SACRAMENTO — Growers worried about the impact of new state groundwater regulations should get involved in local agencies’ discussions about how to implement them, a state water official advises.
Landowners can check the California Department of Water Resources’ website to track which agency is developing a groundwater sustainability plan in their area and how it’s coming along, said Trevor Joseph, the DWR’s sustainable groundwater management section chief.
“As a grower you might be interested certainly in which agency is going to represent your area” in implementing the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Joseph said in a March 24 webinar.
He added that landowners will be able to enter their street address and be directed to their local Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Such agencies must be identified in the state’s most important or troubled basins by the middle of next year.
“Ultimately, this groundwater (effort) is best accomplished locally,” Joseph said, adding that the state’s role will be limited.
The webinar came amid a week of public meetings at which DWR officials presented technical information about how the sweeping new groundwater regulations will be put into effect and to gather input.
The DWR was also taking written comments through April 1 on emergency regulations to quickly implement the plan.
During the webinar, Joseph and other water regulators first gave technical details of how they will evaluate local plans and then took questions and comments. One domestic well owner said she attended two local meetings that offered little opportunity for input and suggested the state consider an agency’s public outreach efforts when evaluating its plan.
Keith Freitas, a San Joaquin Valley grower, said he was concerned about the regulations’ impact on water rights.
“I’m wondering how the state environmental agency plans to protect the sustainability of small family farms under the emergency regulation and under the code itself and the act itself,” Freitas said.
Woodland city public works director Greg Meyer lamented that the emergency regulations put some burdens on local agencies that may be unnecessary and could drive up costs.
“I’m concerned the proscriptive nature of the document is going to lose the local-control nature of what the original intent of the act was,” Meyer said.
Others said that agencies that oversee important but healthy groundwater basins face the same required investments and other efforts as agencies in basins that are overdrafted, creating a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Under a series of bills passed in 2014, sustainability plans for the 21 most critically overdrafted basins must be in place by 2020, while plans for other high- and medium-priority basins must be established by 2022 and sustainability in all high- and medium-priority basins must be achieved by 2040.
For more information about the regulations, visit http://groundwater.ca.gov .