Water Well Moratorium
The basic rule of sustainability is that for every of water pumped out of the ground, an equal amount must be percolated back in.
Aug 13, 2014
In our last newsletter we attempted to explain what's going on with the groundwater sustainability policy debate in California.
A little background: Let's say farmers need three acre feet of water per acre per year. That's 36". Let's say they get 2 acre feet or 24" of surface water and pump the other 12" of groundwater to supply their 36" of water needs. Some of the surface and groundwater used will percolate back into the underground and you have the makings of a sustainable water policy.
When things get out of whack is when you get only zero surface water supply because of the government's environmental water policy and a drought. Now instead of pumping 12" out of the Savvy water basin managers are already getting together to put together their local plans so as not to be hammered by state regulators. The basic rule of sustainability is that for every of water pumped out of the ground, an equal amount must be percolated back in. Local water basin policy will need to show that this is happening and that the water table isn't ping. Our point is that whether you like it or not, it is going to happen. Make sure you have your say.ground you're needing to pump all 36". So you're taking out three feet, but only recharging part of that so you have a situation that is not sustainable at all. Also take into consideration that in the years before the drought, although farmers had some surface water, the supplies were reduced because of the same environmental rules. That's what has led to the severe groundwater overdraft we now have. Translation: we didn't get into this situation because of one dry winter.
These are the things water managers have to consider when putting together their water sustainability plans: what comes out must go back in.
In Fresno County, Supervisor Henry Perea is considering a moratorium on new water wells. We think this is a bad idea for the county because the state sustainability plans will already require an equalibrium for how much water is taken out vs. how much is put back in. It doesn't matter how many straws are in the drink, what matters is how much drink is in the drink. The sustainability plans will make sure it is equal. We don't need government officials all over the state making wild card rules over and above the sustainability rules that will already be in place. Let people make decisions about how many wells they need as long as they abide by a realistic sustainability policy.
Mr. Perea is also considering limiting the planting of new almonds and pestacios because of the amount of water they consume. Again, it doesn't matter what crop a farmer grows as long as he takes out as much as the system can put back in. If a farmer wants to grow almonds and it takes more water than some other crop he will probably farm fewer acres, but with the same amount of water. Who cares if he grows 300 acres of almonds or 600 acres of grapes as long as it's the same amount of water?
The sustainabilty rules will take care of all of this. Please, local government officials, don't start throwing a lot of roadblocks in the way. What you need to do is get involved with all the players in your local water basins, people like Westlands, Friant, the Fresno Irrigation District, cities, developers and put together the sustainability plans. It will all come together without a lot of picking around the edges.
If local officials really want to do something constructive they need to help replace the surface water supplies the Central Valley has lost so their tax base doesn't collapse.
California groundwater management bills on their way through legislature
Siskiyou Daily News
By David Smith
Two new groundwater-related bills are working their way through the Legislature. Last week, both received amendments on their way to committees.
The bills – one in the state Senate and one in the state Assembly – have similar language related to the management and monitoring of groundwater resources.
Senate Bill 1168 and Assembly Bill 1739 both state in opening, “This bill would state the policy of the state that groundwater resources be managed sustainably for long-term reliability and multiple economic, social, and environmental benefits for current and future beneficial uses. This bill would state that sustainable groundwater management is best achieved locally through the development, implementation, and updating of plans and programs based on the best available science.”
The language of each bill reflects the other, but SB 1168, authored by Senator Fran Pavley, details numerous additional changes to the state’s approach to groundwater management.
In particular, both bills would require the state, by Jan. 1, 2017, to categorize groundwater basins across the state as being high, medium, low or very low priority, with a basin’s category determining how it will be managed in the future.
By Jan. 31, 2020, all high and medium priority basins would have to be managed under groundwater sustainability or coordinated groundwater sustainability plans, with some exceptions. According to AB 1168, those sustainability plans would have to meet a sustainability goal.
The bill would authorize any local agency or combination of local agencies to become a groundwater sustainability agency, which would have the authority to require registration of a groundwater extraction facility, require such a facility to have a water-measuring device, regulate groundwater extraction and impose fees.
The local agency or agencies designated as the groundwater sustainability agency would have to submit a groundwater sustainability plan to the Department of Water Resources for review, and AB 1168 would allow the DWR to establish a schedule of fees to recover costs associated with its administration of the program.
Another facet of the bill would grant the sustainability agency the authority to issue inspection warrants, and would make it a misdemeanor to refuse a warranted inspection.
One final stipulation of the bill is that before making changes to a general plan, planning agencies must review and consider groundwater sustainability or management plans, groundwater management court orders, judgements or decrees, adjudications of water rights or an order or interim plan issued by the State Water Resources Control Board.
AB 1168 was amended Aug. 6 and has been referred to the Assembly’s appropriations committee, and SB 1739 has been referred to the Senate’s appropriations committee.
Outside the Legislature, Siskiyou Count is currently embroiled in litigation relating to the question of whether the extraction of groundwater can be subjected to the Public Trust Doctrine, which could determine the sustainability goals of groundwater management.
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