SGMA News for January 23rd: GSP Evaluation and State Board intervention; New fact sheets available

SGMA IMPLEMENTATION: Groundwater Sustainability Plan evaluation and State Water Board intervention

A joint workshop hosted by the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Board provides details on how incoming plans will be evaluated and what State Water Board intervention might look like

It has been over 1950 days since the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was signed into law, and since that time, the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the myriad of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies across the state have been working diligently to create a new paradigm for groundwater management for California.

On January 31, 2020, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies overseeing groundwater basins designated as critically-overdrafted are required to submit their adopted Groundwater Sustainability Plans to the Department of Water Resources.  Failure to submit a plan or submitting a plan that is deemed inadequate by the Department of Water Resources could result in intervention by the State Water Resources Control Board.  The remaining high and medium priority basins that are subject to SGMA will be submitting their plans in just two years’ time, so how these first GSPs will be evaluated is of interest for the remaining basins who are responsible for developing, adopting, and submitting their plans to DWR by January 31, 2022.

With the deadline of January 31st fast approaching, the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board held joint workshops in Paso Robles and in Clovis earlier this month to give groundwater managers and stakeholders a better understanding of how the Department will approach evaluation of the groundwater sustainability plans and the triggers and process for intervention by the State Water Board.

Click here to read this article from Maven’s Notebook.


FACT SHEETS AVAILABLE

The State Water Board has a number of fact sheets available:

SGMA in the News

A round-up of media articles about groundwater and SGMA implementation from around the state

STATEWIDE

Time’s up on groundwater plans: one of the most important new California water laws in 50 years explained:  “Much of California’s water supply is a hidden asset: Deep below the surface, rocks, gravel and sand store water like a sponge, in an underground zone called an aquifer.  In dry years, this groundwater has been tapped to save farms, keep grass green and provide drinking water to millions of Californians. But over time, people have taken more water out than nature has put back in. Estimates vary, but according to the U.S. Geological Survey, California pumped 41 trillion gallons of water from the ground in about 100 years, through 2013. In some parts of the Central Valley, that means land has been dropping around a foot a year.  … ”  Read more from KQED here:  Time’s up on groundwater plans: one of the most important new California water laws in 50 years explained

Why California’s water crisis is everyone’s problem:  “The state of California is no stranger to calamity, as evidenced by the persistent droughts and devastating wildfires that have ravished the land in years past. Now, however, it is facing a crisis of another kind, and at this critical juncture the fate of the global agriculture industry hangs in the balance.  California comprises 14 percent of the U.S. economy, much of which is fueled by agriculture. The state’s agriculture industry produced $50 billion in output last year. California supplies approximately 50 percent of the country’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables across almonds, apricots, avocados and many more grown foods.  However, a law crafted in 2014 dubbed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a product of the severe seven-year drought, stands to jeopardize ag production in the state, which has far reaching implications nationally and around the world. … ”  Read more from Global Ag Investing here: Why California’s water crisis is everyone’s problem

Small farmers wait for California’s groundwater hammer to fall:  “A black lab trots dutifully behind as Randy Fiorini proudly points out the drip irrigation lines running along the base of his walnut trees. The orchards sit on land first planted in 1907 when his grandfather established Fiorini Ranch a few miles outside of Delhi, California after relocating from Redondo Beach. A cement ditch carrying water from the Don Pedro Reservoir about 50 miles away runs alongside peach, almond, and walnut trees.  Back when the ranch was irrigated by flooding its fields, Fiorini would splash around with his childhood friend, Scott Severson, in the huge pools under the shade of the trees. Like Fiorini, Severson grew up to farm his family’s ranch nearby in Merced County.  Like most parts of the Central Valley, the Fiorini and Severson ranches in the Turlock Irrigation District used surface water when it was available, and pumped groundwater when it wasn’t. … ” Read more from the Bill Lane Center for the American West here: Small farmers wait for California’s groundwater hammer to fall

Dairy industry gives update on challenges it is facing:  “Dairymen and others in the industry are expected to descend on Sacramento to display their global accomplishments.  Funding in part by a grant from Farm Credit, than 600 farmers, policy makers, service providers and researchers are expected to attend the California Dairy Sustainability Summit during the March 25-26 Cal Expo.  California’s dairy industry is responsible for just under one-fifth of all the milk produced in the U.S., contributes $65 billion to the state’s economy and is responsible for 180,000 California jobs. And while the industry has made impressive gains in becoming more environmentally sustainable, it continually faces new requirements. … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun Gazette here:  Dairy industry gives update on challenges it is facing

California water restrictions to become more severe:  “Water woes in California’s major dairy shed are likely to get worse. The state will soon begin to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which could boost the cost of milk production while devaluing dairy farm assets for some producers, says Sarina Sharp, analyst with the Daily Dairy Report.   “Over the next two decades, the SGMA will dramatically alter groundwater use throughout the state, especially in the Central Valley, where water shortages are most severe,” Sharp says. California dairy producers will also likely see production costs rise as feed crops lose acreage to cash crops. … ”  Read more from Milk Business here: California water restrictions to become more severe

Perspectives on groundwater sustainability: Erik Ringelberg with the Freshwater Trust:  “The Freshwater Trust is most well-known for its work on protecting freshwater river ecosystems. In California, a significant amount of surface water bodies are regulated and diverted through dams and other surface water infrastructure. Surface water bodies also lose flow when the groundwater is depleted. So for our efforts in California, we see as an important role for the Trust to use our understanding of surface waters and apply that to protecting their associated groundwater systems. California is catching up on groundwater protection and we are taking the lessons we have learned from other Western states and applying them to groundwater in California. … ”  Read more from the We All Live Downstream blog here: Perspectives on groundwater sustainability

NAPA VALLEY/BAY AREA

New Napa County groundwater agency hears from critics at its first meeting:  “Local environmentalists want to make sure Napa County’s new groundwater oversight agency hears their voices, a step that agency members said they intend to take.  County supervisors formed the Napa Valley Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency on Dec. 17 with themselves as the governing board. Critics wanted an agency board with diverse interests, such as the groundwater users and the environment. … ”  Read more from the Napa Register here: New Napa County groundwater agency hears from critics at its first meeting

Santa Clara: Valley Water working to ensure groundwater users are fairly charged for benefits received:  “In Santa Clara County, the largest supply of water is hidden beneath our feet.  Local groundwater basins can hold more water than all 10 of Valley Water’s reservoirs combined and serve as our primary reserve in times of drought. Groundwater provides about 40% of the water used in Santa Clara County, and nearly all the water used in South County.  Because the amount of groundwater pumped far exceeds what is naturally replenished by rainfall, Valley Water’s groundwater management activities are critical to maintaining healthy groundwater basins. ... ”  Read more from Valley Water News here: Santa Clara: Valley Water working to ensure groundwater users are fairly charged for benefits received

SACRAMENTO VALLEY

Yuba Water Agency adopts Groundwater Sustainability Plan:  “Yuba County’s groundwater subbasins have been sustainably managed for decades, and with 80 percent of Yuba’s residents relying on groundwater as their sole source, it’s critical that it remain sustainable for the long-term. With that in mind, Yuba Water Agency adopted an official groundwater sustainability plan, known as the Yuba Subbasins Water Management Plan.  The plan, developed in coordination with Cordua Irrigation District, the city of Marysville and many interested stakeholders, will guide the continued management and use of groundwater in Yuba County. … ”  Read more from Yuba Net here:  Yuba Water Agency adopts Groundwater Sustainability Plan

SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY

Tulare County: Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board approves GSP; Friant-Kern Canal among concerns:  “Now that the Groundwater Sustainability Plan has been approved, the real work begins so to speak.  The Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board approved the GSP at its meeting on Friday, laying out the goals for the agency to meet the state requirement to reduce groundwater usage to what’s considered a sustainable level by 2040.  The plan was due to be submitted to the state by January 31. The ETGSA covers virtually all of Southeastern Tulare County. … ”  Read more from the Porterville Recorder here:  Tulare County: Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board approves GSP; Friant-Kern Canal among concerns

Kern’s final groundwater plan approved:  “After months of fireworks over lowball pumping numbers and concerns that some groundwater agencies wouldn’t get on board, Kern’s last groundwater sustainability plan was approved Wednesday with barely a murmur.  The Kern Groundwater Authority board of directors voted unanimously to adopt its final GSP with just two weeks to spare before the massive document is due to the state Department of Water Resources. ... ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Kern’s final groundwater plan approved

EASTERN SIERRA

Owens Valley groundwater basin is officially “low”:  “The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority has been flailing in limbo as the California Department of Water Resources stood poised to publish the final priority rating for the state’s  groundwater basins, as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  Then, in mid-December, the OVGA received word, the priority list had been finalized and the Owens basin was officially low. … ” Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley groundwater basin is officially “low”

Inyo to take ‘no’ position on Indian Wells Valley plan to tap into LA Aqueduct:  “Inyo County Supervisors had a no-brainer at Tuesday’s Board meeting. The question: what position should the Board’s representative take on Indian Wells Valley’s option to tap into the Los Angeles Aqueduct to solve its critical overdraft problem? The decision was a unanimous “no.”  Listening to John Vallejo, deputy county counsel, describe the situation begged the question “what was Indian Wells thinking?” … ”  Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Inyo to take ‘no’ position on Indian Wells Valley plan to tap into LA Aqueduct

Indian Wells Valley groundwater plan approved:  “With the bang of a gavel, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board of directors passed its groundwater sustainability plan following years of planning and heavy debate.  “We have a GSP,” said Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason, the board chair. ... ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Indian Wells Valley groundwater plan approved

VENTURA COUNTY

Petrochem sold as a water war looms in the Ventura River Watershed:  “The Ventura River Watershed is a vast area stretching from the Ventura River mouth to the Upper Ojai Valley and back to the edges of the Sespe, with an arm reaching into Santa Barbara County. It encompasses all the land that gathers water from local mountain peaks, channeling it down into barrancas and drainages, combining into creek beds and eventually all coming together into the Ventura River to stream out to the Pacific Ocean. It includes not just water visible at the surface, but also the deep groundwater basins that fill water wells for thousands of property owners in the area. … Two stories are currently unfolding in the Ventura River Watershed, one regarding a polluted property that is changing hands, the other involving a legal case that could have ramifications for all water users and water rights for decades. … ”  Read more from the Ventura County Reporter here: Petrochem sold as a water war looms in the Ventura River Watershed

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