Governor Newsom's Water Resilience Portfolio Initiative Executive Order & Bob Wilkinson's Presentation from the June 19 Community Water Center Listening Session
California leans heavily on its groundwater, but will a court decision tip the scales against pumping?
Gary Pitzer for Western Water on 10.19.18
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
Yet in an era when local agencies around the state already are drafting plans to protect groundwater basins from being over pumped, the impact of this appellate ruling depends on who you ask.
In the Scott River case, Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board, California’s Third District Court of Appeal concluded that counties are obligated to consider the public trust before authorizing new groundwater wells whose extractions might have an adverse impact on trust resources, such as water in a navigable river. Siskiyou County, which was a defendant in the case, has filed a petition for review with the California Supreme Court.
Still, Environmental Law Foundation President James Wheaton sees the ruling as a harbinger, even if its reach is limited to groundwater connected to surface waters and not deep aquifers.
“This opinion, to paraphrase the court, is the public trust case for the 21st century — a monumental decision bringing public trust principles to today’s water issues,” he said. “California’s water future is underground. That is where the real fight is and will continue to be. And this decision brings one of the most powerful legal rules — the public trust doctrine — to that fight.”
Please continue to read the piece in full HERE.
The Nature Conservancy has recently created a map overlaying GDEs and GSA boundaries. The map allows users to view where GDEs are located in their sub-basin, as well as the dominant species in each GDE. This map is a complement to the iGDE mapping mentioned below, which includes a document explaining the source of the data in the database.
If stakeholders, GSAs or consultants are interested in learning more about how to comply with requirements to consider GDEs, we are offering an interactive workshop at the Groundwater Resources Association Western Groundwater Conference. The workshop is on Sept. 26 from 2:30-5pm and registration is required.
If there are any questions related to any of this information, please feel free to contact me or Susan Tatayon, firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the workshop registration page:
"SGMA empowers local agencies to sustainably manage groundwater to benefit California’s communities, economy, and diverse natural resources. To do this, SGMA requires local agencies to develop groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) that consider the impacts of groundwater use on a variety of beneficial uses and users including people, business, and the environment. SGMA also includes specific requirements to identify and consider impacts to groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) in groundwater management. Recognizing data and resource limitations, The Nature Conservancy has developed a GDE indicators mapping database in partnership with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as a guidance document designed to help agencies identify where GDEs exist, determine whether potential effects on GDEs are occurring or may occur due to groundwater conditions, and consider GDEs when setting sustainable management criteria. These tools provide a systematic and defensible approach that takes advantage of local, statewide, and best available scientific information to inform local decision making. This hands-on workshop will walk attendees through the GDE indicators mapping database (hosted by DWR as the “Natural Communities Commonly Associated with Groundwater dataset”) and GDE guidance document. This is your opportunity to do a preliminary assessment of the GDEs in your basin with support from TNC and other practitioners. Whether you are a board member on a GSA, a consultant developing a GSP, or an interested stakeholder trying to understand how GDEs fit into GSPs – this is the workshop for you!
MUST BE A REGISTERED CONGRESS ATTENDEE TO ATTEND
There is no additional charge for this workshop but space is limited so please RSVP in order to save yourself a seat."
by A.T. O’Geen, Matthew B.B. Saal, Helen Dahlke, David Doll, Rachel Elkins, Allan Fulton, Graham Fogg, Thomas Harter, Jan W. Hopmans, Chuck Ingels, Franz Niederholzer, Samuel Sandoval Solis, Paul Verdegaal and Mike Walkinshaw
Groundwater pumping chronically exceeds natural recharge in many agricultural regions in California. A common method of recharging groundwater — when surface water is available — is to deliberately flood an open area, allowing water to percolate into an aquifer. However, open land suitable for this type of recharge is scarce. Flooding agricultural land during fallow or dormant periods has the potential to increase groundwater recharge substantially, but this approach has not been well studied. Using data on soils, topography and crop type, we developed a spatially explicit index of the suitability for groundwater recharge of land in all agricultural regions in California. We identified 3.6 million acres of agricultural land statewide as having Excellent or Good potential for groundwater recharge. The index provides preliminary guidance about the locations where groundwater recharge on agricultural land is likely to be feasible. A variety of institutional, infrastructure and other issues must also be addressed before this practice can be implemented widely.
Please continue to read the research article in full HERE.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership (MBCP) is seeking proposals from qualified applicants to prepare water budget information for Central Valley managed wetlands that can be used in the
development of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs).
Please keep proposals between 2-4 pages, not including attachments. Proposals should describe your approach to each of the tasks listed below, your rationale, and any recommended changes or additions. A maximum of 10 additional pages of attachments should include a description of the roles and qualifications of key staff, a budget, and relevant work examples. For questions or clarifications, please email both email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org no later than June 25, 2018.
Proposals should be submitted electronically by June 29, 2018 to:
Dr. Kristen Dybala, Senior Research Ecologist
Point Blue Conservation Science
Statement of Purpose
Produce water budget information for managed wetlands to facilitate representation of wetland water needs in the GSP development processes
More information can be found HERE.
As general manager of a water district that serves about 27,000 agricultural acres in the southern San Joaquin Valley, Eric Averett knows the solutions to the region’s water shortages are fairly straight-forward.
He speaks of two knobs that valley water users can turn. One controls supply, and the other demand.
In past years, Averett says he figuratively had his hand slapped by his Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District board whenever he tried to adjust the knob that affected the supply of water to growers. But as droughts, surface water cutbacks and groundwater overdrafts confront districts throughout the Central Valley, all solutions are now on the table.
“Throughout the valley, we’re going to end up turning both knobs in the future,” Averett said during a recent panel discussion on the valley’s water future.
In short, experts believe the only way to bring the valley’s overburdened water supplies into balance will be to increase supply, mainly by making the most of available water, and reduce demand. And part of reducing demand may well be the voluntary fallowing of agricultural land.
“For some of our hardest-hit areas, the idling of agricultural land is going to be a reality,” says Abbey Hart, the agriculture project director for The Nature Conservancy. She adds that growers may see an economic benefit for converting land into wildlife habitat, but the process will have to be well planned. A checkerboard approach to creating habitat won’t work, she says.
“A lot of these species won’t be able to use tiny patches of land,” Hart told about 200 growers and others at the water forum in early May, sponsored by the Almond Board of California.
Please continue to read in full HERE.
The Department of Water Resources in partnership with The Nature Conservancy have recently launched the Groundwater Resource Hub, the go-to place for information on groundwater dependent ecosystems. There are a number of tools on the site, including the database of indicators of groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) and a guidance document to guide groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) to address GDEs in their plans.
Access to the iGDE database can be found HERE.
by Ellen Hanak, Jelena Jezdimirovic, Sarge Green, Alvar Escriva-Bou
SummaryThe San Joaquin Valley—which has the biggest imbalance between groundwater pumping and replenishment in the state—is ground zero for implementing the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Expanding groundwater recharge could help local water users bring their basins into balance and make a dent in the long-term deficit of nearly 2 million acre-feet per year. The experience with recharge in 2017―the first wet year since the enactment of SGMA―offers valuable insights in how to expand recharge. A survey of valley water districts’ current recharge efforts revealed strong interest in the practice, and a number of constraints. The following actions are needed to better capitalize on future opportunities:
You can read the report in full HERE.
Identification of potentially suitable habitat for strategic land retirement and restoration in the San Joaquin Desert
via The Nature Conservancy:
California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) established a framework for sustainable, local groundwater management. SGMA requires groundwater-dependent regions to halt overdraft and bring basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. As a result, agricultural land retirement is on the rise in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region and home to the state's highest concentration of threatened and endangered species. In this assessment, The Nature Conservancy introduces the concept of strategic land retirement and restoration, an approach which seeks to help recover San Joaquin Valley threatened and endangered species by restoring agricultural land that is suitable as habitat and under threat of retirement. The authors identify 2.5 million acres of current agricultural lands that have high potential for restoration, 14% of which was fallowed at least once during the most recent drought.