Several regulatory programs have been created and evolved over time to address various issues, such as SGMA, CV-SALTS, and the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. However, some program requirements have begun to look similar, with a lot of potential overlap among them. At the spring ACWA Conference, a panel discussed how agencies are reconciling and navigating the complex web of requirements they have to comply with.
Stephanie Hearn is a senior water quality specialist and manager of the Bakersfield office of GEI Consultants. She has more than 20 years of experience in water quality characterization and regulatory planning. Before joining GEI, she worked for 15 years for an investor-owned water purveyor. . Hearn specializes in interpreting water quality regulations and devising compliance strategies for new projects and emerging regulations. She has an MA in Public Policy and Administration and a BS in environmental resource management.
Kassy D. Chauhan is the executive officer of the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency, serving in that capacity since October 2019. She is also the special project manager for the Fresno Irrigation District, where she works on regulatory compliance. Before joining Fresno Irrigation District, Ms. Chauhan worked for almost 20 years with the Division of Drinking Water at State Water Resources Control Board and before that at the California Department of Public Health, where she oversaw more than 280 public water systems, including the city of Fresno. She holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and is a licensed civil engineer.
Patty Poire is the executive director for the Kern Groundwater Authority since February 2018, where she coordinates, oversees, and assists in the development and implementation of the groundwater sustainability plan. The Kern Groundwater Authority is the largest GSA in the San Joaquin Valley, made up of 16 water districts and cities covering 80% of the Kern County sub basin. Patty’s prior experience includes ten years working for Grimmway Farms. She also worked for the city of Shafter, overseeing special projects, and Lennar Homes, where she was their project manager in the land development department. She’s also vice president of the Kern County Farm Bureau.
The panel was moderated by John Woodling, vice president and manager of the Sacramento office of GEI Consultants, and ACWA’s Groundwater Committee chair.
“Each of these speakers is highly experienced in their own right, but together they bring an interesting mix of experience to this panel and to SGMA,” said John Woodling. “We have a drinking water regulated community in which Stephanie Hearn has worked, as well as as a regulator, which was Kassy’s former job. And then, Patty brings an understanding of land use decisions at the city level, agricultural production, and a variety of backgrounds that lends itself well to SGMA. So I think these three will give you some really interesting insights into the challenges facing GSAs and groundwater users.”
STEPHANIE HEARN: Brief overview of groundwater regulatory programs
Stephanie Hearn began by noting that the discussion will focus on a collaborative approach to implementing the programs associated with these regulations that support the human right to water. “This is probably a little bit of a different perspective than you’ve ever heard on the regulations,” she said. “We’re looking at how several different pieces of the puzzle fit together and how we’re taking a unique approach to complying with the regulations. So while it may feel like there’s regulatory overlap in the groundwater programs, we’re viewing this as each program serves an important role in achieving the human right to water.”
Ms. Hearn noted that these various programs weren’t all signed into law with the intent of supporting the Human Right to Water, and the Irrigated Land Regulatory Program began nine years before the passage of the Human Right to Water legislation. She then briefly discussed each program, giving a brief overview that focuses more on the similarities between the programs, acknowledging that each program has much broader responsibilities.
Human Right to Water
The Human Right to Water was signed into law in 2012 through AB 685, which statutorily recognizes that every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water that is adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.
In 2016, the State Water Board adopted a resolution identifying the human right to water as a top priority and core value. There are approximately 1 million Californians who lack access to safe drinking water. Many communities are all vulnerable to water shortage emergencies, and water rates are up by 45%. It is estimated that 13 million people in low-income households are the most impacted.
Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program
The Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program focuses on-farm management practices and, at first, might not seem relevant to the Human Right to Water; however, it is very important to achieving the goals of the human right to water, Ms. Hearn said.
The program initially focused on preventing agricultural runoff from impairing surface water; that started in 2003, but it expanded to address impairment to groundwater in 2012. The focus is on management practices implemented on fields and requires reporting to the State Water Board to demonstrate best practices or use. In addition, extensive work has been done to determine if excess nitrogen is applied to a crop; this includes looking at management practices and focusing on nitrogen application and removal rates to protect the groundwater.
“This is the piece that I think fits perfectly into achieving the goals of the Human Right to Water and some of the goals of the CV-SALTS program,” said Ms. Hearn. “It’s focused on antidegradation and groundwater protection. So it reduces leaching of nitrate into the water supplies, and it’s an important component of restoring groundwater quality.”
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, signed into law in 2014, focuses on groundwater management actions and projects. SGMA requires Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge.
SGMA empowers local agencies to manage and implement plans to achieve sustainability and establishes criteria to avoid undesirable results, including water shortages and water quality. SGMA also requires public outreach and coordination between multiple government agencies, such as the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Board, local groundwater sustainability agencies, county and city governments.
The CV-SALTS program was adopted through a basin plan amendment by the Central Valley Regional Water Board. The CV-SALTS program applies throughout the Central Valley.
The CV-SALTS program is comprised of two programs that are being implemented in parallel paths.
The salt control program focuses on implementing a long-term salt management program to maintain groundwater beneficial uses. Funding for studies and program implementation is provided by permitted dischargers, which is anybody holding a waste discharge permit or complying with a general order through a third-party coalition.
“One of the goals is to control the rate of degradation to groundwater from salt loading, so there’s substantial planning work to evaluate existing regulations and water management impacts,” said Ms. Hearn. “The program goal is to protect all beneficial uses by applying appropriate antidegradation requirements to dischargers.”
The nitrate control program focuses on identifying residents impacted by nitrate and providing replacement water when nitrate is greater than 10 parts per million. It is also funded by permitted dischargers, which is anyone with a waste discharge permit or General Order.
The program mainly affects small water systems and private domestic wells. There’s also substantial planning work involved in compliance with the nitrate control program. The program goal is for short-term and long-term safe drinking water supplies.
Safe & Affordable Funding for Equity & Resilience (SAFER)
The Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience (SAFER) program was signed into law in 2019. The program is a coordinated effort across several divisions within the State Water Board. It provides $130 million per year to support a comprehensive program to resolve drinking water issues facing disadvantaged communities and households not served by the public water system.
Several other legislative changes were enacted to support the program, including mandatory consolidation authority, administrator services, preventing new unsustainable water systems, and needs assessment funding.
Compliance with multiple programs: where to start?
So how can the regulatory overlap be reconciled? First, it’s essential to understand the roles and responsibilities of each program, said Ms. Hearn. Both the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program and SGMA are focused on management actions and projects. The Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program is about farm management practices, but it has an important role in supporting the goals of the CV-SALTS program. SGMA is about management practices and projects, which also have important roles in supporting CV-SALTS. SAFER is a program focused on the user and ensuring safe drinking water supplies but doesn’t necessarily evaluate or have any responsibilities in groundwater protection.
“All the programs are working together and collaborating between the programs to achieve the goals of the human right to water,” said Ms. Hearn. “But to do that, in my opinion, we need to develop a clear definition of the problems to be solved. Are there pieces of the puzzle missing? Are there data gaps that still need to be filled?”
An example of collaboration between the programs is the State Water Board’s 2020 Safe Drinking Water Plan. The draft report states that a GSA could also support expanding public water system boundaries to include communities served by private wells, or consolidating smaller drinking water systems dependent on at-risk wells with larger public water systems.
Water partnerships may include providing financial assistance, particularly for low-cost intertie projects that are adjacent to larger systems—working with county planning agencies to ensure that communities served by at-risk wells are annexed into the service areas, larger water systems to eliminate barriers for future interties, and facilitating outreach and introductions between small water systems and owners of domestic wells and larger water systems to assist with developing future partnerships.
“The State Water Board in this statement is really recognizing the collaboration and the benefits of the local ownership of CV-SALTS and similar programs, and looking at all the different connections between the programs,” said Ms. Hearn.
The governance models of the different programs
Lastly, Ms. Hearn briefly touched on governance of the various programs. The Irrigated Lands Program is administered through a third-party coalition where the farmers pay into the coalition. A coalition is a group approach to compliance; they work on many studies for the nitrogen applied removal rates; they also compile and consolidate all the reporting requirements for the geographic area they cover. It’s very similar to SGMA but focused on farming practices, she said. With CV-SALTS, the governance structures are new. Of the priority one basins, they have mostly all formed a new nonprofit organization and are administering their programs through this organization.
KASSY CHAUHAN: Breaking down silos
Next, Kassy Chauhan discussed the programs from the perspective of her work through the Fresno Irrigation District and the Groundwater Sustainability Agency. She began by noting that many of these regulatory programs also created a new agency, making it very complex to comply with all of the programs.
“It’s so many agencies, so many regulatory programs, and in the center of all of that is the stakeholder,” Ms. Chauhan said. “What is the stakeholder need to do? How can they comply with all of these various requirements? How can they make sure they are doing their part to satisfy the regulatory requirements and, more importantly, do their part to ensure that we have a good sustainable supply of wholesome water for long into the future? That’s really what it’s about. It’s about embracing that change. It’s about embracing those new regulatory requirements through a multitude of a variety of options, but embracing that for the benefit of everyone involved, including giving our stakeholders a much better experience.”
“I came from the regulatory world, and one thing I can say with certainty is that the regulations are not going to go away,” she continued. “I think we have to acknowledge that. So then you’re faced with, what’s the path forward? You can go down that path kicking and screaming, or you can figure out a way to break the silos, work collaboratively with the other agencies and individuals and groups that are involved in this regulatory complex web of requirements, figure out how you can take advantage of what work has previously been done, and then focus your efforts on what needs to be done moving forward.”
There are several processes underway in the San Joaquin Valley that are working on addressing water issues.
One is the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint, which looks at how to bring more water into the region to help meet sustainability goals.
Another effort is the San Joaquin Valley Collaborative Action Plan, which was formed out of the Uncommon Dialogues effort by Water in the West out of Stanford University. Again, it’s a diverse group of stakeholders working on defining exactly what the problem is that they are trying to solve, which is key to achieving the intent.
“It’s critical to know and have a clearly defined problem as we’re developing solutions,” Ms. Chahuan said.
They also work a lot with California Water Institute at Fresno State, which brings a unique perspective and additional resources to their efforts. There are also the policy decision-makers at the county level and the folks at the Division of Drinking Water, who know have a lot of knowledge and experience with addressing and regulating nitrate.
“Let’s draw on that knowledge, bring them alongside us, and learn from their vast history and knowledge of drinking water regulations,” she said. “These programs were developed so that we would have time to implement these programs and create the change over time – not yesterday, not tomorrow, but in many cases, 20-35 years from now. So let’s give the process a chance to work, work together, break down the silos, which will ultimately lead to a better stakeholder experience and keep us from going insane while we’re trying to figure out what all of these complex pieces are.”
“I just can’t emphasize how critical that is,” she continued. “A lot of times, you’re so focused on what you have right in front of you that you can’t see the forest amongst the trees. And that’s so true in regulation, and combined with these complex regulatory programs.”
PATTY POIRE: Early planning, outreach, and data management
Patty Poire then discussed her work in the Kern sub-basin, specifically around data management. She began by saying that Kern County is classified as a priority two under the CV-SALTS program, which gives her a chance to observe what’s happening in the priority one basins. This has helped her establish certain practices to comply with SGMA and share the data with stakeholders.
“I think what we first have to realize is that landowners are the foundation of all the programs,” she said. “I’m not just referring to the agricultural landowners – I’m referring to all landowners who do all types of activities on their properties. For example, the cities are landowners; you have dairies, agriculture, and industry. So all landowners are ultimately the foundation of all the programs.”
With SGMA, all landowners had to be engaged, unlike the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program, which only addressed the farmers. “So I’ve taken that concept and said, I need to make sure that I’m engaging as many stakeholders as I possibly can, which are landowners in SGMA. So then, since I’m currently the Vice President of the Kern County Farm Bureau, I’ve engaged that organization and several other organizations that I participate in. And we have discussions about SGMA and about CV-SALTS that’s coming soon to this basin. So that’s allowed me to be a little bit more proactive on the CV-SALTS component and watching what’s happening in the priority one basins.”
They are currently developing a data management system in the Kern basin as required under SGMA, so they are looking to include water levels and the data from the water quality monitoring network and all of the water quality wells that currently report to the state so that users will be able to access SGMA information and also be able to activate and locate water quality components at the same time.
“What better way than to put the data all together,” said Ms. Poire. “I think that that makes it easier for people to understand programs a little bit better, and they’ll be able to access current data. I think it will allow them to understand the programs and give them a tool to assist them in that endeavor. It helps to prepare and collaborate sooner than later.”
It’s essential to engage as many local organizations as possible, she advised. “To get to a community, sometimes you’re going to need to go to the chambers, you’re going to need to go to business organizations, you’re going to need to engage City Councils, the county planning department, county departments, city departments, and others. To engage the public, I think you’re going to have to engage a lot of organizations. I think I’m at an advantage here, because I’m a priority two basin, so I’m watching what’s unfolding in the priority one basins.”
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
The role of GSAs in water quality
Moderator John Woodling noted that early on in SGMA, recognizing that nitrate, especially in the San Joaquin Valley, is critical for drinking water, some wanted to attribute the responsibility for providing safe drinking water to these newly created GSAs under SGMA. “Have we gotten beyond that? What is your definition of the role of a GSA in water quality, especially drinking water quality? And what is your GSA doing directly? And how have you incorporated these programs into your groundwater sustainability plan?”
“I can’t say that the discussion that the GSAs are required to correct and improve water quality has gone away,” said Ms. Chauhan. “That’s an ongoing dialogue that needs to happen. But SGMA specifically requires that GSAs prevent degradation of water quality associated with groundwater pumping, and that’s an important distinction – it’s the anti-degradation component. It’s not necessarily stopping the point source of the nitrates. So that’s the real charge of the GSAs – to keep the groundwater quality from degrading, based on what’s happening in the aquifer within the GSA’s boundary in terms of pumping.”
“So, how do you get that message across? Through collaboration, ongoing dialogue, communication, and discussions with a variety of different programs and participants in those various programs. I think it’s really important to keep that dialogue going. And then demonstrate through the use of infographics and resource information that you can provide to distinguish between the two. Here’s what the GSA is charged with; here’s what the other programs are charged with, but then demonstrate that you’re cooperating and working with those other agencies sharing data and making sure that that one data point gets utilized for a multitude of purposes.”
Coordinating between multiple programs
Mr. Woodling noted that she mentioned the importance of coordination and ensuring that you’re getting the best value from the data, thereby reducing costs. He asked if there are other opportunities to gain additional benefit from that coordination that you’re doing?
“There are opportunities in the North Kings GSA, and we have examples where member agencies have been successful in those attempts,” said Ms. Chauhan. “It really has led to what we have termed a multi-benefit project. And it’s looking at, ‘okay, we have a need to do groundwater recharge, so that we can have sustainable groundwater levels, we have a need to improve water quality, or the public water systems need to comply with drinking water standards. And we have an obligation not to have groundwater level decline. So how can we strategically place projects so that we realize multiple benefits from that single project that we were going to do anyway?”
An example from the Fresno Irrigation District is the Savory Pond Expansion Project, a groundwater recharge project strategically located upgradient of the Shady Lakes Mobile Home Park, a disadvantaged community with water quality issues and unreliable water levels.
“They’ve had several examples where their water pump has gone out because the water levels are declining,” Ms. Chauhan said. “Now we’re going to have a project there that will help improve water quality by introducing a fresh water source, so it will help improve groundwater levels, and it will help improve water quality. That project is checking all those boxes, and it needed to be done anyway.”
“We would have never known that have we not had a discussion with Shady Lakes Mobile Home Park. We would have never known that had Fresno Irrigation District not looked at a map and said, okay, we need to do a recharge project in this area. So let’s put a project here. And then we’ll be able to realize those multi-benefits from that project. So not only the Shady Lakes Mobile Home Park benefits from that project, but also the domestic well owners that are downgradient of that mobile home park realize benefits as well. And we have just overall improved water levels.”
“That’s just an example of how when you’re having these conversations, very rarely do those doors get slammed, so shut tight, that there’s not an opportunity to do something great that will benefit multiple agencies and programs that you’re trying to satisfy requirements for.”
CV-SALTS: Priority 1 basins advice for Priority 2 basins
Mr. Woodling asked Ms. Chauhan, “What are a few of the lessons you’ve learned that you can give to priority two basins and others? In the Sacramento Valley, these regulatory programs apply; certainly, the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program has been ongoing. But I think the knowledge of and attention to CV-SALTS is limited in the north because the problem isn’t as pressing, and the timeline is not the same. What are a couple of lessons learned that you wish you had known as a priority one basin that you can offer to your colleagues?”
“It’s that early preparation and starting those conversations early on, not waiting until the plans are due in three months,” said Ms. Chauhan. “You have to have these contacts with the other entities that are involved, so having those conversations early on is going to be critical. You have to form the connections, and you have to establish trust and credibility because it’s just not the way we’ve done things historically. So there’s a huge amount of resources that have to be dedicated for that collaboration to be effective. So do that early. Start now, don’t wait.”
“The second thing is this data management piece,” she continued. “It’s so critical, and if they’re the landowner, they do not understand how all of that data can be utilized for a multitude of purposes—so educating the landowner on why we are doing this and then demonstrating to them that you are going about it in the most efficient manner possible. If they’ve done a nitrate test for some other purpose, let’s utilize that nitrate test for this purpose; let’s not go and reinvent the wheel and do that testing again. So I think those two things are very critical.”
“Utilizing the local organizations is a way to bridge a huge gap,” Ms. Chauhan said. “It gets you so much further down the road because they’ve already established that trust and credibility with the communities that they work in. So you’re already at an advantage because you’re working through them to get to the ultimate landowner. It’s so critical to do that early on in the process.”
What could state agencies do to remove barriers and help coordinate programs?
Mr. Woodling asked if there is anything the panelists think the state agencies could do to help coordinate between programs or are each of these programs serving their needs?
“I think the state agencies are coordinating together; they’re engaged with the management zones, at least from what I’ve seen so far in the priority one basins,” said Ms. Hearn. “An example would be the Division of Drinking Water coordinating through the SAFER program, to say, if you’re already going to go out and test wells for nitrate, we know that there are other common constituents in these basins, so collect a suite of samples while you’re there. And they’re offering to provide some funding support through the SAFER program to get that additional testing done, and to gather more data and looking really to how to better coordinate.”
“However, while the SAFER program has extensive studies being done, there’s still a data gap on that really fine-grained local information, such as understanding where the private wells are at and what are the issues of the private wells,” Ms. Hearn continued. “Are there broad impacts? Are there localized impacts? Are there planning problems? What is the root cause problem that you’re trying to address? And so I think that I think there’s interest in all the state agencies coordinating, and they’re working towards that. How they will fit together isn’t clearly defined yet, because it’s still early.”
“What I’ve learned in SGMA during the development of the GSP is now I know what I don’t know for the basin,” said Ms. Poire. “That in itself is pretty historical in this large basin of Kern. What we don’t know is where all the domestic wells are located at. We have a lot of data gaps there. What would be great is for the state agencies and the regulators to understand that particular situation and assist us in that matter. In working with the county health department, they also don’t know where all their domestic wells are located, and they have the jurisdiction to issue those permits. So it is a problem now that we’re going to have to tackle, but I think we have to tackle it together collaboratively.”
Ms. Poire emphasized that it can’t be just one program; all these programs need to understand where the wells are located. “Without that, it’s kind of problematic; you’re now guessing how you’re going to solve a problem. And you truly don’t know the true foundation of what you’re solving because you have missing data. So we need an opportunity to work together to find all the data gaps because all of the programs have them. And it would be very helpful for the state agencies to be assisting that not only with their knowledge but also financially because it’s going to take a lot of money to figure out those data gaps.”
“From a regulator’s perspective, it’s a complex cyclone of different data portals, so having some central repository would serve us all,” said Ms. Chauhan. “A standalone system is great for the individual basins. But being able, whether you’re a utility, a private landowner, or whatever coalition, to have that single piece of data and be able to check whatever boxes require that data point would be huge from a reporting standpoint. From a decision-making standpoint, just being able to do it once and know that it will filter where it needs to be would be helpful, rather than putting that onerous on the various Coalitions, management zones, individual water utilities. “
“I think it needs to include the county as the county collects a lot of data,” Ms. Chauhan added. “I think that having the counties incorporated into that central repository of the data would be very, very helpful.”
Ms. Chauhan also said it’s important to give everyone the time afforded for implementation in the legislation and not try to speed up the process. “There’s a reason why there were such long timelines implemented and adopted into the regulation,” she said. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we can charge forward too fast, and we may miss some key components. So it’s important to allow the various organizations to work through that process, develop the data that they need to make good decisions, and then ultimately satisfy the requirements in the various plans that have been put together.”
Funding compliance costs
Mr. Woodling asked Ms. Poire, how are GSAs funding water quality programs? Ultimately, landowners and citizens pay for all this stuff. What mechanism do you use in your basin to finance your implementation of SGMA and pass those costs through?
“The Kern Groundwater Authority was formed as a JPA, so the actual members actually still do their management projects within their own management area,” said Ms. Poire. “Those are water districts already established, and they have the responsibility of doing the prop 218. So that’s actually a very good foundation I think could be used for CV-SALTS programs because the management areas are within a district already that’s established. So they have that relationship already built with their landowners and the trust on how to do a prop 218 because they’ve been doing them for years. … You don’t have somebody in Kern responsible for a water project clear on the other side of the basin; it’s more centralized.”
“I think the same will be true when you deal with the CV-SALTS program,” continued Ms. Poire. “I think having smaller management areas will make it easier and more trusting that the money is going to be spent right there in that centralized area locally. So I think that we have an advantage kind of here in the Kern Groundwater Authority because we’ve kept management areas quite small so that the relationship between the landowner and the trust when it comes to Prop 218, it’s not going to be as problematic as if you were doing it for the entire Kern Groundwater Authority, which is one huge entity. And so, as far as the administration goes for the SGMA under the Kern Groundwater Authority, it’s split equally between each member. So we’ve kept it simple and very centralized and localized to accomplish the financial needs.”
“The North Kings GSA is formed very much the same way as the Kern Groundwater Authority,” said Ms. Chauhan. “We have seven member agencies that share in the cost of the JPA. And so we split those costs evenly amongst the members, and they pay a per-acre charge uniformly based on the number of acres they have within the boundary; that then gets translated into their individual ratepayers. And Fresno Irrigation District is one of those agencies, City of Fresno is another agency, as is the City of Clovis. And so they all then have to do projects, which they have to fund through the Prop 218 process.”
“So it’s a fine balance,” said Ms. Chauhan. “It all goes back to one of my previous points about being efficient on how we do this. They are willing to pay; they recognize there are costs associated with the implementation of a new program and that doing projects that will achieve the requirements of groundwater sustainability, and or management zones, or whatever the program is. But they want to make sure that we’re going about that in the most cost-effective way possible. And that’s where I am charged with making sure that we aren’t reinventing the wheel or that we aren’t going out and doing monitoring that is unnecessary. So we have made it our purpose to use every piece of publicly available information that’s out there before we go and expend costs to do our own monitoring or our own water level measurements.”
“Now on the management zone side, and the irrigated lands program side, because they’re formed through a coalition and are nonprofit, they’re not subject to prop 218, so that’s an interesting perspective,” Ms. Chauhan said. “But it all impacts that landowner; the end-user is the landowner. So how are we again, ensuring that we’re keeping those costs as minimal as possible by sharing data and making sure we’re working with the other programs. And then we can say with confidence when we’re meeting with the landowners and talking to them about what it’s going to cost to comply with that particular program, and that we’ve checked all those boxes and given them that assurance that this is kind of what’s left, what’s remaining, what the remaining charges for the management zone of the coalition.”
“I think that goes a long way,” said Ms. Chauhan. “It’s not easy. Of course, nobody wants to pay more. But at least if you can demonstrate that extra effort that went into making those costs as minimal as possible, but still achieving the purpose of the program, that goes a long way with your landowners and having them buy into the required assessments that need to be paid.”
Need for centralized data management
Ms. Chauhan said that she thinks Ms. Poire is onto something great with a centralized data management system. Are there any examples of that? And are there examples within the areas you work in where there’s this kind of focused attempt to get everyone in the room and have these very important conversations?
“We did that as we were all generating our GSPs, and now that that’s been done, it’s time for me to go back and do that for the data management system,” said Ms. Poire. “I’ve already engaged landowners and told them as we start developing it, I’m going to include them as my ad hoc. After all, if I can get them to understand how they could use the tool, it will make their lives and our lives a whole lot easier because they then begin to understand how the system and how the regulatory process works.”
“I will be starting my landowner ad hoc committee, and I’m including the disadvantaged communities as well. Because again, I think that will enable the data management system tool to be used by more stakeholders in the basin. That starts next month. That is my goal.”
Domestic well owners
Ms. Poire asked Ms. Chauhan about the domestic well owners. “I can’t begin to tell you how much I don’t have all that information. What did you do? How did you achieve getting out to those small systems, the domestic well person?”
“Really, it’s the end-user that we probably know the least about: the domestic well owner, and they’re primarily unregulated,” said Ms. Chauhan. “So how do you get into that group of landowners and educate them on the availability of testing and the availability of replacement water? We have implemented some programs working through our NGO community. Some of those, at least the larger clusters of domestic well, owners have been identified through the SGMA process and development of the GSP. So we’re building on that information and then translating it into another outreach effort, and it’s an ongoing outreach effort. Is outreach ever really going to be done? I think the answer to that is no.”
“It’s a unique challenge with domestic well owners because a lot of them don’t want to know, they don’t want to be on a map, they don’t want to show up on any kind of a data point,” said Ms. Chauhan. “And that’s a challenge that we’re trying to overcome through working with our organizations. We’ve also talked about and have it, to some extent works through school districts. Often, there’s been success with programs where you start with sending home information with the students, which then trickles down to the parents. We’ve also done some outreach events at churches, farmers’ markets, and other community gatherings. Just any kind of touchpoint that we might have with these domestic wall owners to share information.”
“It’s emphasizing the importance of that collaboration piece because we have NGOs who focus on certain types of domestic well owners so then taking advantage of those connections through the school districts etc. So just to try to touch as many of those domestic well owners and get the information into their hands as much as possible.”