Local Groundwater Planning Presentation 8/24

August 24, 2022 Water Committee Meeting Agenda

3:00 to 5:00 pm – Zoom

 ECOS ZOOM 6656164155

Introductions and Committee Ground rules 5 minutes:

Featured Presentation 1 hour, 50 minutes:

Presenter: Rob Swartz, Manager of Technical Services for the Regional Water Authority and the Sacramento Groundwater Authority

Mr. Swartz has over thirty-five years of water resource and water project planning and implementation experience. He has been RWA’s Manager of Technical Services since 2003 and has recently led the technical development of the COSANA model and the development of the Sacramento Groundwater Basin, Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Mr. Swartz is also leading RWA’s efforts to develop and implement a Regional Groundwater Bank. Mr. Swartz plans to include some of the modeling experts who designed the COSANA model in the discussion.

Mr. Swartz will present a technical and policy presentation/discussion on: 1) The development and use of the COSANA model in planning and managing the region’s groundwater resources; and 2) The status of the Regional Groundwater Authority’s efforts to formulate and implement a Regional Groundwater Bank.

                                            Why are these issues important to you?

1) The COSANA model is a newly developed analytical tool that water managers are using to understand and help manage the region’s three groundwater basins – the Cosumnes, South American and North American Subbasins. This tool is used to determine each subbasin’s water budget and sustainable pumping level. Going forward the COSANA model will assist managers in understanding and interpreting empirical pumping data as well as potential impacts on Groundwater Depended Ecosystems (GDE) and shallow wells from future basin groundwater pumping. To have confidence in the model it is important to understand its sensitivity, how it is calibrated, and what its margin of error is. The COSANA model is only as predictive as the quality of the empirical data it makes use of. The initial round of GSPs all indicate a need for additional monitoring wells to more fully understand each subbasin. We are interested in what efforts are going on within each subbasin to improve the monitoring systems and how these efforts will improve future COSANA results. Finally, COSANA is one of several modeling tools water managers use. We would like to understand how this model’s results correlate with other ground and surface water models, and in turn, how all these model outputs are integrated to inform water managers regarding the appropriate and sustainable use of Ground and Surface water resources.

2) The region’s water managers have invested heavily in conjunctive use to achieve regional water supply sustainability. Water Banking is the process of utilizing underground aquifers to either retain groundwater and use excess surface water in its stead or store excess surface water in the ground during wet years so that the resulting groundwater is available for use in place of surface water during dry years when surface water supplies are not as prevalent. Understanding how the Water Bank will be structured and managed as both a water purveyor and regional asset is important, and ECOS has requested a seat at the table for future discussions on the Water Bank structure, management criteria, and governance.

Committed Discussion Process:

Time will be set aside at key points during the presentation for questions/clarifications and discussion. Participants can introduce their questions either by raising their hand in the Zoom tools or by making use of the chat function. For those without these options, time will be set aside for your questions as well. 

Committee Action Item Summary:

The Committee finalized and released two letters following the July meeting. Both are published on the ECOS web site. One was Addressed to the County Board of Supervisors noting our objection to an action being taken by the County Parks Department to install Seven acres of irrigated turf. The second was a letter in support of a $2.6 million grant to fund a planning study for the RiverArc project.

The Sacramento County Draft Climate Action Plan will be released very soon, and the Committee will follow up on its earlier recommendations regarding water conservation and regional landscaping.  

Thanks, and meeting closure 5 minutes

The Committee meetings are open to the public. Zoom access – link above or on the ECOS web page under meeting schedules. The next Committee meeting is September 28, time 3:00-5:00 (tentative).  

Stop the diversion of 147,000 acre-feet of American River Water to San Joaquin County

On July 6, 2022, the Environmental Council of Sacramento submitted a letter to the State Water Resources Control Board Administrative Hearings Office (AHO) supporting the AHO’s recommendation to cancel San Joaquin County’s application #29657 from 1990.

Below is an excerpt from the letter.

While not the subject of the AHO’s recommendation, the diversion of 147,000 acre-feet of American River Water to San Joaquin County, as envisioned in application #29657, would have substantial adverse impacts to the American River and would disrupt the Water Forum’s 29 years of work to meet water needs, protect river flows, manage river temperatures for salmon and steelhead, and restore aquatic habitats in the Lower American River. The up-stream diversion would likely impact river flows and summer temperatures. With climate change and the projected demand in this region, the river cannot absorb an additional 140,000+ acre feet of diversion and still maintain the fishery and full recreational potential of the lower American river.

Click here to read the letter in full.

ECOS Water Committee – Future of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, join us on Wed. Jun 22, 2022 at 3:00 pm

Jeffrey Mount is a senior fellow at the PPIC Water Policy Center. He is an emeritus professor of earth and planetary sciences and founding director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis. A geomorphologist who specializes in the study of rivers, streams, and wetlands, his research focuses on integrated water resource management, flood management, and improving aquatic ecosystem health. He has served on many state and federal boards and commissions that address water resource management issues in the West. He has published more than a hundred articles, books, and other publications, including the seminal book California Rivers and Streams (UC Press). He holds a PhD and MS in earth sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Dr. Mount has recently authored a paper tracking where the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta’s water goes in our changing environment. He will discuss his finding during the Committee’s June meeting.

Date: June 22, 2022
Time: 3:00 PM
Zoom meeting address: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6656164155
To phone in: 669-900-6833, Meeting ID: 665 616 4155

Dr. Mount will discuss the issues facing the Delta, and what future actions may be necessary to preserve both its water supplies and environment in our changing world.

The Delta is California’s largest estuary and a vital hub in the State’s water system.
• 40% of the State’s runoff flows into the Delta
• 30 million residents and more than 6 million acres of farmland are supplied water from the Delta
• Water stored in Folsom Reservoir is used to help preserve and maintain water quality in the Delta
• The delta is dramatically different today from what it was 150 years ago.

Today, three interlinking issues face the Delta.
• An increasingly unreliable water supply
• A decline in ecosystem health
• A fragile system of levees

The Delta’s future is uncertain.
• The Delta tunnel conveyance project
• Climate change impacts on the Delta proper and Upstream water sources
• Addressing saltwater intrusion and the Delta ecosystems
• Maintenance and repair of the levee system

Come and join us for an enlightening and thoughtful discussion.

Support for the Cosumnes Subbasin Groundwater Authority’s (CGA) Demand Management and Multi-Benefit Recharge Projects and Actions to Achieve

On June 14, 2022, ECOS submitted a letter of support for the Cosumnes Subbasin Groundwater Authority’s (CGA) Demand Management and multi-benefit recharge projects and actions to achieve.

Below is the content of the letter.

Subject: Support for the Cosumnes Subbasin Groundwater Authority’s (CGA) Demand Management and Multi-Benefit Recharge Projects and Actions to Achieve

We understand that CGA is working to secure funding for implementation of the multi-benefit recharge and demand management Projects and Actions identified in the CGA Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

ECOS appreciates CGA’s initiative to make progress towards basin sustainability, environmental uplift, and shallow well protection.

If a letter of support from ECOS will be of value in assisting CGA in obtaining grant funding for these Projects and Actions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are committed to support environmentally beneficial efforts to return the Cosumnes subbasin to sustainability.

We note that the amount of annual groundwater pumping in the subbasin is based on estimates because of the low number of wells with actual pumping metered data available to the GSAs. Given the current condition of the subbasin and the need to rely in part on demand management to reach sustainability, we support efforts to increase the number of metered wells and other actions the GSAs pursue to improve the reliability and accuracy of groundwater pumping information utilized in the management of the Cosumnes subbasin.

We also appreciate the development of the CGA Citizen Advisory Committee. We have identified ECOS representative Neil Dubrovsky to serve on the committee. Neil has extensive groundwater expertise and experience and is particularly familiar with public sources of groundwater monitoring data that may prove useful as projects are developed.

ECOS recognizes the ongoing, complex effects of climate change on the environment and people
in the Cosumnes and Greater Sacramento regions, and California as a whole. We believe that action is needed now and that time is of the essence. Collaborative efforts that address both demand management and multi-benefit recharge, as well as implementation of real time monitoring networks, offer the best chance for timely improvements to basin sustainability, environmental uplift, and shallow well protection.

We look forward to working with CGA in its journey toward returning the Cosumnes subbasin to sustainability.

Click here to view the letter in full.

Comments regarding sufficiency of South American Groundwater Sustainability Plan

April 15, 2022

Here is a summary of our comments:
1) We find the climate change analysis used as the basis for the GSP is not sufficiently robust to reflect currently anticipated climate change conditions for the region. The analysis does not reflect current science. For this reason, we suggest DWR provide more direction in this area for future GSP updates.
2) We believe a review of the GSP utilizing Article 6, Section 355.4 finds the plan deficient in several important areas. Our findings are listed in more detail below. DWR should work with the subbasin GSAs to address the shortcomings described below before approving the GSP.

Click here to read the letter in full.

Regional Groundwater Sustainability – The Plans are Finished so what’s Next?

Over the past several years local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) charged with managing the region’s groundwater have been assessing the condition of the region’s groundwater resources and developing monitoring systems and management plans and projects to maintain the sustainability of these resources for the foreseeable future. These efforts have resulted in the completion of three Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) that cover each of the region’s groundwater subbasins – North American Subbasin, South American Subbasin, and Cosumnes Subbasin. The GSPs respond to State required planning criteria outlined in the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The California Department of Water Resources webpage has information about SGMA, the GSP planning process, and a public portal containing the three GSPs for the Sacramento region.  

ECOS, through the Water Committee, has participated in the development of these GSPs by attending public meetings and workshops, and providing comments on the draft plans. We have condensed these comments into a matrix comparing comments for each of the three GSPs. The matrix contains a summary of each original comment and, in bold, the actions taken by the GSAs to address each comment as documented in the final adopted GSPs. The full text of each ECOS comment letter can be found on the ECOS web site.

While some comments have been addressed in the final plans, others were not. For example, key aspects of the GSPs are six sustainability indicators that establish thresholds for when management actions must be taken to assure continued subbasin sustainability. The North American Subbasin GSP calls for management actions to be taken after one year of one or more of the GSP sustainability indicators exceeding action levels thus indicating the subbasin is in trouble. Unfortunately, the South American Subbasin allows three years of indicator exceedance that may lead to no actions being taken until the fourth year of an indicator being exceeded. The Cosumnes Subbasin did adjust their corresponding exceedance time periods but still allow a problem to exceed one or more threshold criteria for at least two years before actions to remedy the situation are taken. ECOS has argued that a one year exceedance criteria is acceptable and should be utilized in all three GSPs.

ECOS also believes climate change is not effectively addressed in the plans. All three GSPs base their management actions on a climate scenario that seems less realistic than current climate experience and the latest climate science indicates. This errant planning assumption may significantly overestimate the amount of groundwater available to meet demands in the future. If not corrected, sustainable management of the subbasins may be very difficult within the next decade.

ECOS members are meeting with the local GSA representatives to explore options to address our concerns prior to the next GSP updates which are due in 2025. Depending on the outcome of these meetings ECOS may find it necessary to participate in the State’s GSP public comment process.

Click here to view the matrix.