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Farmers looking for answers in groundwater plans

 •  by Lois Henry
Farmer Wayne Arnold looks over groundwater maps as Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District General Manager Dana Munn explains the district's plans to slow groundwater over pumping. Credit: Lois Henry

Now that actual pumping amounts are coming out per the state’s new groundwater law, farmers, bankers, farm managers and others are getting a clearer picture of their post SGMA worlds.

And they have questions.

About 25 people attended a recent groundwater sustainability plan presentation in Shafter for landowners in the Shafter-Wasco Irrigation and North Kern Water Storage district areas. Groundwater sustainability plans explain how each area plans to stop groundwater over pumping by 2040.

There are two ways to curtail groundwater pumping – increase supplies or reduce demand.

About 25 landowners, bankers and farm managers attended a recent groundwater sustainability plan presentation in Shafter.

 

One of those demands is evapotranspiration, use of water by plants.

“How will I know how much ET I get in the future?” one landowner asked.

While both districts are hoping to get more detailed “ground truthing” of evapotranspiration in their areas, SWID General Manager Dana Munn said that’s not their focus.

“Our goal is to increase supplies for more groundwater recharge,” Munn said. “We want to let you pump as much as you need. That’s your business. That’s not our business.”

North Kern General Manager Dick Diamond agreed, saying it was their intent to support landowners.

That led to another question.

“Is there a legitimate expectation that you can bring in more surface supplies?”

Munn answered by saying that in 2011, a good water year, SWID sold excess water. Last year – a phenomenal water year – SWID hung on to all its supplies and then some. That was a result of greatly increasing recharge capacity in the district. An effort that will continue into the future.

According to the presentation, SWID and North Kern have a combined overdraft of only 10s of 1,000s of acre feet per year. Compared to other districts such as Semitropic Water Storage District, facing an overdraft of 125,000 acre feet per year, SWID and North Kern are much closer to balanced, per their water budgets.

“It sounds great that North Kern and SWID are in balance,” one landowner said. “But you still have to coordinate with other districts. Can you speak to how that’s going?”

Munn and Diamond said they are meeting monthly and a full Kern subbasin coordinating agreement is close to completion.

Groundwater sustainability plans for SWID, North Kern and 14 other local water districts are available for public review online. Public comments are being accepted until Nov. 28.

All groundwater sustainability plans must be submitted to the state Department of Water Resources by Jan. 31, 2020.

 

The Kern subbasin has different types of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies. Some are single-district GSAs, others are combined districts/municipalities and the Kern Groundwater Authority is an umbrella GSA with 16 member districts, which are each responsible for writing their own groundwater sustainability plans. They all have to coordinate methodology and data.

Lois Henry Lois Henry

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