The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its Wednesday, June 27, 2018 board meeting at the Kern County Supervisors chambers. Chairman Dennis Mullins called the meeting a little after 8:00 am and the first item was public comment. No one spoke but the minutes were approved. Dick Diamond, General Manager North Kern Water District gave the treasurer’s report. There was a bit of technical problems with the microphones and staff being able to hear. The board of supervisors chamber is more like a small theater. I’m guessing the board meetings are televised due to the very bright lights shining on the dais and unfortunately for me the first row. But I had my hat so I stayed in the shade you might say. Any way the board approved Diamond’s report.

KGA GSA Staff Patty Poire, told the board the audit is being wrapped up. Executive Officer Terry Erlewine said the special activities committee needs participating entities to turn in the names of their representatives. Mullins said a district is required to opt into a special activities agreement and that agreement is represented by committee. Semitropic WSD, Kern Water Bank, Kern Tulare WD and Shafter Wasco ID all reported those boards have agreed to join.

Poire presented the board with a report on the Special Activities Agreement #4. She said there were 78 responses to a survey about wells in the KGA outreach efforts. Next, she said there were some changes needed to the Prop One application to take full advantage of the grant and spell out what is KGA and Kern River GSA’s domain. Todd Groundwater Modeling was one example. Erlewine said this has smoothed the work needed to make the invoicing cleaner. This has been submitted to the Department of Water Resources and they weren’t at all put off by the redlines and changes.

Next Poire said the KGA has been working with the KRGSA and its manager Mark Mulkay on a boundary adjustment for the Lamont Public Utility District. There was a basin boundary adjustment submitted to DWR by West Kern WD. Steve Lewis, an oil geologist explained there are formations in Kings and Kern Counties that would not be included in an alluvial basin. The area is contained in West Kern and it won’t change anything. The water being used in the proposed exclusion area is already being provided by the Kern Sub Basin. There was also an annexation of land from Arvin Edison WSD to Tejon Castaic WD. It is Tejon Ranch land and it was an informational item only.

SB 606 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown recently that sets limits for urban users. That prompted the KGA Urban Committee to become active again. Harry Starkey is the Chair of that committee.

Erlewine reported there was a policy coordination meeting between KGA and KRGSA that proved fruitful. Todd Groundwater gave a presentation to the KRGSA and he’d like to get Phyliss Stanton to come speak next month. The coordination agreement that went out a year ago fizzled. The new idea is to have high level management of the various GSAs come together and add appendixes as needed as opposed to one, all inclusive document. He said GEI consulting will be working up management agreements between the sub basin’s GSAs. There needs to be modeling completed that take into account all of the supplies coming into the county as well as climate change. He said DWR is requiring a 50-year model although everyone is rolling their eyes. Someone said DWR has received a memo from God about the next 50-years of climate. Whether or not DWR has received such a memo it has worked out its own data set dealing with less snow and more rain in the future. Erlewine said DWR’s efforts will save the GSPs a lot of headaches.

Valarie Kincaid gave her attorney’s report and said there are some draft documents that will be ready next month. There was supposed to be a Special Activities Agreement meeting next but there weren’t enough representatives to convene so the KGA meeting adjourned.

PPIC Presentation

But, things weren’t over yet. Ellen Hanak of the Public Policy Institute of California spoke on a recent PPIC report, “Replenishing Groundwater in the San Joaquin Valley.” Hanak said the report relied on a survey with many answers coming from Kern County and she thanked folks for their participation. She said PPIC is a non-partisan group with offices in San Francisco and Sacramento. She is head of the Water Policy Center. Sarge Green of Fresno State was listed as a coauthor. It was funded by the S.D. Betchtel, Jr. Foundation and Sustainable Conservation.

Hanak said the SJV has the biggest imbalance between pumping and recharge in the state. It’s out of whack by two million a/f annually. She believes a fourth of that can be remedied with recharge.

PPIC did a survey in 2017, the first wet year since the drought. The questions centered around who, how much and where recharge was taking place. They found 6.5 million a/f was recharged. One million a/f was banking for outside areas. About a fourth of the respondents didn’t give amounts recharged but most of the recharge took place in districts with good surface supplies, which wasn’t a surprise. Ag recharged far more than urban areas with basins the biggest method.

Hanak said Valley wide cooperation needs to take place since most of the sources are to the north and the demand in the south. The south also has the best recharging areas. The study suggests there is enough water in the long run there is enough water beyond water rights and enviro needs to recharge a fourth of the Valley’s water deficit. But the majority of this is in very wet years, and only for a limited time. The infrastructure isn’t up to the task. The subsidence on the Friant Kern Canal was determined to be a critical bottleneck. Improved infrastructure was the top priority of barriers to more recharge, beating out regulatory restraints, but that was also a big barrier. The ability to recharge on farm land is a problem also. So many fields are set up for drip irrigation, flood irrigation would be difficult. The State Board’s through Delta flow requirements’ are another problem.

Hanak said clarifying the rules will help users capture water faster. Getting permission from the US Bureau of Reclamation and DWR in a fast, unbureaucratic pace would be very helpful. Strengthening groundwater accounting for banking and on-farm recharge would also be helpful. More off sight recharge would be a very big help. Districts need to park water in banks for drought supply. There is also plenty of room for growth in this area. On-farm recharge is way underutilized and needs to be developed. Partnerships between urban and ag can be very beneficial as well as improving water quality.

The question portion was next. Some of the accounting for water not being captured during wet years was questioned. This is the most difficult water to get a handle on. She said there is half a million acres of on farm recharge not being used.

Hanak asked if while developing GSPs is increasing recharge a goal. Andrew Pandol said every district is in competition for getting water for recharge. He said conveyance capacity has been a challenge. She suggested more transfers could have the potential to develop partnerships making infrastructure development easier. And that was that.

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SGMA The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 calls for the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Areas within Basins and Sub-basins to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans.

The Kern Groundwater Authority membership:

Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, Cawelo Water District, City of Shafter, Kern County Water Agency, County of Kern, Kern-Tulare Water District, Kern Water Bank Authority, North Kern Water Storage District, Olcese Water District, Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District, Semitropic Water Storage District, Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District, Southern San Joaquin Municipal Utility District, Tejon-Castaic Water District, West Kern Water District, Westside District Water Authority & Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa WSD.