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.
Sierra Ryan is a water resources planner with the County of
Santa Cruz. In this presentation from the Groundwater Resources
Association‘s 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Ms. Ryan tells
the story of how the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency
balanced the various perspectives, authorities, and
interpretations of the DWR regulations in writing the portion
of their Groundwater Sustainability Plan that pertained to the
depletion of interconnected surface water.
The James Irrigation District in western Fresno County has sued
the Westlands Water District over its plan to let farmers pump
salty groundwater into the Mendota Pool in exchange for water
from the San Luis Reservoir.
The report by David Sunding and David Roland-Holst, professors
at University of California, Berkeley, estimates that one-fifth
of cultivated farmland in the San Joaquin Valley will be
permanently lost as groundwater plans take hold and water
supplies are severely restricted.
Arsenic is one of the most toxic elements in the Earth’s crust.
It is widely distributed, and under certain geochemical
conditions, it dissolves into groundwater, which then gets
pumped out for human use. Arsenic presents the highest cancer
risk of any regulated carcinogens among drinking water
contaminants when the risk from each is ranked at its maximum
The changes in groundwater levels in this report illustrate how
groundwater changes over time based on hydrologic conditions. A
one-year comparison of groundwater levels provides information
about the short-term effects of a single wet or dry year, while
a multi-year comparison of groundwater levels provides
information about trends in groundwater storage. Groundwater is
an important component of water budgets throughout the state
David Orth is the principal of New Current Water and Land,
which offers strategic planning, program implementation, and
water resource development services. At the California
Irrigation Institute’s 2020 Annual Conference, he gave his
observations having watched Groundwater Sustainability Agencies
(GSAs) form and develop their Groundwater Sustainability Plans
(GSPs) since the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA) in 2014.
At the 2020 Kern County Water Summit, California Water
Commission Chair Armando Quintero spoke about the role of the
commission, gave an update on the Water Storage Investment
Program and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, and
spoke of their new role defined in the water resiliency
When county Board of Supervisor member Peggy Judd asked former
Gov. Bruce Babbitt to share his thoughts on rural counties
taking on responsibilities relating to groundwater management,
he responded, “I couldn’t say no.”
I remember being surprised when attending a local Groundwater
Sustainability Agency meeting and I first saw a schematic that
visually depicted the various levels of groundwater underneath
one of the Central Valley’s numerous subbasins.
Central Valley farmers may soon have another crop to sell along
with almonds, tomatoes and peppers — the groundwater beneath
their land. Proposed groundwater markets have popped up in just
about every groundwater sustainability plan filed with the
state Jan. 31.
The military now has at least 651 sites that have been
contaminated with cancer-linked “forever chemicals,” a more
than 50 percent jump from its last tally. The information was
released Friday in a report from the Department of Defense
(DOD), part of a task force designed to help the military
remove a class of chemicals known as PFAS from the water supply
near numerous military bases.
Former Gov. Bruce Babbitt is speaking out about widespread
problems of excessive groundwater pumping in rural areas of
Arizona, saying the state Legislature should give counties and
communities the power to protect their rapidly declining
aquifers. Babbitt appealed for action during a visit this week
to the Willcox area, where heavy pumping for farms has led to
falling water tables and left a growing number of families with
On Monday, Lilac Solutions and the Australian company
Controlled Thermal Resources announced they’re partnering to
develop a lithium-extraction facility at the Salton Sea. The
Australian firm is trying to build the area’s first new
geothermal power plant in a decade, a project that would be far
more lucrative if the super-heated underground fluid could
produce lithium in addition to electricity.
Recharge basins are becoming increasingly popular in
overdrafted regions in California, where water managers are
seeking solutions to balance groundwater supply and demand to
comply with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency (SCV Water) has announced
that they are set to voluntarily shut down 13 additional wells
in compliance with new state PFAS regulations, officials said
Friday. The levels of PFAS found are above the state-mandated
response level, according to Kathie Martin, public information
officer for Santa Clarita Valley Water.
Besides reviewing and making final determinations on submitted
plans that show how local agencies will manage their
groundwater basins for long-term sustainability, DWR staff
provide essential resources to local water agencies to help
them better understand and manage their local basins. … Below
are some examples of DWR staff contributions to groundwater
Groundwater is the sole source of water supply for the valley;
there isn’t any surface water or imported water available.
After decades of excessive pumping, the Borrego Groundwater
Basin is considered critically overdrafted and dramatic
reductions in pumping – up to 70% by the latest estimate – will
be needed to reach sustainability.
People flanked by handmade signs spill out of a charter bus
that just arrived from UC Santa Barbara. They join a growing
rally outside the Veterans Memorial Center in Santa Maria,
chanting, “Health, not oil,” and, “No new oil, keep it in the
soil!” A microphone passed around gave different folks and
organizations a chance to lead the rally cries.
This year marks a new phase in California’s landmark
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). At the end of
January, water users in 21 critically overdrafted basins
delivered their first groundwater sustainability plans to the
state Department of Water Resources. In this series, we examine
the 36 plans submitted for 11 critically overdrafted basins in
the San Joaquin Valley—California’s largest farming region. …
This post addresses key questions about groundwater budgets.
San Joaquin Valley farmers say they hope a newly released
report will capture the attention of Californians about the
potential impact of water shortages in the region. The report,
released last week, said water shortages could cause 1 million
acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland to be fallowed and cost as
many as 85,000 jobs.
A District Court judge has once again scuttled the Southern
Nevada Water Authority’s plans to obtain and pump rural
groundwater about 300 miles from eastern Nevada, prompting one
Clark County commissioner to call on the water authority “to
look in a different direction.”
A multi-partner water recycling project is helping Monterey,
Calif., stabilize and replenish its dwindling groundwater
supply. The project could serve as a model for shrinking
aquifers in other regions of the country.
The Cuyama Valley is the driest agricultural region in the
county; the valley floor gets just a little more rain than the
Sahara. Yet for the past 75 years, this high desert region has
been a mecca for water-intensive farming on an industrial scale
— first alfalfa, and now carrots, a $69 million annual crop.
… Now, to the rescue — belatedly — comes the state
Groundwater Sustainability Act of 2014…
The pit was a bustling iron mine once, churning out ore that
was shipped by rail to a nearby Kaiser Steel plant. When steel
manufacturing declined, Los Angeles County tried to turn the
abandoned mine into a massive landfill. Conservationists hope
the area will someday become part of Joshua Tree National Park,
which surrounds it on three sides. Steve Lowe has a radically
People on both sides of the oil argument met Wednesday night in
Santa Maria, sharing their opinions about the future of oil
drilling on the Central Coast. The meeting was one of 10 that
the California Department of Conservation’s Geologic Energy
Management Division (CalGEM) is hosting.
California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 is
now “the law of the land (state)” and as such there will be
restricted agricultural groundwater pumping throughout the San
The State Water Resources Control Board Tuesday adopted its
2020 priorities, which include setting a maximum contaminant
level of the heavy metal, also known as chromium-6. A proposed
rule setting the limit could come in early 2021.
The report done by University of California, Berkeley,
economists Dr. David Sunding and Dr. David Roland-Holst shows
that the California economy will suffer unless responsible,
balanced water reforms are enacted in the effort to achieve
groundwater sustainability goals in the San Joaquin Valley.
Two bills that would make it easier for state regulators and
county officials to limit well-drilling and groundwater pumping
have died in the Arizona Legislature despite support from
lawmakers and pleas from county officials who are asking for
help to protect their rapidly declining aquifers.
Some environmental groups eye the effort suspiciously, fearing
the Trump administration will use the project to allow
businesses to offload hazardous wastewater in ways that
threaten drinking water sources and otherwise risk public
health. Businesses including oil and gas developers have urged
the Trump administration to allow them more ways to get rid of
their increasing volumes of wastewater.
The Pentagon may be forced to follow new state environmental
pollution standards for a family of manmade “forever chemicals”
that may have been spilled at hundreds of military sites in the
U.S., Defense Secretary Mark Esper told lawmakers. Esper was
pressed Wednesday at a House Armed Services Committee hearing
over the military’s use of widely used firefighting foam
containing chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl
substances, or PFAS, that never degrade.
The Central Valley is America’s fruit bowl, and the heart of
California’s $50bn agriculture industry. But the 2011-2017
drought raised serious questions about the future of that
industry and forced the state to grapple with regulating the
one thing fueling much of it: groundwater.
This year marks the first big deadline for the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), as dozens of agencies
complete initial plans to protect overdrafted water resources.
Here’s what you need to know:
A California appellate court on Tuesday threw out a Kern County
law that allowed major oil producers to rely on a single,
blanket environmental approval for 72,000 new oil wells,
instead of facing scrutiny of each new project’s potential
impact on air quality, drinking water, wildlife and other
State senators heard impassioned pleas from supporters of
proposed legislation that would make it easier for Arizona
water regulators to limit well-drilling in farming areas where
groundwater levels are falling. But in the end, the bill was
set aside, its future uncertain.
California is doing more to preserve its groundwater levels
than ever before, but a new, interactive tool by a local water
advocacy group suggests it may not be enough. Last Wednesday,
Visalia-based Community Water Center … argued that California
will experience longer, more severe droughts due to climate
The Colusa Groundwater Authority, the California Department of
Water Resources and The Nature Conservancy have partnered to
conduct an on-farm, multi-benefit demonstration program for
growers in two select project locations around Colusa County.
Recently, the Department of Water Resources released a report
to supplement the 2017 California Aqueduct Subsidence Study
that addresses specific issues within a 10-mile-wide study
corridor… At the February meeting of Metropolitan’s Water
Planning and Stewardship Committee, Ted Craddock, DWR Assistant
Deputy Director of the State Water Project, provided an
overview of the report.
Water supply concerns, regulations, labor issues, tariffs,
climate change, and other challenges have prompted some rather
dire predictions about the future of California agriculture. We
talked to Dan Sumner—director of the UC Davis Agricultural
Issues Center and a member of the PPIC Water Policy Center
research network—about his research on California agriculture
More states are stepping up to protect people from drinking
water contaminated with “forever chemicals” in the absence of
federal enforcement. Twenty-three states are writing their own
guidance, regulations, or legislation that would address
drinking water contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl
substances, also known as PFAS.
While the Arizona Legislature considers how to respond to
problems of falling groundwater levels in rural areas, the
agriculture industry is pushing back against proposals that
would require owners of large wells across the state to measure
and report how much water they’re pumping.
This rain-year has brought an alarmingly dry winter in
California so far, according to climate change experts. Now,
there’s a new tool to help Californians navigate your water
supply. It’s an online tool that allows a person to see the
groundwater levels in their area. The tool then gives a
representation of what could be at risk or impacted if a
By the most conservative estimate, 500,000 acres of agriculture
land are expected to go fallow in the San Joaquin Valley as
SGMA is implemented over the next 20 years, [David] Orth said,
while some studies say it could be as much as 1 million acres.
Since this process is just starting in the Sacramento Valley,
it’s unclear how the area might be impacted, but in general,
north of the Delta is in better shape.
Do you have something to say about the state-mandated
sustainability plan that will limit individual and agricultural
groundwater consumption in Merced County? The Jan. 31 deadline
for local agencies to submit their 20-year sustainable
groundwater management plan has passed, kicking off a 75-day
public comment period before the Department of Water Resources
A growing health crisis fueled by synthetic chemicals known as
per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in groundwater
has garnered much attention in the last few years. The reported
levels could be “just the tip of the iceberg,” as most of the
chemicals are still migrating down slowly through the soil,
according to Bo Guo, University of Arizona assistant professor
of hydrology and atmospheric sciences.
Both Republicans and Democrats are backing measures in the
Legislature that would enable Arizona to start measuring how
much groundwater is pumped in unregulated rural areas where
aquifers have been rapidly declining.
Regulating the day-to-day details of an oil and gas operation
can be a complex task, with both regulators and operators
working hard to prevent leaks, explosions and other threats to
worker safety, community health and the environment. … That’s
why we track what states are up to on a consistent basis.
Jan. 31 marked a major milestone for building groundwater
sustainability and climate resilience into California’s complex
and increasingly stressed water systems. It was the first major
planning deadline for implementing the state’s historic
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
The state lowered the acceptable levels for two PFAS toxins in
drinking water on Thursday, triggering the closure of wells
throughout the California — including 33 in Orange County,
which has been particularly plagued by the so-called “forever
Unfortunately, there are few places so well-suited for
geothermal energy as the site of the Geysers in California,
which was built over an area with naturally occurring steam and
a reservoir of hot water. That is why some experts advocate for
enhanced geothermal energy systems (EGS), which pump water into
the ground to tap natural heat sources, creating conditions for
geothermal energy in areas where it would otherwise be
Across much of California, fossil fuel companies are leaving
thousands of oil and gas wells unplugged and idle, potentially
threatening the health of people living nearby and handing
taxpayers a multibillion-dollar bill for the environmental
Democratic congressman from Fresno introduced two pieces of
legislation that aim to repair aging canals and water
infrastructure in California that’s been damaged by sinking
ground levels – called subsidence, caused by groundwater
A bill introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) helped craft would ban
fracking nationwide by 2025, according to its newly unveiled
text. The legislation would immediately prevent federal
agencies from issuing federal permits for expanded fracking,
new fracking, new pipelines, new natural gas or oil export
terminals and other gas and oil infrastructure.
Overpumping of groundwater has led to a variety of negative
effects including reduced groundwater levels, seawater
intrusion, and degraded water quality. It has also led to
subsidence, which causes damage to critical water
infrastructure. In some cases, years of overpumping have left
entire California communities and farms without safe and
reliable local water supplies.
The White House issued a notice [Thursday] seeking input on
efforts to “reform enforcement” — a potential boon for the
energy industry. … [Thursday's] memo, which appears in the
Federal Register, states that federal enforcement has ballooned
in recent decades but protections for defendants has not.
It was standing room only as supporters of Curtimade Dairy
lined the walls of Corcoran City Council chambers during last
night’s city council meeting. Corcoran is currently suing the
Curti family for $65 million dollars for damages incurred when
their dairy allegedly contaminated the city’s water supply at
the height of the drought in 2015.
January 31 is a big day for California water. It’s the day when
21 critically overdrafted groundwater basins must submit plans
to the state for how they will bring their groundwater demand
in line with available supplies over the next 20 years.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has filed a second
lawsuit against the Coachella Valley Water District and Desert
Water Agency over groundwater. … In the new complaint filed
on Jan. 24, the tribe asserts that it and its members should
not have to pay a “replenishment assessment charge” for
groundwater production on land owned by the tribe and
individual tribal members.
Doug Ridley and Sherry Shen figured their condominium in Santa
Clara would serve as a retirement nest egg, drawing enough
rental income so they could comfortably travel to the United
Kingdom and Asia visiting relatives. Instead, the last two
years have turned into a homeowner’s nightmare, thanks to an
old artesian well
The city of Corcoran and Curtimade Dairy have been neighbors
for more than 100 years. But about four years ago, their
relationship turned contentious. The city said it planned to
sue the dairy for contaminating its drinking water wells with
nitrates, a contaminant that if consumed, can interfere with
the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen to body tissues.
The Chino City Council on Tuesday night approved selling
3,500-acre-feet of surplus groundwater to the Fontana Water
Company for more than $2 million. … As of June 2019, the city
of Chino’s stored groundwater reserves totaled approximately
120,000-acre-feet, which is equivalent to 31.1 billion gallons
Cleaning up the tens of thousands of oil and gas wells
scattered across California — which includes plugging them,
removing surface infrastructure and cleaning the soil — could
eventually cost more than $9 billion if they fall to the state
to handle, a new report commissioned by state oil regulators
A water management district created by a 1993 state law that
allowed massive subdivisions to spread into the outer suburbs
of Tucson and Phoenix is now heading for a “train wreck,” warns
former Arizona Governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt.
For decades, California’s coastal aquifers have been plagued by
invading seawater, turning pristine wells into salty ruins. But
the state’s coastal water agencies now plan to get more
aggressive in holding back the invasion by injecting millions
of gallons of treated sewage and other purified wastewater deep
A new project out of UC Merced — funded by a $2.5 million grant
from the National Science Foundation — seeks to address this
problem by developing an innovative, environmentally friendly
and economically feasible system to desalinate and reuse
agricultural drainage water.
Yolanda Cuevas saw herself on the big screen for the first time
during the Saturday premiere of “The Great Water Divide:
California’s Water Crisis” in Exeter. The short documentary
focuses on Tooleville, a hamlet in eastern Tulare County where
children can’t wash their hands, dishes or vegetables without
supervision because the water is tainted with multiple
The moratorium has led state officials to place on hold 58
permit applications for high-pressure cyclic steam wells,
according to Don Drysdale, a spokesman for the Department of
Conservation, which oversees the division now known as the
California Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM. A
Southern California lawmaker who has launched an inquiry into
the steam injection wells says CalGEM’s new rules don’t go far
One of the biggest indicators of renewed geothermal interest
occurred Thursday when the Bureau of Land Management published
a final environmental impact statement on a California
geothermal leasing area that sat on the shelf for eight years.
The statement is for the proposed designation of a 22,805-acre
Haiwee Geothermal Leasing Area north of Ridgecrest, Calif., and
west of Death Valley National Park.
Konar and her colleagues combined groundwater depletion data
with county-level food trade data. They found that, between
2002 and 2012, unsustainable groundwater use increased by 32
percent in products traded domestically. The increase was 38
percent for exported goods. If groundwater is like a bank
account, then this is deficit spending.
Farmers, large and small, are beginning to grapple with what
the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act means for them. One
by one, local sustainability plans are starting to go public.
Many farmers expect to see cutbacks on pumping once the program
is fully implemented in 2040.
Geothermal plants can generate emissions-free, renewable
electricity around the clock, unlike solar panels or wind
turbines. The technology has been used commercially for decades
and involves tapping naturally heated underground reservoirs to
create steam and turn turbines.
Now the hard work begins which includes determining just how
much water growers can pump out of the ground. A big factor in
deciding how much groundwater can be pump will be mitigating
the decreased level of water in the Friant-Kern Canal, another
major topic addressed at Friday’s meeting.
California increased its efforts Friday to keep the federal
government from allowing oil and gas drilling on more than 1
million acres of public land, suing to block the Trump
administration from issuing new permits in the central part of
A $30,000 grant will bring together 20 high school students
from Allensworth and Alpaugh to learn about safe drinking
water, conduct hands-on testing of arsenic treatment, and
present findings… The students will work with a UC Berkeley
lab to test the technology, Electrochemical Arsenic
Gov. Doug Ducey is touting Arizona’s record on water while also
acknowledging the state has “more to do” in some areas. Ducey
talked about water policies this week in an interview for The
Arizona Republic’s podcast The Gaggle.
State legislators plan to tackle widespread problems of
groundwater overpumping in rural Arizona this session,
proposing bills that would make it easier to limit
well-drilling in farming areas where residents have asked for
help from the state to safeguard their dwindling water
After years of planning, discussion and debate, the Indian
Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board will vote on the
adoption of the groundwater sustainability plan at its meeting
Thursday. … The plan will provide a roadmap to bring the IWV
groundwater basin into sustainability by 2040. That includes
reducing pumping of the basin to a safe yield of 7,650
acre-feet per year…
The first question asked at the Eastern Tule Groundwater
Sustainability Agency Board meeting on Friday represented the
frustration of growers who are still facing the unknown. “It’s
2020,” the grower said, who went on to ask the board, referring
to growers, “what can they pump?” The board is still working
through the process on how much water growers can pump out of
Because zone changes have the potential to impact many well
users, Valley Water conducted extensive stakeholder engagement
on the preliminary study recommendations. … The board of
directors agreed and directed our team to prepare the survey
description to modify the two existing zones, and create two
new zones in South County. The board will consider these
changes in a public hearing later this year.
The F-Pipeline Project will construct pipelines to provide
supplemental water service to approximately 700 acres of
coastal farmland on the seaward side of San Andreas Road. …
The purpose is to further reduce groundwater pumping to halt
seawater intrusion and groundwater overdraft while keeping
agriculture viable in the Pajaro Valley.
Republican and Democratic Leaders of the Arizona House are
again eyeing the state’s water supply as a major issue in the
coming legislative session. GOP House Speaker Rusty Bowers and
Democratic Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez have both
highlighted overpumping in the state’s rural areas as a major
issue for lawmakers when return to work on Monday.
The majority of groundwater wells drawing water for Santa
Clarita Valley Water contain enough of a non-stick chemical,
which is a suspected carcinogen, that water officials are now
required by the state to notify the county about the find. Of
the agency’s 45 operational wells, 29 of them were found to
contain tiny amounts of of perfluorooctanoic acid and
Because the amount of groundwater pumped out far exceeds what
is naturally replenished by rainfall, Valley Water’s
groundwater management activities are critical to maintaining
healthy groundwater basins.
Recently, property owner United Technologies Corp. has asked
the state to change cleanup requirements of the property from
residential to commercial standards, according to the documents
filed with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control
Board, which oversees the remediation efforts.
Who can deny the value of potable water to every living thing
in this city, this county, this state? Four million residential
and industrial customers in 43 cities in the Los Angeles, San
Gabriel and San Fernando Basins are dependent on multiple water
sources – groundwater pumped from below them, by aqueduct from
the Colorado River, the Sierra Nevada snowpack, Mono Lake, the
Owens Valley and recycled from wastewater treatment plants.
When most think of the possible impacts of sea level rise, they
think of coastal flooding and the growing risks to shore-based
infrastructure — but there’s another sea level rise-related
threat that is much less talked about. As sea level rises, so
too will groundwater levels in coastal aquifers, and some
recent studies have concluded that in some coastal areas, as
much or more land could flood as a result of rising groundwater
tables than will flood directly from rising tides.
As groundwater sustainability agencies prepare their plans to
meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act (SGMA), they will likely utilize a variety of tools to
achieve sustainability. … At ACWA’s fall conference, a panel
discussed the legal framework, different types of groundwater
rights, lessons learned from existing groundwater production
allocation programs, and potential pitfalls …
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors adopted a plan on
Tuesday meant to maintain groundwater and keep users from
pumping too much from underground basins. … Officials said
the plan also lays out efforts to try to recharge groundwater —
in other words, replace water sucked out from underground.
A duo of bills, at the state and federal level, will likely
determine the fate of the Friant-Kern Canal in a legislative
year that is shaping up to be pivotal for Central Valley
growers and ag communities.
The Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources
Control Board are hosting educational workshops in January to
assist local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies submitting
Groundwater Sustainability Plans for DWR evaluation. GSPs for
critically over drafted basins are due by January 31, 2020.
One of the major problems LandWatch cites is a lack of water on
former Fort Ord property which the city hopes to develop in the
future, according to court documents. Two parcels, identified
as sites 1 and 1A, are located over the Salinas Valley
Groundwater Basin, considered overdrafted and already
experiencing seawater intrusion.
A project in the Salinas Valley aims to remove contaminants
like phosphate from the water at a lower cost using much less
energy. … Partnering with the city of Salinas and the
wastewater treatment facility, the project aims to remove
phosphates efficiently and recycle water for groundwater
recharge and irrigation water to farmers.
California water policy leaders say balancing the supply of
groundwater by implementing the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act, or SGMA, and addressing policies related to
water supply and water quality, will continue to be priority
issues in 2020.
A bill that would require the EPA to regulate PFAS, an emerging
family of chemicals contaminating U.S. municipal and private
water supplies, is slated to be the first major legislation
that the House will take up in 2020.
Quick shifts in climate have prompted Los Angeles to consider
an unlikely place to bank some of its Sierra Nevada snowmelt:
beneath dry Owens Lake, which the city drained starting in 1913
to fill the L.A. Aqueduct and supply a thirsty metropolis.
California is increasing regulations on groundwater. For many
farmers in the state, it is a step too far. The law’s critics
say it could lead to a loss of half a million acres of farmland
in California’s Central Valley. As Kerry Klein of member
station KVPR in Fresno reports, some farmers are so worried,
The nearly $4 million project, assisted with $3.4 million in
state grants and a $1 million match from Pajaro Valley Water,
is expected to further reduce groundwater pumping in the area,
so as to halt seawater intrusion and groundwater overdraft
while keeping agriculture viable in the Pajaro Valley.
Environmental groups say they plan to fight a Trump
administration decision that cleared the way for new oil and
gas leases on more than 1 million acres in California. … The
final supplemental environmental report released recently said
the BLM found no adverse impacts of hydraulic fracturing that
could not be alleviated. Several groups and state officials,
however, disagree and have called the
With a low rumble from a large pipe, water began flowing into a
dirt basin at 25th Street West and Elizabeth Lake Road Thursday
morning, christening the Upper Amargosa Creek Recharge Project
and marking the debut of a new water storage endeavor in the
Valley. Inside the basin, water flowed from holes in a round
structure to begin flooding the bottom, where it will begin to
percolate through the soil to the aquifer beneath.
Calling it a move to resolve a dispute between agencies that
could endanger local groundwater management efforts, the Board
of Supervisors agreed Wednesday to form a groundwater
sustainability agency for the Cemex sand mining plant site.
The Trump administration on Thursday gave the go-ahead to new
oil-drilling leases on federal land in California, mostly
around petroleum-rich Bakersfield but also in less-obvious
spots in the Sierra foothills, such as near Yosemite National
Dr. Michael Kiparsky is the founding director of the Wheeler
Water Institute within the Center for Law, Energy, and
Environment at the UC Berkeley School of Law. In this
presentation from the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Dr.
Kiparsky discussed a pilot project in the Pajaro Valley
designed to incentivize private landowners to do groundwater
Environmentalists who had high hopes Gavin Newsom would lead
the way to sustainable water use in the San Joaquin Valley are
waking up to the knowledge that the new governor isn’t going to
be any more effective than the old governor. Sustainability is
just too big a lift.
Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would
require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing
toxic chemicals linked to cancer, but would abandon efforts to
place stronger regulations on the chemicals.
Farmers are worried… Some feel angry, even betrayed by
lawmakers and the environmental groups that have pressured them
into what they see as ever-tightening regulations on the ag
industry. While many disagree with SGMA, most do acknowledge
that California’s unrestricted groundwater use has been
Net groundwater pumping peaked in 1968 at 86,000 acre-feet and
started to go down in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s, according to
the state’s 2018 groundwater pumpage inventory for the aquifer.
Thanks to the water authority’s efforts to reduce pumping, only
10% of the water used in the valley now comes from groundwater,
while the rest comes from Lake Mead, Mack said.
The recommended fee hike would have elevated the rate from a
monthly $30 per-acre foot pumped to $75/acre-foot, according to
IWVGA acting general manager Don Zdeba. It would turn the
tables on the IWVGA ending 2020 fiscal year with $465,000 in
the red to ending in the positive by $209,000.
The state is moving to ramp down oil production while
Washington is expediting it. State officials are taking a
closer look at the environmental and health threats —
especially land, air and water contamination — posed by energy
extraction, while Washington appears to have concluded that
existing federal regulations sufficiently protect its sensitive
landscapes as well as public health.
Unfettered pumping has taken a toll on the state’s aquifers for
many years, but just as experts are calling for Arizona to
develop plans to save its ancient underground water, pumping is
accelerating and the problems are getting much worse. Big
farming companies owned by out-of-state investors and foreign
agriculture giants have descended on rural Arizona and snapped
up farmland in areas where there is no limit on pumping.
The 20-year groundwater plan, required by state law, aims to
bring the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin back into balance.
Between 1981 and 2011, the 684-square-mile aquifer serving 29
percent of San Luis Obispo County residents and 40 percent of
its agriculture lost 369,000 acre-feet of water.
Federal authorities are considering a plan to repair a
California canal in the San Joaquin Valley that lost half its
capacity to move water because of sinking ground. … The U.S.
Bureau of Reclamation Dec. 3 published an environmental
assessment detailing plans to repair, raise, and realign the
Friant-Kern Canal, which it began building in 1949.
I assumed the different local water agencies were in regular
contact with their customers about important issues like
groundwater and that they would be happy to take advantage of
the opportunity to educate the public about what was happening
with SGMA. I learned that that was not the case. This is not a
subject that engages people who don’t already have some reason
to be concerned about it.
In my current research, I have been studying the implementation
of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, commonly known
as SGMA, in California. SGMA is one of the world’s
largest-scale policy experiments on collective action to manage
natural resources. At the same time, pervasively disparate
access to water resources in the Central Valley made SGMA the
perfect case study to test some of the power asymmetry theories
I have been working on with my colleagues.
California is by far the United States’ most populous state, as
well as its largest agricultural producer. Increasingly, it is
also one of the country’s most parched places. But Edgar Terry,
a fourth-generation farmer in Ventura County, just outside Los
Angeles, thinks he has a key to reversing worsening water
stress: establishing tradeable rights to shares of
fast-depleting groundwater aquifers.
Back in 2016, California Water Service Co. took two of its
groundwater wells in Chico out of service after tests showed
they were contaminated with toxic flourinated chemicals known
as PFAS—or per- and polyfluoralkyl substances—that have been
linked to cancer and other adverse health effects. The move was
For three years, residents of the unincorporated San Bernardino
County desert town have used twice-a-month shipments of bottled
water because local wells were no longer meeting state
standards for drinking water. … That changed in September,
when work finished on a new pipeline that pulls clean water
from a well 4 miles away in Yucca Valley.
By practicing careful and sustainable water management
practices, the tribe has cultivated wild plants, including
taboose, nahavita, as well as fruit trees and other vegetables.
… However, starting in the mid-1800s with the arrival of
European settlers making a claim to water rights in the Owens
Valley, this once-lush area was transformed dramatically into a
virtual desert in just decades.
It wasn’t easy for water officials tasked with hammering out a
plan to manage the Santa Clarita Valley’s groundwater to find
seven people to serve as the agency’s advisory group, but on
Monday, they approved a list of double the number they sought.
At the November meeting of the California Water Commission,
Taryn Ravazzini, DWR Deputy Director for Statewide Groundwater
Management, updated the Commission on DWR’s recent activities
and milestones related to SGMA.
It will be two years in December that the city of Chino Hills
shut down its wells because of a new contamination level set by
the state for the chemical 1,2,3-TCP (TCP) and it could take
another three years before a filtration system can be built to
treat the chemical and put the wells back in service, according
to public works officials.
California has told Napa County to form a local groundwater
agency to ensure the underground reservoir that nurtures
world-famous wine country is being kept in good shape. The
county submitted more than 1,000 pages of documents to try to
avoid that outcome.
The complaint filed in court on Nov. 19 asks the court to
“impose a ‘physical solution’ amongst nine groundwater users in
the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin (“Basin”) to preserve
and protect the Basin’s water supply, the investment-backed
expectations of agriculture, and the economy that is dependent
upon that supply.”
A district that recharges renewable water supplies to allow new
housing development brings in about $13.4 billion a year in
economic benefits, says a study written for a homebuilders’
group. … The report goes against the grain of
recommendations made over the years by academics,
environmentalists and others to limit enrollment of new
subdivisions in the district, saying that could cause a major
economic setback for the state.
City officials gathered Thursday afternoon in Lemoore to break
ground on construction of a new groundwater treatment plant
project. … The City obtains all of its drinking water from
local groundwater resources that are challenged by
naturally-occurring water quality issues. These issues include
elevated levels of arsenic, iron, ammonia, total organic carbon
By forming a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, we will be
taking a step towards improved groundwater management in the
Carpinteria Groundwater Basin… Through the development of a
Climate Action Plan, we can examine ways to reduce our
greenhouse gas production and prepare our water system to adapt
to a changing environment.
The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday sued the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, alleging the agency wrongly
allowed oil waste to be dumped into a San Luis Obispo aquifer
and ignored impacts to the California red-legged frog and other
Sarah Heard is Director of Conservation Economics & Finance
with the California chapter of The Nature Conservancy… At the
Groundwater Resources Association’s Western Groundwater
Congress, Ms. Heard gave this presentation on the Fox Canyon
Groundwater Market in Ventura County, the first groundwater
market since the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater
Lew Stringer is leading a tour of the massive renovation
of the entire watershed on the Presidio’s waterfront. The
next string of pearls to be unearthed is Quartermaster Reach, a
7-acre salt marsh on the south side of Mason Street. … The
$118 million park project, opening in late Spring of 2020, is
part of a wetlands restoration movement across the Bay Area
that will benefit all species – including us – facing the
uncertain future of climate change.
In a victory for critics of California’s oil drilling industry,
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday stopped the approval of new
hydraulic fracturing in the state until the permits for those
projects can be reviewed by an independent panel of scientists.
Newsom also imposed a moratorium on new permits for
steam-injected oil drilling, another extraction method …
linked to a massive petroleum spill in Kern County over the
As Donald Trump’s administration pushes to expand oil
extraction in California, the state’s governor, Gavin Newsom,
has signed bill after bill limiting the practice. … But since
taking office in January, Newsom’s own department of energy
management has approved 33 percent more new oil and gas
drilling permits than were approved under Newsom’s predecessor
Jerry Brown over the same period in 2018
The Coachella Valley Water District on Monday approved taking
on outside financing for what is believed to be the first time
in its 101-year history for a $40 million pipeline to bring
more Colorado River water to the region’s farmers, freeing up
valuable groundwater for other uses.
Nevada’s director of the Department of Conservation and Natural
Resources said Nevada has already reached the point of
“critical mass” or the breaking point when it comes to the
problem of water scarcity. … “We are up against that much
strain in our water resources across the state,” Director Brad
When the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority technical
and policy advisory committees reviewed a draft sustainability
plan, it left many with questions and criticisms. The plan may
also leave uncertainty for the valley’s agricultural industry.
They face the brunt of the plan’s water sustainability
requirements when the plan is implemented…
California took a historic step forward this summer with the
passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This
fund seeks to provide new targeted investments to end the
state’s drinking water crisis, where one million Californians
are impacted by unsafe water each year. Unfortunately,
successful implementation of the fund is on a potential
collision course with another California law, the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act…
Since 2009, the water level has dropped 7.3 feet a year in one
of two SaddleBrooke Ranch wells and 1.7 feet a year in the
other, says the Arizona Water Co., a private utility serving
the development. This is one of many suburban developments
surrounding Tucson where underground water tables are falling
and are likely to fall much farther over the next century,
state records show.
Groundwater in Tulare County, especially in Porterville, has
been a hot topic of discussion for quite sometime. As
groundwater levels have begun to subside, a viable and woking
plan to maintain the groundwater has been state mandated, and
the implementation of this plan is set to be put in action by
January 31, 2020. But what exactly is the plan, and who is at
City Council members – sitting as the directors of the
Vacaville Groundwater Sustainability Agency – approved a
collaboration agreement Tuesday with the other sustainability
agencies in the Solano Subbasin in order to keep the
groundwater grant funding flowing.
The district’s decades-long election drought occurred as a
result of an insufficient number of candidates to require
elections. … Changes in the district’s operations led to a
greater number of candidates for the recent election. The
district’s biggest issue is implementing the Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act …
The Arizona Department of Water Resources is working on
revising a model based on outdated assumptions and incomplete
data that have perpetuated the myth that Pinal County is facing
a water shortage. In fact, Pinal County has plenty of water for
today, tomorrow and 100 years from now.
This article will provide readers with a background on why the
2014 SGMA legislation was passed, and what the implications are
for J.G. Boswell which has both surface and groundwater rights
The streamlined permitting process is an important component of
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation, as it
may assist Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in more
efficiently obtaining the necessary water rights to divert and
recharge water during high flow events.
Hydropower facilities store water in reservoirs in order to
release it in a constant flow and produce energy consistently.
If wind turbines and solar panels, paired with battery storage,
took the pressure off of these facilities to fill the needs of
the grid during a drought, more of that water could be released
downstream for agricultural use, preventing further groundwater
In this episode, we explore a carcinogen called 1,2,3
Tetracholorpropane, which ended up in the water below
California’s Central Valley. … We also hear from John Hadder
and Dr. Glenn Miller, with Great Basin Resource Watch, about
how some of the groundwater in Nevada became contaminated due
to mining operations near Yerington.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority’s Las Vegas water grab and
pipeline –– which has been in various stages of development
since 1989 –– would forever tarnish public lands and waters in
Eastern Nevada and Western Utah. The idea is a direct
descendant to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
With roughly two and a half months remaining before a
state-mandated deadline, local agencies overseeing critically
overdrafted groundwater basins are working to finalize
sustainability plans as required by a 2014 state law.
Kern County is seeing a drop in agricultural property value.
The water crisis plaguing the state is also affecting the value
of farms here in Kern County. Michael Ming, Lead Appraiser for
Alliance Ag Services, said groundwater sustainability efforts
have proven to be a big challenge.
The shallow wells Sonoma County’s water agency is drilling near
11 waterways have nothing to do with delivering water to
600,000 residents of Sonoma and Marin counties. Instead, the 21
wells will serve as measuring sticks to determine whether
pumping groundwater in the county’s three basins … is curbing
the flow in creeks inhabited by federally protected fish and
The revamped and expanded plant is expected to be operational
in spring 2021 and will do so with a new name — The Rosamond
CSD Water Reclamation Plant — to better describe its ultimate
purpose. In addition to handling the community’s wastewater
disposal, the plant will recharge the underlying groundwater
basin, providing additional groundwater for the District to
Flood-MAR is recognized as an emerging water management
strategy that can provide broad benefits for Californians and
the ecosystems of the state, including water supply
reliability, flood risk reduction, drought preparedness,
aquifer replenishment, water quality improvement, and climate
The Groundwater Resources Association’s 2019 Western
Groundwater Congress featured David Sandino, Senior Staff
Counsel at the Department of Water Resources, who spoke about
the disconnect between legal groundwater systems and how the
system actually works; and Maurice Hall, Associate Vice
President of Ecosystems-Water at the Environmental Defense
Fund, who spoke of how more holistic and inclusive groundwater
management can increase the resilience of our water supply…
Flood-managed aquifer recharge involves moving floodwater from
surface streams onto land where it could percolate into a
groundwater basin. Though the concept sounds simple, it brings
complications that include managing the floodwater, finding
appropriate land to accept it and establishing rights to the
The Goshute, Ely and Duckwater Shoshone tribes all consider the
site, known as the swamp cedars, sacred and believe the trees
are threatened by a proposal to pipe groundwater to Las Vegas.
… Tribal members are pushing for greater recognition of
the site in order to strengthen their case against Southern
Nevada Water Authority’s proposal to pipe groundwater
from the area to Las Vegas.
The thinking started small and then grew much bigger at a
gathering Tuesday in Bakersfield intended to provide a
“survival toolkit” for farmers and water managers facing
drastic restrictions on Central Valley groundwater pumping. …
By the end of the day, however, isolationism gave way to calls
for unity as speakers asserted that the only real solution was
to increase the region’s water supply by as much as 10 million
acre-feet per year on average by diverting water south from the
In recent years the idea of nutrient management has been become
even more important with increasing regulations related to
nitrate levels in groundwater. Cooperation between water
agencies and CDFA has helped to provide better education and
outreach for the development of balance sheets for nutrient
The county of San Luis Obispo announced plans to map the Paso
Robles Groundwater Basin. … People who live in Creston,
Shandon, and Whitely Gardens may see a low flying helicopter
towing a large hexagonal frame when work begins.
When the lights went out this week, Susan Illich of Sebastopol
didn’t just lose power. She also lost water. That’s because,
like thousands of residents in Sonoma County, she relies on a
private well that operates with an electric pump. … “Water
puts out fire,” she said. “My basic rights to fend off fire
that could have killed me and my pets and damaged my home was
As the state focuses on providing clean and affordable drinking
water for millions of residents, those on private wells
typically face an uphill battle. Private well owners confront
significant financial challenges digging new wells, and
connecting to a public water system involves a daunting local
and state bureaucratic process…
The Trump administration unveiled a plan to open another
million acres in California to oil and gas development and
fracking, one day after being sued by conservationists for
similar plans in a different part of the state. The Bureau of
Land Management released its environmental analysis Thursday
concluding that hydraulic fracturing and oil and gas extraction
in counties located in the south state do not conflict with the
land management goals of the agency.
Babbitt spoke at a conference of county supervisors from across
Arizona Tuesday, calling for new legislation that would give
county officials the authority to manage groundwater. He said
while the 1980 law has had “a lot of success” in managing
groundwater in urban areas from Phoenix to Tucson, its main
flaw has been leaving groundwater pumping unregulated in rural
parts of the state.
In order to keep up with the state’s underground water recharge
laws, sooner or later, local water rates will likely need to
increase. That was the message local water management officials
gave in a joint presentation at the Oct. 21 Selma City Council.
The salty gunk and steam passing through the maze of pipes can
produces up to 55 megawatts of electricity. It comes from under
the shores of the Salton Sea, a man-made lake in the far
southeastern desert of California. Benson, chief operating
officer of the geothermal power producer EnergySource, pointed
to a white shipping container, where fiberglass tanks are being
used to pull lithium out of the same brine from the sandstone
A tiny community on the outskirts of the City of Sanger,
Tombstone is a bellwether for groundwater issues… Most of the
community’s 40 or so homes get their drinking water from
shallow domestic wells, which can be vulnerable to both aquifer
contaminants and falling groundwater levels.
Adam Livingston is the Director of Planning and Policy at the
Sequoia Riverlands Trust (SRT). … Clean Water Action’s
Communication’s Manager, Nina Foushee, interviewed Adam about
the role of land trusts in sustainable groundwater management.
Results from the first phase of sampling drinking water supply
wells for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were
recently published by the California State Water Resources
Control Board (State Water Board) and show reportable levels at
approximately 190 or 35% of the 570 wells tested.
EDF created an online story map … to provide a more holistic
view of groundwater supplies and challenges in the seven-state
Colorado River Basin (Arizona, California, Colorado, New
Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming), drawing from recent
research. Here are four key highlights from the story map that
demonstrate the importance of groundwater and the challenges of
groundwater management in the arid West:
Action by the state water board sets in motion a 35-year
program of activity and research to address nitrate and salt
content in Central Valley groundwater, in order to achieve
Dismal grades for polluted groundwater and water bodies like
the Los Angeles River brought down the overall average grade in
the 2019 Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Environmental Report
Card for Los Angeles County on Water.
The East Tule Groundwater Sustainability Water Agency is racing
the clock when it comes to meeting the state’s requirements by
next year but the message is this: Those who use groundwater
will have to prepare for the possibility of pumping 10 percent
less than they have in the past, beginning as soon as next
The initiative to establish an ecosystem marketplace began in
2017 with the Noble Research Institute, which started working
on developing protocols to verify carbon sequestration and
improved water quality…
To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the
state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to
have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western
states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy
Jim Brobeck, water policy analyst for AquAlliance, said the
Agricultural Groundwater Users of Butte County may not have the
public’s best interests in mind. The priority of farmers,
Brobeck said, is to make sure they have water in their wells,
not to protect the shallowest portion of an aquifer. Water
purveyors, he said, like to “exercise” aquifers and may well do
so to the point where the public suffers.
A set of water rules that has fueled rapid growth in Arizona’s
suburbs is riddled with weaknesses, according to a new report
by researchers at Arizona State University, who argue the
system needs to be overhauled to protect homeowners from rising
costs and to ensure sufficient water supplies for the future.
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture called out
San Luis Obispo County in a letter expressing concern about
irrigated agriculture’s “limited” involvement in crafting
groundwater plans over the Paso Robles basin.
The Santa Barbara County board of supervisors is taking a stand
against the Trump administration. The resolution was sponsored
by First District County Supervisor Gregg Hart in response to
the Trump Administration’s plan to open more than one million
acres of lands throughout the coastal and interior regions of
central California to new oil drilling and fracking.
Under an agreement to “bank” water outside of the Santa Clarita
Valley, local water officials … and their water banking
partners, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District and Irvine
Ranch Water District, opened six new groundwater wells and a
conveyance system to the Cross Valley Canal in Kern County.
A decade in the making, regulators on Wednesday approved new
rules that will require the agricultural industry and others to
shield nitrates and salt from seeping into groundwater
supplies. “This is huge,” said Patrick Pulupa, executive
officer of the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board.
Dennis Hutson worries small farmers may not have the resources
to adapt to the potentially strict water allocations and
cutbacks that might be coming. Their livelihoods and identities
may be at stake. “You grow things a certain way, and then all
of a sudden you don’t have access to as much water as you would
like in order to grow what you grow,” he says, “and now you’re
kind of out of sorts.”
Thousands of gallons of crude petroleum began spouting out of
the ground near a part of Chevron’s steam injection well
network in a Kern County oil field over the weekend … in the
same area where a larger uncontrolled release of 234,000
gallons of oil has taken place since August.
The Ventura City Council approved a $200 million-plus plan
Monday that will give the city more drinking water and greatly
reduce the treated wastewater its sewer plant releases into the
Santa Clara River estuary. The big-ticket item in the city’s
plan is a new plant that will take wastewater that once went
into the estuary and treat it to drinking water standards…
Nearly 300 drinking water wells and other water sources in
California have traces of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, new
state testing has found. … State officials released the water
quality results on Monday, the first step in what’s likely to
be a years-long effort to track the scale of the contamination
and pinpoint its sources.