the coastal area,” Mr. Lockwood said.
He presented a slide of a hydrograph for a well that shows that the trend was downward, but since water deliveries commenced, the levels have come up over 8 feet. Although water levels did decline as a result of the drought, they did not drop as far as they had been before the agency started delivering water.
Planning future projects and programs
A new hydrologic model has been developed that is designed to reproduce all of the natural and human components of the hydrologic system. “It's really a tool that we can use to evaluate various water resource management scenarios,” Mr. Lockwood said. “The model has told us that over a long term period of about 30 years, we have a deficit in our ground water budget of about 12,100 acre-feet per year.”
In 2010, the board formed an ad hoc basin management committee, a 21-member committee with members from the environmental community, the cities, and agricultural interests. The committee met for 2 years, evaluating 44 different projects and programs, eventually narrowing that down to seven which were tested through the model.
Mr. Lockwood presented a pie chat that shows a combination of both demand side management and supply side management. “We have an ambitious goal of saving 5,000 acre-feet per year through voluntary conservation programs and then making the balance through supplemental water supply facilities,” he said.
BMP Water Conservation Program
The water conservation program is split between agricultural conversation program aimed at growers and a home and garden program which focuses on rebates and additional trainings. “It’s hard to tell if it’s all from rainfall or conservation or a combination of the two, but between 2013 and 2016 we've had decreasing water demand each year,” Mr. Lockwood said. “We're really trying to get to about 50,000 acre-feet a year in total groundwater production in the valley. In 2016 we did achieve that goal.”
In addition to the programs in the basin management plan, there are other conservation pilot programs:
Recharge Net Metering Program: A collaborative effort between the local agencies and UC Santa Cruz, our agency, the agency provides a rebate to growers who develop a recharge basin on their site where they can capture water that is naturally running off through their properties. Part of the revenue for the rebate comes from an augmentation charge on groundwater extractions. “These projects have a minimum goal of being able to recharge 100 acre-feet per year,” said Mr. Lockwood. “Over this five year pilot program we hope to recharge between 1,000 and 1,200 acre-feet per year.”
Fallow Land Incentive: This is a one-year pilot program that pays growers up to $1,000 an acre for a total of 200 acres to fallow their land and allow them to track how much water saving occurs.
In terms of supply side management, they received grant funding to construct a pipeline to complete delivery of surface water to the doughnut hole in their service area; They also received grant funding to construct additional storage facilities to they can capture and treat water that flows through the recycled water facility overnight. “Growers weren't too pleased about using irrigation over the night hours, so we've been working to store that water so we can deliver it during the day. This tank is nearly complete.”
For developing new water supplies, they are looking at what is available locally. Mr. Lockwood acknowledged there isn’t a lot of water available in the basin, but there is College Lake near the fairgrounds. “Right now the way that lake basin is operated, there is a reclamation district that drains the lake every year and about 2,400 acre-feet flows into the bay. Once the lake is drained, then farming takes place. Our project would take that water and put it into our distribution system for a beneficial supply. Then there are additional diversions on some of the sloughs that do managed aquifer recharge and recovery.”
“We’ve put all of this into the model and our model has suggested that after 30 years of implementation, we would see a two to three foot increase in water levels in our delivered water surface area, along with increased water levels elsewhere in the basin.”
With respect to SGMA, Mr. Lockwood noted that they were one of the agencies specifically named in the act. “We did file a notice of election to become a GSA in 2015,” he said. “In 2016 we worked with neighboring GSAs that were forming to submit for basin boundary modification that would allow for more effective management of the Pajaro Valley basin and we did submit an alternative on December 31st of 2016.”
So in closing, Mr. Lockwood noted that they have made a lot of progress in their basin. “We've been in the state of long term overdraft and that's occurred through changing crop types and more water being pumped out of the ground than is being recharged,” he said. “We have existing water supply facilities that are working to reduce the magnitude of those issues, but they're not eliminating them according to our model and according to the data that we've seen. So we've developed a plan and we've established a rate structure that became effective in 2015 that is Proposition 218 compliant that allows us to fund this next phase of the basin management plan implementation. Those other water supply facilities that I addressed are on target, at least as of now, to be operational or constructed by about 2025.”
TIM O’HALLORAN, General Manager of the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District
Tim O’Halloran is General Manager of the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District. For the past 13 years, he and the district have forged a partnership throughout the region to provide reliable and affordable water for the farms and ranches while preserving the natural resources of the Cache Creek Watershed.
Mr. O'Halloran began with two general comments. “First, the GSA information part of this is more behavioral and social than it is technical at this point so there's a lot of nuance that goes into these programs,” he said. “I think everybody that's doing that, I'm sure you're well aware and sensitive to that, but I think it bears remembering and noting that at least at this stage, it really has been a social program more than a scientific program, but the two link.”
“Second, I'd like to commend DWR and recognize them for not only providing technical and detail assistance, but taking an approach really embracing the idea of the legislation that it's a local program,” he continued. “DWR has been very consistent with us anyway in recognizing that. … They've all embraced the issue of local control and they really made a great effort, a philosophical effort to embrace that. I think that needs to be acknowledged and recognized.”
Mr. O’Halloran said that Yolo County had two huge advantages coming into the GSA formation process: First, they already had an existing network, the Water Resources Association of Yolo County, that is made up of agriculture, urban and other water interests and has been working together for 23 years. “We've developed trust, we've developed IRMPs together, and we’ve had programs so we had a starting point that linked us all together.”
The second advantage was that their groundwater basin is in relatively good shape and they have a history of monitoring groundwater that stretches back 50 years. “So our starting point from a technical perspective was much higher other rural areas in the state, so that's a good thing. We've had a regional multi-agency groundwater level monitoring program in place for many years. We've put that into a database that we have that's on the web and open and transparent so that was a real advantage.”
They have an existing county-wide groundwater model which they are working to further develop to make it more robust; they’ve also been measuring subsidence, so they came from a good starting point.
Three years ago, when they started the outreach efforts for implementation of SGMA, they worked to simplify it down to basic questions that people could understand. “We said, ‘we're going to form a GSA and that's going to be a new government agency and of course everybody is fearful of that … people say what do we need another government agency for? So we had to try to give it context and we said should you be worried about this GSA. I said, you have to ask yourself a couple questions as you engage and one is, is Yolo County's ground water sustainable? That breaks into two parts. Has it been sustainable and will it continue to be sustainable? So we tried to give it context to the public that we were doing our outreach for.”
To the question of has it been sustainable, Mr. O’Halloran presented a 40-year hydrograph of the groundwater conditions as measured from 150 wells throughout Yolo County, acknowledging that it’s had its ups and downs due to drought, but it is in good shape. “I use this unfailing to demonstrate to people that we've been in a good spot. The water goes up and it goes down but we manage it and we have a conjunctive use infrastructure throughout the county that takes advantage of this.”
Looking to the future, Yolo County has also undergone a transformation over the last decade into permanent crops, and permits for new wells have gone through the roof. “So while we try to assure people that we've been in good shape and we're in good shape now, the future is uncertain and we need to have serious engagement to deal with the future,” he said.
Three years ago, even prior to the legislation being passed, they recognized the legislation was coming out and that there was a missing component, and that was the private pumpers, which is pretty much everybody in Yolo County, Mr. O’Halloran said. “So we went to the farm bureau which was the best wide regional group that represents the private pumpers and we said, let's go into this arm and arm, let's work together, and there was enough trust already between us that we did. They've been a great partner all through it but they've kept us to business; they want to know how they are going to be represented and how their voice will be heard.”
Early on, they made a strategic decision to keep things simple for the general public and let the water wonks deal with the details that included developing a simpler GSA concept model. They developed a JPA model of governance and are now beginning implementation. They also requested a basin boundary adjustment to most of Yolo County and it was approved, so they are moving forward with essentially one sub-basin for the whole county.
When they started asking people to work together to form one GSA and one GSP over the sub-basin, some wanted to form their own GSA instead. When asked why, they would say, ‘if I'm up in northern Yolo County and I don't want someone in southern Yolo County telling me to turn on my well or turn off my well.’ So they decided to structure it with the GSA to work on the scale of the region, so they developed a decision tree concept.
“We're going to go through water balances at the eligible entity level, so the 21 members of the GSA will each do a water balance and if they can prove sustainability at that level, then at that point, they'll just have to monitor and report and continue the program,” Mr. O’Halloran explained. “But if they can't prove sustainability through the water balance, then they are required to come up with a plan for their city or district of how they're going to become sustainable. It was a mechanism to ensure local authority and autonomy for the eligible agencies because it was a way we could get everybody to sign in to work together to have one GSA with one JSP for the whole sub basin that covers the whole county. That was really a pivotal moment for us.”
Mr. O’Halloran said that everybody is going to have to do a water balance, so they are doing it together; they have a grant program with the Stockholm Environmental Institute, they are using the WEAP model, and they have already begun the process of doing the water balances that'll lead to the decisions.
In their GSA, all the eligible entities in Yolo County all have one vote and one place at the table. “We're going to go forward and work collaboratively,” Mr. O’Halloran said. “The white spaces are going to be covered by the county with help from the water districts. We're in the process of doing the public hearings to get each of the members to join the JPA which then will file for GSA status. We expect to complete that by May. … we're just going to march through these 21 entities over the next three weeks and hopefully come out it then with a GSA that's healthy and collaborative and will continue to improve a marginal report on the ground water conditions in Yolo County.”
Mr. O’Halloran said that when the Governor declared the drought years ago, he put a line in the drought proclamation that directed the State Water Resource Control Board to expedite temporary permits for diversion of high water. “The Yolo County Flood Control took advantage of that,” he said. “We have 160 mile online canal system so we applied for it. We're only one or two agencies that applied for and received temporary permit. In 2000, two years ago, not this current wet winter, but the winter before that, we were able to, in our first attempt, put a 11,000 acre-feet in the ground through relatively modest efforts to just run the water through our online canal system.”
“We're excited – we think we've got a good thing going and we want to get going,” he said. “I want to get the GSA finalized and then we can start working on the GSP. I look forward to working with the Department of Water Resources and anybody else who wants to come along with us and we're going to really just get this thing going. Thank you.”
JOHN WOODLING, Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority and Executive Director of the Sacramento Groundwater Authority
John Woodling, Executive Director of the Regional Water Authority, a coalition of two dozen water purveyors and associated agencies in the greater Sacramento area. He also leads the Sacramento Groundwater Authority which is responsible for sustainably managing the ground water basin in Northern Sacramento County.
John Woodling began by saying he would be speaking today primarily as the head of the Sacramento Ground Water Authority. Most of the presentation will be the story of what they’ve done over the past two decades to get things in order, and how their focus on SGMA is to make sure they take advantage of what's in SGMA to benefit ongoing management while not impeding what they have already done and plan to do in the future.
The Sacramento Groundwater Authority was formed as a JPA with the County of Sacramento and three cities in Sacramento. The Board consists of 14 municipal water suppliers, a representative from agriculture, and a representative from self-supplied industries. The water supply for the 195 square-mile service area is about half groundwater, and half surface water from both the American River and Sacramento River, although it does shift from year to year. “We have a lot of advantages, too,” he said. “We have a lot of surface water to work with, so it’s really about water management, not just ground water management in the region.”
That wasn't always the case, Mr. Woodling said. Post World War II, the area of Sacramento County was growing and becoming heavily urbanized, and ground water levels were declining. Groundwater levels declined 80 feet from the mid-50s to the early-mid 90s – about two feet per year. Although levels varied over the course of the year, goes up and down over the seasons, but the decline was generally downward. It became clear that changes were needed because in addition to declining water levels, there were major contaminant plumes affecting the ability to use ground water for the municipal supply, as well as a lot of conflict over surface water use and the health of the environment of the lower American River.
For about a decade or so, groundwater use and water levels stabilized; this was really a planning period. “What we did to manage both the environmental impact of increasing surface water use and our impacts on ground water was to develop a basin wide conjunctive use program,” he said. “Some of the facilities went in place in the late 90s and the results are over the past almost two decades, we've had ground water levels increasing about a half of foot a year. So we mitigated that decline and turned the corner, and now we're seeing ground water increasing over time.”
Some areas of the region divert surface water from the American River and the Sacramento River, as represented by the water drops on the map; the pump symbols on the map represent where there was significant groundwater pumping. The red line is the edge of the groundwater basin; to the east, it’s the hard rock of the foothills where there isn’t really sufficient groundwater to supply municipal uses. So one of the first elements was increase the capacity to divert and treat surface water.
There are times when there's abundant surplus surface water available, and they needed to take advantage of those times. They needed to move that surface water to areas that had been historically 100% dependent on groundwater, those in the center of the basin where the cone of depression was 80 feet deep.
“So the goal was to take surplus surface water, move it to those areas when its available and offset ground water pumping, essentially in lieu recharge and some major transmission facilities went in to do that,” he said. “The flip side of that was to expand groundwater pumping capacities. Some of the areas that had been entirely dependent on surface water, we wanted them to be able to use ground water so we could get off the river in the driest years and meet some of the commitments we made to the environmental needs.”
“Here's an indication of how that's working out,” said Mr. Woodling. “In 2011, the wet year before the drought we just suffered through, we used about 45% ground water and 55% surface water. Contrast that with 2014 and we shifted over to 61% groundwater and 39% surface water. Our goal is to be able to shift back and forth between ground water and surface water depending upon the hydrologic year type and I think to expand this even further so those wedges can get even smaller and larger.”
He also noted the Sacramento area is largely an urbanized area for the groundwater pumping and with conservation that's taken place over time in an area that's largely built out, the groundwater pumping in the basin has declined on the order of about 20,000 acre-feet, if you look at the average over the 90s and then the average of the 15 years of the new millennium.
“I wanted to address because we hear the media say that the drought's not over because groundwater is severely depleted and I think you've probably seen three examples of where that's not the case,” he said. “I want to show you kind of up to the minute of what's going on with ground water levels. The first one I'm going to show you is the monitoring well at Chuckwagon Park. The red dots are April; we expect April to be the highest ground water over the year. We started in April of 2012 at the bottom of the drought in 2014 we really only had maybe a five foot decline in ground water level and we've recovered that. By April 2017 we're well above the levels we were at in 2012.”
“Similarly, the MW Lone Oak well closer up to the northern county boundary, we saw on the order of maybe about eight feet of total ground water level decline and at least half of that we've recovered. We don't have the April 2017 data on here yet but of that eight feet, we've recovered about five feet of that. So basins that have been managed sustainably over time weathered the drought and recovered from the drought a lot quicker than basins that were digging a hole and just started digging harder when we got into the drought.”
However, the historic sustainability doesn't mean they’re out of the woods; there are still a lot of vulnerabilities. Unrelated to the drought, in 2011, the Placer County Water Agency lost a major portion of their water supply because a canal slid down the hill.
“We really learned some things during the drought,” said Mr. Woodling. “We saw the reality that it's not infeasible for Folsom Lake to potentially go dry. We were very close to that happening and potentially cutting off a half a million people that rely directly on the lake for water supply. We saw water right curtailments for the first time and some water rights that have pre-1914 dates which we didn't expect to see. We saw problems in diverting water from the rivers just because of the low river levels.”
“We have some vulnerabilities we didn't expect. We have climate change that's going to decrease access to surface water during some periods unless we build more storage with Prop 1 money. Then we're seeing regulatory requirements that are going to potentially decrease access to surface water and increase Delta flows reducing surface water availability.”
So they are looking to the future, seeing that vulnerabilities lie ahead, and how can they expand the conjunctive use program to mitigate that. “Going forward, we not only have to worry about our little world in the northern part of Sacramento County, we have to manage with the entire North American sub basin which includes parts of Placer County and Sutter County,” Mr. Woodling said.
They are forming five groundwater sustainability agencies; the Sacramento Ground Water Authority declared its intent to be a GSA in October of 2015 and others are wrapping up their planning now.
“The challenge is going to be the kind of vast differences in the demographics of these areas,” he said. “In Sacramento County, most of the ground water pumping is by 14 municipal water suppliers who account for 85-90% of the pumping, roughly 100,000 acre-feet total pumping. Most of its centered on these agencies. We have the ratepayer base to pay for projects and do work in those municipal agencies. We have a limited number of interests pumping a lot of the water. So it has allowed us to accomplish a lot including the independent pumpers and the ag pumpers on the board and in decision making but not have to put the burden of paying for things on this subset of the pumpers.”
In Placer County and Sutter County, that is flipped completely around. “North of the Sacramento County line, it is predominantly agricultural pumping – 90% or more. So that's going to be a challenge going forward as a lot of ag areas are figuring out how are we going to pay for things. Is it going to be charged based on land area? based on pumping? It’s such a more diverse group of pumpers that outreach and the involvement is significantly increased.”
“The technical challenges are not as great for us as the social and institutional administrating challenge with implementing SGMA,” Mr. Woodling said. “We still have opportunity though … we have these some significant cones of depression that were created by that early pumping which were problems, but now can become assets and opportunities. In the SGA area, we have about half a million acre-feet vacated aquifer space into the ground. That's another half of a Folsom Lake sitting under the ground that we've been putting water into and rebuilding those water levels but have opportunity there.”
Mr. Woodling said it’s true in the other areas of Sacramento and Placer counties. “What we need to do is figure out how to use the surplus surface water which will be coming on a different pattern with climate change, to refill those ground water basins and use those increasingly as our back stop,” he said.
He then presented a graph of the average pumping by month in the SGA area, noting that even in a wet year, there was a significant amount of pumping. “January surface water use is around 7,000 acre feet, similar in February and March,” he said. “So we can take advantage of this and our goal is to better intertie the area and overcome some of the economic obstacles because in many cases, it’s just less expensive to pump ground water than it is to use surface water even when it’s available. But we have the opportunity with what we have in place now to generate probably 20,000 acre-feet of additional yield a year; with some additional facilities to intertie the region we can probably double that, so there's a lot of opportunity.”
Mr. Woodling said they want to take advantage of the opportunities to both serve the region and ensure our groundwater continues to be sustainable, but there may be opportunities to provide environmental benefits or to transfer water to other parts of the state that need it. “The benefit of that is we can get partners to help us pay to build the facilities that we need and generate more benefit that we need and provide that benefit to partners,” he said. “So our ultimate goal in the next three to five years is to have more formal recognized ground water bank beyond just the conjunctive use program that we're doing now.”
“In conclusion, I'm glad I'm not the new groundwater manager who has to create a program and a GSA in some of these basins in the state that are looking at a major uphill battle. We had a lot of opportunities to solve problems early and we have a lot of opportunity because we have assets in the form of surplus surface water at sometimes. I think SGMA has been good because both from a management standpoint and … I think our connection to the rest of our neighbors is going to be beneficial. Finally, we always need to be cognizant that we can't expect everybody to want to participate in the opportunities but we have to make sure we protect those groundwater users, the domestic users, the ag users, and do the banking in a way that everyone in the basin ends up better, not just those who are participating in the transactions to transfer water.”
DISCUSSION PERIOD HIGHLIGHTS
Commissioner Orth asked how they continued to engage stakeholders that are not paying a whole lot of attention to this; and also, if there were any storage projects that would assist them.
“The stakeholder involvement is tough,” responded John Woodling. “It’s especially tough in areas where you've done a lot of work to solve the problems, you're not proposing something that's really going to impact individual well owners or communities, you're not asking people to pay, so if you said we're going to put a property tax on to pay for this, or we're going to put a fee on pumping or we're going to put meters on your wells, you could get a lot of people engaged. Fortunately, I think we have the opportunity to ensure that happens over time because we're not racing against time as much as some other areas are.”
Mr. Woodling added, “I think there are going to be points where progress is measured and a decision gets made by DWR staff in conjunction with the water board on whether they have gotten far enough and I hope the measure is are you making progress rather than have you reached the bar. Because this stuff is not linear and if you're starting out now, 2020 or 2022 is an enormous lift.”
As for storage, for the Sacramento region, it’s all about conjunctive use. “It’s about being able to capture surface water when its available and get it into the ground and use the ground water when we have to,” said Mr. Woodling. “As much as some people may argue that it’s not, surface storage is a critical part of that. This year's a perfect example; there's just not enough places to put all the water we could've diverted and my personal opinion is that some big projects that big results should be one of the key focuses of that funding.”
“As fascinating as ground water is to us, unbelievably other people don't find it that fascinating,” said Mr. O’Halloran. “While we have real time groundwater sensors that report by the second, I have yet to have anyone come over on Friday night and ask about the groundwater level’s change. … the real time sensors, we put them in there for technical reasons, but they've turned into a wonderful education and outreach tool. People just relate to that better than they do to the twice a year measurements.”
“We are fortunate that we've got to very progressive tribe in our area, the Native American tribe Wichodahee,” Mr. O’Halloran continued. “They've joined the JPA and that's a big plus for them and for us … With outreach, we do all the obvious stuff that everybody does with websites and public meetings and all that, but at a certain point there's also responsibility for the public if they want to be engaged they have to take the step forward and engage. We've made it all available to them, transparent, we've tried to simplify the main points down to understandable nuggets and we go forward.”
With respect to the storage program, Mr. O’Halloran said, “I'm all for the big storage project sites and big supporter of that, but kind of when I looked at it when the regulations I guess came out, it seemed it was very impossible for a some of the small scale stuff that we're engaged in to happen. … Maybe I do need to revisit them and study them more, but when I looked, they seemed more given to bigger projects which is maybe the way you want to go or the state wants to go.”
“Our focus has really been on providing opportunities and accessibility for stakeholder engagement including lots of meetings over multiple years,” said Mr. Lockwood. “Our BMP committee met over a two year period monthly and we had opportunities for Spanish translation, we put out quarterly newsletters and email blast both in English and in Spanish to make people aware of the opportunities, but at the end of the day they need to come to the meetings and we're not dragging anybody to meetings. We did have pretty good attendance and it seems like one of the better ways to get more folks there is by them telling their neighbors they should go rather by the agency sending notice out that you should go. Once you get some people in attendance, that tends to have a cumulative impact but it is a challenge. I think it’s really important to provide lots of opportunities and in multiple languages where applicable.”
Commissioner Maria Herrera noted that sometimes stakeholder participation is hindered because they don’t have the resources. “That is very true particularly for the smaller disadvantaged communities. These boards are primarily run by volunteers, they don't often have a staff that can attend these meetings like some of us can and so I think that is a challenge that we have to acknowledge as we move forward with sigma. So I was really interested in getting more information from you Tim on how is it that you all were able to guarantee a vote for each of the eligible entities within your area because I know that for us in our region, that would be very challenging to achieve.”
Mr. O’Halloran said that being able to have only one vote happened because they had a history with the Water Resource Association of 23 years with one member, one vote. “We coupled that with the decision tree, this format that we explained to people how we were going to keep their jurisdiction autonomous and their authorities intact. We described the process where it was really the responsibility of each city, each water district, each CSD do prove up their sustainability and so it only indicates where they just sloughed off in a sense, they don't do the water balance, they don't do the project, they don't create a plan, they don't help create a plan – that's the only time that they GSA can intervene and impose some restriction or some mandate on them. I think the real key to getting the one vote, one entity was assuring them by creating the JPA chapter that talks about when you can intervene and when you can't intervene. So that was a key to that.”
“As for pay to play, we just developed a fee schedule that was reflective of the reality that CSDs are paying a couple thousand dollars or $5,000 and the cities are paying $40,000,” continued Mr. O’Halloran. “We just had a negotiation and somebody had to start off. I created a table and used kind of the just my best sense of what people could afford and we tweaked it a little bit … We just gave them a break on pricing and things like that so I guess it’s pay to play but everybody is represented and there is a sliding scale that recognizes the reality of each organization to bear the cost.”
For more information …
- For agenda, meeting materials, and webcast link, click here.
- For coverage of DWR’s SGMA update, click here.
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