An aquifer is a geologic formation that stores, transmits, and
yields significant quantities of water to wells or springs.
Aquifers come in two types. Some are formed in the space between
porous materials such as sand, gravel, silt or clay and are known
as alluvial aquifers or unconfined aquifers. However, in many
places in California, there are aquifers beneath a rock layer
that does not allow water to permeate in measurable amounts.
These are known as confined aquifers.
Confined aquifers under pressure are known as artesian aquifers.
This pressure can push water to the surface, which when drilled
are called artesian wells.
Large swathes of land in densely populated parts of the world
are subsiding rapidly as a result of groundwater depletion.
Paired with rising sea levels caused by global warming, this
could place many coastal cities at risk of severe flooding by
The Governor’s proposal for how to spend California’s $15
billion surplus includes $60 million in direct grants to help
replenish groundwater in the valley’s most depleted basins. The
measure specifies the money is to be used in “critically
over-drafted basins,” which lie mostly in the San Joaquin
Valley. Water managers were pleasantly surprised, but not
overwhelmed, by the amount.
Vicky Espinoza is on a mission. Vicky is passionate about
making sure rural, low-income communities and small-scale
farmers have a say in land-use and water-management decisions
in the San Joaquin Valley.
If an options agreement between the [Ridgecrest] City Council
and Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority comes to
fruition, recycled water from the city’s wastewater facility
could help balance the groundwater basin… Both the council
and the groundwater authorities at their respective meetings
last week approved the option agreement between the two parties
for recycled wastewater.
California oil regulators ignored their own regulations and
issued improper permits for hundreds of new wells last year,
according to an audit … finalized this week. … The audit
was requested after stories in The Desert Sun
revealed that CalGEM employees used so-called “dummy”
folders to approve new injection wells for
several oil companies that do risky steam injection.
Alfalfa is proving in University of California studies to be
remarkably resilient when flooded with large amounts of water
early in the year to refill ground depleted by deficit
irrigation, or to recharge groundwater drawn down by pumping.
What are key California water priorities for the coming year,
in light of ongoing disruptions from the pandemic, the
recession, lingering drought, and a record-breaking fire
season? The PPIC Water Policy Center brought together three
panels of experts to discuss possibilities at our annual water
If you look up into [San Joaquin] Valley skies this week and
see a large, oddly shaped device hanging from a helicopter,
don’t be alarmed. It’s part of a research project to map
underground water supplies. Beginning Monday, flyovers are
expected in areas west and south of Fresno – including Fowler,
Kingsburg, Lemon Cove, Orange Cove, Orosi, Parlier, Piedra,
Reedley, Sanger, Selma, Woodlake.
After decades of new and deeper wells, degraded water quality
and groundwater level declines, residents in the [Madera] area
have a chance to influence how local groundwater will be
managed and used for decades to come — and the deadline to
participate is quickly approaching.
Fewer properties over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin will be
subject to severe water restrictions after the San Luis Obispo
County Board of Supervisors voted on Nov. 17 to revise the
basin’s “area of severe decline,” eliminating roughly 37,000
In the weeks before the coronavirus began tearing through
California, the city of Commerce made an expensive decision: It
shut down part of its water supply. Like nearly 150 other
public water systems in California, the small city on the
outskirts of Los Angeles had detected “forever chemicals” in
its well water.
Grant Reynolds, a director of Water Audit California, delivered
a letter to the city on Monday criticizing its use of the
Stonebridge wells for municipal use and “a pattern of
exercising no discretion” in issuing permits for new wells.
The lower Colorado River Basin, which is primarily in Arizona,
is projected to have as much as sixteen percent less
groundwater infiltration by midcentury compared to the
historical record. That’s because warming temperatures will
increase evaporation while rain- and snowfall are expected to
remain the same or decrease slightly.
Plans to regulate groundwater for the first time ever in the
Ukiah Valley Basin are moving forward. And though the details
are wonky and a little esoteric, the results could affect water
and ag policy for years to come. Last week, the Ukiah Valley
Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency discussed how their
mammoth project of sustainably managing the groundwater is
A helicopter making low-level passes over the Santa Ynez Valley
towing a large hexagonal frame is using a technology first
developed in World War II to peer as far as 1,400 feet below
the surface to map the groundwater basin.
The Tulare County Farm Bureau presented a check for $65,000 to
Ben Curti and Tessa Hall of Curtimade Dairy to assist in their
legal fees as they defend against accusations of groundwater
pollution from the city of Corcoran…
The Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a series
of regulations on where and how hemp growers can operate in
unincorporated areas of Riverside County, prohibiting grows
where water availability is already a challenge.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has signed a record of decision,
finalizing an environmental impact statement that gives
clearance for the Friant-Kern Canal project to proceed. The
canal needs repairs as a result of land subsidence.
Dow Chemical Company and Shell Oil Company have been hit with a
lawsuit by the central California county of Madera alleging
they knowingly polluted Madera’s drinking water wells by
manufacturing and selling fumigants, used in agricultural
fields, laced with a toxic chemical.
The public can finally get a look at how Madera officials plan
to correct severe groundwater over pumping and replenish
aquifers in that area. For some farmers, that correction will
mean pumping limits of up to 50 percent from what’s allowed
Private wells in the central San Joaquin Valley are at risk of
water quality issues, failing equipment and declining
groundwater supplies. To help residents address these concerns,
The Fresno Bee contacted public officials, water advocates and
other experts to answer frequently asked questions about common
In areas where groundwater levels have fallen because of heavy
pumping, people have often responded by drilling deeper wells.
But exactly how much that has occurred on a nationwide scale
wasn’t clear until water experts compiled nearly 12 million
well-drilling records across the country. In a new study,
[UC Santa Barbara] researchers found that Americans in
many areas from coast to coast are drilling deeper for
groundwater….The study confirmed that drilling deeper wells
is common in California’s food-producing Central Valley…and
household wells remain vulnerable to pumping by deeper
Residents of the Santa Ynez and Lompoc Valleys may see an
unusual sight in the skies this November, and it won’t be a
UFO. It will be a low-flying helicopter carrying a large
hexagonal frame. This unique equipment is part of a project to
map aquifers and improve the understanding of groundwater in
Local leaders, farmers and others in the Central Valley report
additional progress in addressing salinity in surface water,
and salt and nitrates in groundwater, in compliance with a
program adopted last fall by the State Water Resources Control
“As temperatures rise, climate change compounds the already
difficult circumstances of vulnerable communities, increasing
inequities related to access to clean water, clean air and
socioeconomic opportunities” said J. Pablo Ortiz-Partida,
climate scientist at UCS and co-author of the guide.
Cham-Cal, operator and owner of a facility in Garden Grove that
manufactures commercial truck accessories, used and stored
tetrachloroethene (PCE) in its vapor degreasing operation,
resulting in repeated discharges of the suspected
cancer-causing contaminant to soil and groundwater on
industrial property owned by Western Avenue Associates.
The [Monterey County] Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to
spend about $2.66 million in cannabis tax revenue over three
years to cover the local cash match for a Salinas Valley well
destruction program. The majority argued the well destruction
program would have a broad community benefit by battling
seawater intrusion threatening Salinas Valley agricultural and
residential water supplies.
The proposed structure will span the width of the existing
channel and feature an operable weir crest gate that can be
raised for diversion to the intake structure and lowered to
bypass diversions. An engineered roughened channel will be
constructed in the section of the stream directly downstream of
the diversion structure for future fish passage. The new intake
will be equipped with a trash rack and fish screens.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, was a
landmark legislation whose effects will be felt over the
decades that it is phased into implementation. With the long
time horizon it may be easy for some to lose sight of what’s
For decades it’s been done on a relatively small scale near
Bakersfield, and recent studies confirm it doesn’t threaten
crop safety. So why aren’t more local oil producers giving
farmers the briny water that comes up from the ground along
with oil? In a word, money.
I can see clearly the challenge ahead for implementation of the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Actcal act because I now
have first-hand experience with the kinds of water disputes
that can arise when the local parties involved are not given a
chance to work things out collaboratively.
If all goes according to plan, recycled water from the city’s
planned $45 to $60 million wastewater treatment facility may be
used to help balance the Indian Wells Valley groundwater basin
as mandated by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management
The Friant Water Authority on Thursday approved the final
environmental review for a massive project to fix a 33-mile
segment of the Friant-Kern Canal despite continued questions
about funding and other concerns expressed by some Friant
Advocates and researchers warn that the way many local agencies
have interpreted the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act overlooks the needs of disadvantaged communities who rely
on groundwater for their drinking water. Many are concerned
that households and communities could see their wells go dry in
the coming years, leaving them without access to safe and
affordable drinking water.
California lawmakers need to create a package of legislation
that limits multiple kinds of oil drilling, not just hydraulic
fracturing, if they want to respond effectively to the world’s
climate crisis, says state Sen. Henry Stern, D-Los Angeles, who
chairs the Natural Resources and Water Committee.
A national environmental organization is preparing to sue Gov.
Gavin Newsom’s administration for issuing new fracking permits,
including six approved on Friday, Kassie Siegel, director of
the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute,
Over-pumping of groundwater has caused domestic wells to go dry
in the San Joaquin Valley. Yet many of the first round of plans
prepared to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act (SGMA) do not yet propose ways to address this problem. We
explored groundwater planning with three members of the
environmental justice community—Angela Islas of Self-Help
Enterprises, Justine Massey of the Community Water Center, and
Amanda Monaco of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and
Two lawsuits against a Kern County groundwater sustainability
agency show the potential implications for agriculture and
other businesses with historic, overlying water rights….”It’s
one of the first groundwater sustainability plans we’re seeing
that could wholly restrict agriculture in a water-poor area,
while ignoring overlying rights and preferring other,
non-agricultural users in the basin,” [the California Farm
Bureau Federation's Chris] Scheuring said.
In the world of groundwater recharge, not all dirt is created
equal. Where, when, how much and how fast water can best be
recharged into the Central Valley’s severely depleted aquifers
has become a critical question. A new tool aims to help answer
those questions at the field-by-field level or up to an entire
Run Dry is a story of small, rural California communities and
their struggle to remain connected to the most precious
resource—water. This digital media project combines short
documentary films, personal stories, photographs, and data
visualizations about water scarcity and contamination in the
San Joaquin Valley.
Right now, the Mendocino County Sustainable Groundwater Agency
is writing up a groundwater sustainability plan for the basin.
The plan will regulate groundwater in the Ukiah Valley basin
for the first time ever, and will define how water is managed
in and near Redwood Valley, Calpella, and Ukiah for perpetuity.
A University of Arizona researcher is leading a National
Science Foundation project that is integrating artificial
intelligence to simulate the nation’s groundwater supply for
the purpose of forecasting droughts and floods. [One aim,
the researcher said, is to] “come up with better forecasts
for floods and droughts in the upper Colorado River Basin…”
Developing lithium from the Salton Sea in California can help
anchor a multi-billion dollar domestic electric vehicle battery
supply chain and inject thousands of jobs and billions of
dollars into California’s economically disadvantaged Imperial
Valley, according to a new report from New Energy Nexus.
The Coachella Valley Water District broke ground Tuesday on a
project that will connect the Westside Elementary School in
Thermal to the water system that services much of the valley.
Westside is the only school in its district relying solely on a
well and has a history of water contamination….construction
is advancing with money from the state water board’s Safe
and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience Program. [It
is the state's first recipient under the program.]
Tehama County Board of Supervisors received an update Tuesday
… on groundwater levels and well depths following reports of
south county wells going dry. … The majority of the calls
come from areas west of Interstate-5 as far as Rancho Tehama,
where at least two people have reported wells going dry. A few
others have reported declining groundwater levels.
Sixty percent of California’s public water supply wells that
were tested for so-called forever chemicals contain those
compounds, according to research that the State Water Resources
Control Board released Wednesday. The findings … shed new
light on the presence of PFAS contamination and areas that
could be vulnerable based on proximity to known sources like
airports and landfills.
A relatively new water budgeting platform appears to be working
well for producers in Kern County. The Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water
Storage District has worked with multiple stakeholder partners
to develop the Water Accounting Platform to help growers more
accurately track water use.
Researchers at the University of California San Diego report in
a new study a way to improve groundwater monitoring by using a
remote sensing technology (known as InSAR), in conjunction with
climate and land cover data, to bridge gaps in the
understanding of sustainable groundwater in California’s San
In the area that the Moapa Valley Water District serves, water
users are facing an uncomfortable future: People are going to
have to use less water than they were once promised. Over the
last century, state regulators handed out more groundwater
rights than there was water available. Today state officials
say that only a fraction of those rights can be used, which
could mean cuts.
The Soquel Creek Water District is pleased to announce that its
low-interest loan from the US Environmental Protection Agency
has been approved, to be used toward construction of the Pure
Water Soquel Groundwater Replenishment and Seawater Intrusion
Prevention Project. The loan, up to a maximum of $88.9 million
at an interest rate of 1.34%, is part of the Water
Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act funding program.
Landowners with access to underground water have been able to
pull as much water, at any rate, any time, and for any reason
without worrying about protocols or following government rules.
That is about to change. Last Tuesday, local officials and
environmental engineers introduced an outline for how to
sustainably manage and regulate groundwater in the region.
NASA announced plans Friday to clean up a Cold War-era rocket
fuel testing site in Southern California — plans that have
upset residents who say the space agency and the Trump
administration have punted any responsibility for a full
cleanup and will leave most of the area contaminated.
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority faces two
lawsuits, from a major local farm operation and Searles Valley
Minerals, over water rights filed this week in the aftermath of
the passing of a controversial groundwater replenishment fee
and a fallowing program.
Researchers at the University of California San Diego report in
a new study a way to improve groundwater monitoring by using a
remote sensing technology (known as InSAR), in conjunction with
climate and land cover data, to bridge gaps in the
understanding of sustainable groundwater in California’s San
Healthy communities need clean, reliable water supplies. That
is why your thoughts, and ideas need to be shared with local
water agencies as they create plans that map out how
groundwater will be managed for the next 50 years.
One of the biggest challenges to implementing California’s
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act hovers around this
two-part question: Who gets to pump groundwater and how much do
they get to pump? Or, put another way, who must cut their
groundwater use and by how much? [Please note Oct. 20 webinar.]
The land east of Madera has changed in the 25 years since
Rochelle and Michael Noblett built their home… There are more
houses, more irrigated agriculture and less grazing land.
There’s also been a significant decline in water availability,
as the level of groundwater drops below what some domestic
wells can reach. That’s why the couple was shocked when the
county allowed a new irrigation well and almond orchard … in
the midst of the most recent drought, even as private wells
were going dry…
California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have
provided funding to fix the ever-sinking Friant-Kern
Canal. SB 559 would have required the Department of Water
Resources to report to the legislature by March 31, 2021, on
federal funding for the Friant Water Authority or any other
government agency to restore the capacity of the Friant-Kern
Canal. The bill would also have required DWR to include a
proposal for the state to pay up to 35 percent of the cost of
Two lawsuits accusing the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater
Authority of ramming through a plan that ignores water rights
and, according to one plaintiff, is intended to “destroy
agriculture” were filed this week. At issue is a controversial
$2,000-per-acre-foot fee that would be charged to certain
groundwater users over a five-year period. That money is
intended to raise $50 million to buy Central Valley water and,
somehow, bring it over the Sierra Nevada to replenish the
overdrafted desert aquifer.
Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology
… are using a form of artificial intelligence known as
machine learning to map the sinking – called land subsidence –
to help water policy officials make informed decisions. … To
carry out their research, Smith and his Ph.D. student, Sayantan
Majumdar, compiled hydrologic and subsidence data from
satellites and ground-based GPS stations across the western
U.S., including California, Arizona, and Nevada.
When governor Jerry Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA) into law in September 2014, he said that
“groundwater management in California is best accomplished
locally.” With the first round of plans made available for
public comment this year, it appears that, while the state
certainly ceded control to local management agencies, those
same agencies have prioritized the interests of big agriculture
and industry over small farmers and disadvantaged communities.
Potentially the most important question popped up roughly
halfway through the Indian Wells Valley Water District Board
candidate forum Wednesday night. Hidden within a longer
question was the key point: how do the candidates think the
local water basin should be balanced and how do they plan to
protect water district ratepayers while doing so?
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday vowed to work with
the state legislature to phase out new permits for hydraulic
fracking by 2024, but left untouched a more widely used oil
extraction technique in the state that has been linked to
hundreds of oil spills.
How does a region integrate Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act (SGMA), a program mandated by state legislation, with
Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM), a voluntary
collaborative effort, to implement regional water management
solutions? … This article discusses how IRWM and SGMA share a
Farmers whose only access to water is pumping from their own
well will get their first glimpse at what the state’s new
groundwater management law will cost them next month. On Oct.
1, the East Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency will hold a
public hearing to discuss a groundwater extraction fee…
The housing developer and the powerful water utility, locked
into past contracts, are caught in a fight, playing out in
hydrologic reports and hearing rooms, over what might seem a
simple question: How much water is there? That answer is
complicated by how much is at stake — a Colorado River
tributary, the survival of an endangered Nevada fish and the
future of development in a sweeping area outside Las Vegas.
The last few years have been dry for one of the oldest
cemeteries in Tulare County. The well at the Deep Creek
Cemetery has been parched since 2014 and now they are in talks
with the Farmersville City Council to potentially connect to
the city’s water system.
State and local agencies are continuing to work to implement
the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. With SGMA’s
far-reaching implications, Ph.D. candidate at UC Merced, Vicky
Espinoza has created a bilingual video series to help provide a
better understanding of the impact of SGMA and generate more
For decades, farmers in California’s Kern County have turned to
wastewater from oil production to help irrigate their crops
during extended dry spells. … But the use of the recycled
water, a byproduct of oil and natural gas extraction that is
mixed with surface water for irrigation, has stirred
The Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory
Committee — 25 people appointed by the Board of Supervisors
representing such interests as farming, wineries and the
environment — was in action last Thursday with a Zoom meeting.
Surrounded by lush green fields, Pleasanton often makes the top
ten list of desirable places to live. But a new list just out
is nothing to boast about. “I was just floored,” said
Pleasanton resident Jill Buck when she found out her town made
the top ten for dangerous drinking water.
The Pleasanton City Council made headway on plans to repair a
contaminated groundwater well and meet — if not exceed –
future water quality standards earlier this month. In a
unanimous vote Sept. 1, the council approved a $437,374
contract with Walnut Creek-based Carollo Engineers to prepare a
basis of design report for per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances
(PFAS) treatment and rehabilitating the city’s groundwater
San Diego is not well endowed with many freshwater sources to
support its growing population, so some water experts are
perplexed the city’s ignoring a self-replenishing local
groundwater source that, though small in size, is safe from the
threat of natural disasters and reliably recharged by the San
Once a week, Florencia Ramos makes a special trip to the R–N
Market in Lindsay, California. “If you don’t have clean water,
you have to go get some,” says Ramos, a farmworker and mother
of four who lives in the neighboring Central Valley town of El
Rancho. She has been purchasing jugs of water at the small
store for more than a decade now.
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has taken actions
recently with regards to fees that will affect customers of the
Indian Wells Valley Water District. … It is my intent to
provide context for how these fees will translate to your bill
from the district.
The Pleasanton City Council … unanimously approved a contract
with Carollo Engineers in the amount of $437,374 to prepare a
basis of design report for Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances
(PFAS) treatment and the rehabilitation of city-owned and
-operated wells 5, 6 and 8.
In Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources v. County
of Stanislaus, the Court held that the County may not
categorically classify all groundwater well permit issuances as
ministerial decisions. Such a classification exempts well
permit issuances from environmental review.
In 2014, California passed the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (or SGMA), requiring local agencies to be formed
and groundwater sustainability plans to be written for all
groundwater basins subject to SGMA. Those plans must avoid six
undesirable results, one of which is “significant and
unreasonable” impacts to groundwater quality.
Irvine Ranch Water District and Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water
Storage District had just begun environmental review for their
joint banking project this past April when TCP reared its head.
… TCP (trichloropropane) is a carcinogenic leftover from a
nematode pesticide made by Shell Oil and Dow Chemical that was
liberally applied to Central Valley farmland from the 1950s
through the 1980s.
The water wars are far from over, a point made clear in a
just-released feature-length documentary, “Until the Last
Drop.” If you can block from your mind the old Folgers “good to
the last drop” commercials, the film title will evoke a
combination of dripping water with a fight to the last drop of
I visited in late August with Matt Angell about California San
Joaquin Valley water issues. Angell is a chairman of San
Joaquin Resource Conservation District 9, is a managing partner
at Pacific Farming Co., and also is managing director of Madera
Pumps. The conversation included discussion of California’s
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and what that will
require of growers in the years ahead.
According to the 21-page complaint, Foster Farms’ Livingston,
California, plant uses 3-4 million gallons of drinkable water
daily, more than all the other water users in the rural city of
14,000 combined. The main reason, the Animal Legal Defense
Fund argues, is Foster Farms’ water-intensive slaughter system.
While the Court’s Opinion does not state that all well permits
must undergo CEQA review, it narrows the grounds on which the
ministerial exemption may apply. And since county well
ordinances across the State comprise similar provisions, this
ruling upsets the common practice of treating such permits as
ministerial, not subject to CEQA.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C.
Circuit in Washington, seeks to overturn the Trump EPA’s
decision to allow unlimited amounts of toxic perchlorate in our
tap water. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler reached this
decision even though his agency admits that toxic perchlorate
is found in millions of Americans’ tap water…
The Natural Resources Defense Council on Thursday sued the
Environmental Protection Agency over its decision not to
regulate a chemical linked to fetal and infant brain damage.
The agency announced in June it would not regulate perchlorate
even though it estimated up to 620,000 people could be drinking
water with a concerning amount of the chemical.
Studies estimate that 1.5 – 2.5 million Californians rely on
domestic wells to meet their household water needs. But because
domestic wells are often shallow, they are also often sensitive
to changes in groundwater levels. As such, sustainable
groundwater management has an important role to play in
safeguarding the health and safety of residents and the
achievement of California’s recognized Human Right to Water.
A developer is suing Nevada’s Division of Water Resources after
the state again denied plans to construct new homes at Coyote
Springs, the latest setback in a decades-long effort to build a
sprawling master-planned community about 50 miles north of Las
Vegas. Coyote Springs Investment alleges state officials made a
series of decisions that amount to an “unconstitutional taking”
of the water rights it owns and planned to use.
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a Superfund
site project to clean up groundwater in part of a basin in
Fullerton, Anaheim, and Placentia… According to the Orange
County Water District, groundwater was contaminated with
industrial degreasing chemicals in the early 1960s through the
mid-1980s. The long-lasting effects contaminated an area about
five miles long and two miles wide…
The big kahuna of California water — Metropolitan Water
District of Southern California — has stopped taking supplies
from one Kern County groundwater bank because the water is
heavily tainted with a cancer-causing agent that is pervasive
in Central Valley’s aquifers. While only one banking program
has been affected so far, the emergence of this issue could
have huge implications for water storage and movement in the
The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity last week
said it’s targeting a federal plan to auction in December seven
parcels totaling about 4,330 acres in or near existing
oilfields in the county. The CBD called the auction plan a
“breathtakingly vicious” move by the Trump administration to
expand drilling and fracking at a time of wildfires driven by
climate change in an area with some of the country’s worst air
A Monday proposal from the U.S. Forest Service would severely
limit the agency’s ability to call off any oil drilling slated
for its lands by the Bureau of Land Management, which tees up
leasing in federal forests. … The proposed rule removes
specific references within Forest Service policy to review
environmental consequences of drilling and also eliminates the
requirement to provide public notice before new oil activity
Over the next 20 years, San Joaquin Valley farmers may need to
temporarily fallow or permanently retire over half a million
acres of cropland as California pushes towards sustainable
groundwater use. … Below, the paper’s lead authors, Benjamin
Bryant and Rodd Kelsey, discuss their research examining how
conservation planning can guide the land use change being
driven by SGMA to achieve multiple benefits…
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority last week voted
unanimously to adopt a transient pool and fallowing program and
also approve findings that the programs are exempt from
California Environmental Quality Act review — meaning the
programs are not considered to have a significant impact on the
It hasn’t always been easy, and there have been plenty of bumps
along the way, but we’ve learned a lot in those five years, and
we are happy to share some of what we learned. We are pleased
to present our top 10 SGMA lessons learned:
While the world was coping with the deadly COVID-19 crisis …
the Trump administration was quietly diluting environmental
laws regulating the toxic rocket fuel oxidizer perchlorate,
utilized extensively by scientists at Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(JPL) beginning in the 1950s and since then polluting Pasadena
and Altadena drinking water wells.
The estimated fee would be $24 a month for the average
residential user presuming a five-year repayment period,
according to Gleason. The fee would reportedly collect some $50
million which would be used to purchase water rights for
imported water, presuming the same users continue using the
water at roughly the same rate.
North Marin Water District has struggled for decades with
periodic and seasonal salinity intrusion resulting from the
wells’ proximity to Tomales Bay, but the problem is especially
dire this summer as freshwater becomes scarce.
Earlier this month, CSU-Fresno hosted the event “Funding Water
Infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley.” The majority of the
event was focused on the so-called “Water Blueprint for the San
Joaquin Valley,” a high profile new investment plan for
irrigation water. At the event, the Blueprint rolled out a
proposed funding plan – the centerpiece of which is a proposed
0.5% special sales tax in the 8 counties of the San Joaquin
Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority voted 4-1 to pass the
replenishment fee despite significant public opposition. …
Although residential users will see an estimated $24 per month
increase, Searles Valley Minerals will see a 7,000-percent
increase in water costs.
More than 100 people gathered in front of the Mayten Fire
Department in Montague Saturday morning to protest the trucking
of water from local wells, most likely to irrigate illegal
cannabis grows in the Big Springs and Mt. Shasta Vista areas.
The basin replenishment fee was passed by the Indian Wells
Valley Groundwater Authority with a vote of four to one Friday
afternoon. IWV Water District Director Ron Kicinski was the
sole no vote. The IWVGA voted after the basin replenishment fee
protest hearing Friday failed. The IWVGA did not announce the
number of protest votes received…
The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) has released two
new educational resources for private well owners concerning
per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). … Both resources
are available for a free download at NGWA.org/PFAS and
’The “Save Searles” campaign was launched Tuesday, three days
before the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority
public hearing on a controversial replenishment fee. The fee
would increase water costs for Searles Valley Minerals by
nearly $6 million a year, “pushing the company and the local
community towards extinction,” according to the campaign…
Last year, California passed a law establishing a fund for safe
and affordable drinking water. Using money from the state’s
cap-and-trade program, it allocates up to $130 million to
solutions each year for a decade.
The groundwater sustainability plans that were submitted to the
Department of Water Resources in January of 2020 were the first
of the groundwater sustainability plans to be completed. Public
review of these plans has revealed some important lessons to be
learned to be considered for those preparing the plans that
will be due in January of 2022.
The two agencies inked a partnership last year to undergo the
study, which will collect and analyze data on the water supply,
land uses, and groundwater flow over the mostly rural region
west of Highway 101—north to Lake Nacimiento and south to
The development of a groundwater sustainability plan has begun
and will help ensure we can manage the Carpinteria Groundwater
Basin sustainably, which is an important shared resource for
the Carpinteria Valley. In addition, the Carpinteria Advanced
Purification Project, now under development, will allow us to
diversify our water portfolio so that we can be resilient in
future periods of drought.
The proposed fee to be charged is $4.92 per acre foot of which
$1.61 would go to administration/overhead, $1.78 would go to
professional services, 65 cents would go to water accounting
and 88 cents would go to technical monitoring. The agency’s
budget for 2020-2021 is $1,519,210. The fee would fund $759,605
of the budget.
The proposed replenishment fee is $2,130 per acre-foot of
extracted water. This represents a composite fee which covers
the estimated imported water purchase cost of $2,112 per
acre-foot extracted and $17.50 per acre-foot extracted for
estimated costs to mitigate shallow wells from overdraft
damage… This would work out to an estimated fee of $24 per
month for the average residential user…
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies
have reached a $56.6 million settlement to assist in cleanup at
the Dual Site Groundwater Operable Unit of the Montrose
Chemical Corp. and Del Amo superfund sites.
The short answer is, the replenishment fee is a per-acre-foot
extraction fee proposed by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater
Authority to pay for mitigation of registered shallow wells
damaged by continuing overdraft, as well as to begin importing
water necessary to balance the groundwater basin. A public
hearing regarding the fee is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 21 at
In what some have described as a cynical attempt by a U.S.
government agency to avoid a long-promised cleanup of toxic and
radioactive contaminants, NASA has nominated the Santa Susana
Field Laboratory for official listing as a traditional cultural
If built, it would … pump groundwater into four new
reservoirs … Tribal members and environmentalists say the
project would flood several miles of canyons sacred to the
Navajo; risk damaging cultural sites for several tribes; draw
vast amounts of critical groundwater; potentially harm habitats
for plants and animals, including some endangered species; and
risk adverse effects for waterways leading into the Grand
A Lompoc religious nonprofit is accusing a Wyoming-based
organic farm and cannabis company of stealing water it uses to
grow food and blocking access to a well on a neighboring
parcel, despite a decades-old legal agreement allowing them to
do so, according to a lawsuit filed in Santa Barbara County
Completion of groundwater sustainability plans for California’s
most over-pumped basins was a major step toward bringing basins
into long-term balance, as mandated by the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. We talked to Trevor Joseph—the
first SGMA employee at the Department of Water Resources, and
now a member of a groundwater sustainability agency in the
Sacramento Valley—about next steps and possible pitfalls.
Contaminated water has long plagued California’s Southern
Central Valley, a region home to many farmworkers. SB 974, a
bill by Senator Melissa Hurtado, seeks to provide safe drinking
water by exempting small disadvantaged communities from certain
Although only five of 41 groundwater sustainability plans
submitted to the Department of Water Resources for review in
January mention the human right to water, and only one of those
affirmed it as a consideration in their plan, these two
policies are closely related.
Thousands of families who rent or own homes with private wells
are at risk of losing their drinking water in Madera, Fresno,
Tulare and Kings counties — and some already have. The Fresno
Bee is investigating the risks to private wells and proposed
solutions, and we need to hear your stories and your questions
to guide our reporting.
Funding for much needed repairs at least in the short-term for
the Friant-Kern Canal continues to move closer to becoming
reality. The House of Representatives last week passed H.R.
7617… Included in that minibus is $71 million for repairs to
the Friant-Kern Canal during the next fiscal year.
Deep beneath the surface of the Salton Sea, a shallow lake in
California’s Imperial County, sits an immense reserve of
critical metals that, if unlocked, could power the state’s
green economy for years to come. These naturally occurring
metals are dissolved in geothermal brine, a byproduct of
geothermal energy production.
In September 2018, Estela Escoto sat down with a team of
lawyers and community organizers and weighed her options.
Escoto’s town—Arvin, California—had just granted an oil
drilling and well-servicing company, Petro-Lud, a permit to
drill four new wells near a neighborhood densely packed with
young families and a park where children played soccer.
The district’s spring groundwater monitoring program, using 55
public and private wells, found that the levels rose 3-to-18
feet in each storage area of the basin since last year. That’s
progress, but still far below historic wet weather levels,
groundwater specialist Nick Kunstek said.
Groundwater recharge projects already play an important role in
California. That role is about to expand rapidly, as local
groundwater managers begin to take more concrete actions to
meet their responsibilities under California’s landmark
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
The Bishop Paiute Tribe is experiencing low water pressure
reservation wide due to high water usage and minimal storage
and pumping capacity. … With temperatures rising, and more
community members staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic,
water usage has gone up significantly.
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s notice of an
upcoming public hearing on a basin replenishment fee has
attracted a lot of attention from water users in the valley,
but not everyone understands what the IWVGA is.
All the static and dynamic forces from the land and rock above
start adding up and eventually that now-dry soil starts
compacting down and down. While this may not seem like a big
deal on a small scale, what we’ve seen in California (and other
parts of the world too) is the dropping of the surface
elevation over a period of years, often by hundreds of feet or
Gov. Gavin Newsom released strategies Tuesday to improve
drinking water quality, revive a stalled multibillion-dollar
tunnel and build new dams. Newsom says the sweeping water
portfolio will help the Golden State prepare for global warming
by reinforcing outdated water infrastructure and reducing the
state’s reliance on groundwater during future droughts.
Recharge is playing a growing role in maintaining groundwater
as an effective drought reserve and in slowing or reversing the
effects of years of unsustainable groundwater pumping. But
implementing recharge projects is not easy. Water managers face
a range of hurdles.
Providing a reliable source of drinking water is a challenge
for many small water systems in the San Joaquin Valley, where
dropping groundwater levels, aging systems, and water quality
problems are acute. … We talked to Laura Ramos and Sarge
Green of Fresno State’s California Water Institute about this
On July 13, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave the San
Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District a 30-year permit
to manage plans for the Upper Santa Ana River Wash, the final
step in the process. The plans cover an area of Redlands and
Highland generally west and south of Greenspot Road, east of
Alabama Street and north of the waterway’s bluffs.
The grim report by the Water Foundation, a charitable
organization based in California that is focused on clean,
reliable water for people and nature, predicts the groundwater
sustainability plans written by the various districts in the
San Joaquin Valley will not achieve what SGMA purports to do –
that is, sustainably manage groundwater resources.
Editors Note: The Water Foundation is not affiliated
with the Water Education Foundation.
According to a release issued by the Nature Conservancy, the
program provides an opportunity for growers to receive
financial compensation for recharging groundwater during the
course of normal farming operations on a variety of crops while
also providing critical wetland habitat for waterbirds
migrating along the Pacific Flyway.
At the Groundwater Resources Association’s 3rd annual GSA
Summit, a panel reviewed how the process went for the
groundwater sustainability plans that were submitted to the
Department of Water Resources earlier this year, focusing on
four of the six sustainable management criteria: water levels,
water quality, land subsidence, and interconnected surface
Local water users will pay higher groundwater extraction fees
to close the gap between estimated and actual costs associated
with the Groundwater Sustainability Plan required by
California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The fee
increase was approved on Thursday by the Indian Wells Valley
The owner of more than 2,000 idle oil wells in Southern
California declared bankruptcy this week, raising fears among
environmentalists that those wells might never be properly
sealed. … As those old wells sit idle and unsealed, they
present a potential pollution hazard to drinking water
underground and people living nearby.
Media coverage portrayed stakeholders as limited to major
economic interests, such as agriculture, the study found. And
while SGMA legislation requires disadvantaged communities to be
a stakeholder in all planning documents, such communities were
largely absent from newspaper reports.
As more people enjoy local trails this summer, they may notice
many of Valley Water’s percolation ponds in Santa Clara County
are empty and dry. There’s no reason to be alarmed. In fact,
the absence of water in many of the 100 percolation ponds owned
by Valley Water is a sign that our underground water basins are
mostly full and healthy.
Sustainability plans developed by groundwater sustainability
agencies outline how water users can restore depleted water
sources. But fights have arisen and disputes about the
reliability of those water sources have come to light.
The cost of buying cases of bottled water for cooking and
drinking is adding up for residents of Earlimart, where a
contaminated well became the main source of tap water for more
than 8,000 people there in late May. The State Water Resources
Control Board that is responsible for drinking water has a
program to provide financial assistance for bottled water to
help communities in crisis. It has not been available in
Earlimart — and it is unclear why.
To begin, what is arsenic? It is one of the basic chemical
elements found in the periodic table that shows its
relationship to other elements. Arsenic is dissolved from rocks
by water in areas that have groundwater pools. If you have
significant levels of arsenic in your water, it can cause
cancer, heart disease, diarrhea and affect your skin.
With support from EDF, four UC Santa Barbara graduate students
have developed a new mapping tool for California’s Central
Valley to identify the best locations for groundwater recharge
to secure these bonus benefits. The tool, called Recharge for
Resilience, is available online and also can be downloaded by
users with more technical expertise.
A California environmental advocacy group urged the state’s air
pollution regulator and agriculture department to do more for
minority communities in an annual report card it published last
week. That report card, compiled by the California
Environmental Justice Alliance, issued environmental justice
grades to eight agencies, with a statewide C average.
A total of $83.9 million grant funding has been issued to
communities in San Diego, San Joaquin, Sacramento, Sierra and
Central Coast regions. The funding is aimed at supporting
projects to address infrastructure needs, depleted groundwater
levels, flood control issues, and other water issues of
American children whose homes rely on private wells for
drinking water are 25% more likely to have high lead levels in
their blood than those with access to regulated community water
services, according to new research.
Residents in Earlimart, California, lost water service when a
50-year-old well on Mary Ann Avenue failed in late May. When it
came back on, the main source of drinking water for more than
8,000 residents became a well contaminated with a chemical from
banned pesticides. And most residents didn’t know. The Tulare
County town’s water system is failing, in a lot of ways.
At the Groundwater Resources Association Third Annual
Groundwater Sustainability Agency Summit held online in June, a
panel of managers from four of the critically overdrafted
basins reflected on the hard work of developing and adopting a
groundwater sustainability plan.
After seven years of water restrictions over the Paso Robles
Groundwater Basin, San Luis Obispo County is redrawing the
basin’s boundaries, which will subject hundreds of new property
owners to a moratorium on irrigating and other rules.
Monte Vista Water District was awarded a $3.4 million grant
from the Department of Water Resources that will partially fund
a treatment project necessary to meet stricter water quality
regulations. The water district provides retail and wholesale
water supply services to a population of about 140,000 in the
communities of Montclair, Chino Hills and portions of Chino.
The June 17 meeting of the Eastern Municipal Water District
included approving the purchase of groundwater monitoring
equipment for the West San Jacinto Basin, approving a
consultant contract for the final design of the Hemet Water
Filtration Plant sodium hypochlorite tank replacement, and
awarding Pacific Hydrotech Corporation a contract to replace
the booster engines at the Pat Road facility.
The Trump administration has decided a chemical with a
notorious legacy in Nevada will not be regulated in drinking
water, but state officials say the reversal of the Obama-era
policy shouldn’t result in any decline in drinking water
standards across the state.
The Water Replenishment District has received a $844,240 grant
from the California State Water Resources Control Board to
remove inactive water wells from production. This grant was
made possible by California’s Proposition 1 which authorized
$7.545 billion in funds for water supply infrastructure
projects and was approved by voters in 2014.
Mostly, the people didn’t know their groundwater was polluted..
And they didn’t know the contaminated portions shut down by
federal authorities in many instances were finally being
restored. Kenneth “Ken” Manning, 69, a fixture in ground-water
restoration in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, a
pioneer in water recycling and a master at public-private
partnerships, knew. And on June 30, Manning will retire from
his most recent job, as executive director of the San Gabriel
Basin Water Quality Authority.
The EPA’s decision not to regulate perchlorate in drinking
water will slow Superfund cleanups, especially in the majority
of states that lack their own restrictions on the chemical,
environmental attorneys said. The Environmental Protection
Agency last week announced that it wouldn’t set an enforceable
limit for perchlorate, a chemical commonly used in rocket fuel.
Water and the question of what constitutes its sustainable use
is becoming an increasingly important subject everywhere with
each passing year, but in few places is it more crucial than in
the Carrizo Planning Area of California Valley
Groundwater provides nearly 40% of the water used by
California’s farms and cities, and significantly more in dry
years. But what is groundwater? In this post based on the first
segment of the UC Davis shortcourse on groundwater, Dr. Thomas
Harter provides a basic understanding of groundwater – what it
is, how much groundwater is out there, how fast groundwater
moves, and where it comes from and where it goes.
All but one of these photographs of California by Jesse White
come from California Exposures, a book that he and I, his
father, did together. … They are part of a conversation, and
they are as apt to ask questions as give answers. The
photographs of California Exposures tell a history of
California, but not in the conventional sense.
A new Water Foundation report asserts groundwater
sustainability agencies, governed mostly by members of
agricultural water districts, are planning for water tables to
decline to the point they could dry up between 4,000 and 12,000
domestic wells over the next 20 years.
California’s groundwater – a critical resource in times of
drought – is disappearing faster than we’re replenishing it.
Our underground savings accounts are tapped, and we face a host
of challenges like land subsidence, storage capacity loss and,
most importantly, a dwindling water supply for California’s dry
A new U.S. Geological Survey geonarrative illustrates where
domestic (private) water wells are located and how many people
are using them, based on the results of a 2019 USGS study.
Nearly 40 million people in the United States rely on a
domestic well for their drinking-water supply.
On June 1, in the midst of the turmoil created by the
coronavirus pandemic and the death of George Floyd in
Minneapolis, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration
quietly issued 12 fracking permits to Aera Energy, a joint
venture owned by ExxonMobil and Shell. … The fracking permits
are the latest example of California’s oil industry benefiting
from regulatory or deregulatory action during the COVID-19
Agriculture is California’s predominant use of managed water.
Agriculture and water together are a foundation for
California’s rural economy. Although most agriculture is
economically-motivated and commercially-organized, the
sociology and anthropology of agriculture and agricultural
labor are basic for the well-being of millions of people, and
the success and failure of rural, agricultural, and water and
After years of planning, McCloud’s Lower Elk Spring house
replacement project will get underway soon as the Department of
Water Resources has selected this project for the draft
recommended funding list. The current wooden structure with
corrugated roof will be replaced with a concrete vault to
insure protection from erosion and habitat contamination.
EPA will not set drinking water limits on perchlorate, a rocket
fuel ingredient linked to fetal and developmental brain damage.
The agency in a final action today said it determined
perchlorate does not meet criteria for regulation as a drinking
water contaminant under the Safe Drinking Water Act…
Under current SGMA proposals, known as groundwater
sustainability plans, the study estimates that as many as
12,000 domestic wells could run dry by the year 2040.
Commissioned by the Water Foundation and put together by a
group of drinking water advocacy organizations, the study
estimates that as many as 127,000 residents could lose their
water, and that the costs of repairing these wells could run up
hundreds of millions of dollars.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the Friant-Kern
Canal, is seeking public input on plans to repair a 33-mile
stretch of canal between Lindsay and McFarland. This stretch of
the canal has lost 60% of its original conveyance capacity due
to subsidence—a sinking of the earth from groundwater
extraction – which was accelerated during California’s historic
drought from 2012-2017.
GreenFire Energy Inc. on Wednesday said it has completed the
world’s first field-scale demonstration of closed-loop
geothermal energy generation in California. The pilot project
utilised an inactive well at the Coso geothermal field in Coso,
Inyo County. The GreenLoop technology showed promise for use in
geothermal projects in hot, deep geothermal resources where
conventional systems cannot be used.
Nevada restricted groundwater pumping Tuesday in an area north
of Las Vegas, potentially killing a real estate project that
threatens an endangered fish clinging to existence in a handful
of spring-fed desert pools…
Lack of running water has long plagued the Navajo Nation. About
a third of homes don’t have it; in some towns, it’s 90 percent.
While several factors contribute to that, many tribal members
say Peabody Energy Corp., the largest U.S. coal producer,
pulled so much water from the Navajo Aquifer before closing its
last mining operation there last August that many wells and
springs have run dry—at a time Covid-19 has hit the Nation
harder than any state.
Two giant Central Valley farming companies are slinging serious
mud at one another over groundwater. And, in a rare break with
tradition, they’re doing it in public. The fight has spilled
out in public comments on the Tulare Lake Subbasin Groundwater
Sustainability Plan, which covers most of Kings County.
Supervisors won’t be creating the plan on their own. The state
requires them to consider various interests, such as well
owners, public water systems, the environment and surface water
users. Thirty-seven people applied for a 25-person groundwater
advisory committee. That meant supervisors on Tuesday had to
A new computational approach developed by scientists at the
Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
offers a high-tech yet simple method to estimate available
groundwater: It pairs high-resolution images derived by
satellite with advanced computer modeling to estimate aquifer
volume change from observed ground deformation.
In these extraordinary times, managing groundwater for
long-term sustainability may not seem like a top priority. But
in the San Joaquin Valley — where groundwater supplies have
been declining for decades — excess pumping is a critical
problem, with major implications for public health, jobs, the
environment and local economies.
The passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
(SGMA) in 2014, granted the state official oversight authority
of groundwater. … A new paper published in Society and
Natural Resources, examines how the state’s ongoing involvement
helped shape current policies by looking at the 120-year
history of California’s role in groundwater management…
At the State Water Board’s meeting on June 2nd, Natalie Stork,
unit chief for the Groundwater Management Program at the State
Water Board, and Craig Altare, chief of the Groundwater
Sustainability Plan Review section at the Department of Water
Resources, updated the board members on how implementation is
going so far.
On May 21, the Southern Nevada Water Authority board of
directors voted to indefinitely defer its groundwater
development project, which opponents had dubbed the “water
grab.” The unanimous vote brought an end to more than three
decades of acrimonious battle with the Great Basin Water
In a new study, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine,
Vanderbilt University and the University of California, Irvine,
report on the mechanism that perchlorate uses to impact and
damage normal functioning of the thyroid gland. The findings,
they say, suggest that an acceptable safe concentration of
perchlorate in drinking water is 10 times less than previously
For years — too many, residents say — Seville households
teetered with unpredictable conditions. Using too much water in
the day meant having none at night. One flush too many, and
everyone relying on a single well in town was thrown into a dry
spell. … The coming summer, however, promises to be a new one
altogether for residents in Seville.
The company’s long-term goal is still to complete a project to
allow the transfer of up to 1.6 billion gallons of water a year
from an aquifer under its land to six Southern California water
agencies. But for the short-term, Cadiz is looking toward
agricultural development on its 45,000 acres of land about 30
miles northeast of Joshua Tree National Park.
The University of California, Irvine’s Water Program (Water
UCI) has organized a survey of the various California water and
groundwater agencies and stakeholders to get a snapshot of
where these agencies and stakeholders stand in terms of water
resilience, especially groundwater resilience.
The proposed Eagle Mountain project went through nearly 10
years of regulatory review, mostly under the Obama
administration, with deep investigations of potential impacts
and subsequent requirements for some of the most stringent
mitigations ever placed on a project. … The one hitch for us?
We, the very communities who will be impacted by this project
have no real voice.
The $65.8 million in grants will help fund projects such as
groundwater replenishment and habitat restoration within the
Colorado River, Lahontan, San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Ana
Proposition 1 funding areas. More than $12 million of this
amount targets projects that also help disadvantaged and
underrepresented communities, including Tribal governments.
Fossil fuel companies going bankrupt in the wake of the
Covid-19 pandemic are expected to leave behind thousands of
abandoned oil and gas wells, and some congressional Democrats
are calling for a federal program to ensure they’re cleaned up.
There are 56,000 known abandoned oil and gas wells in the U.S.,
leaking methane and other air and water pollutants, said Rep.
Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) …