Inyo Supervisors to discuss Sustainable Groundwater

By Deb Murphy

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 sent a simple message to state water agencies: develop a sustainability plan or the state will.

Now Inyo County has to figure out what to do with those parts of the Owens Valley Groundwater Basin that do not lie under land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

LADWP’s portion of the basin is considered adjudicated, or governed by a court order, specifically the Long Term Water Agreement and is exempt from most provisions of SGMA.

The County Board of Supervisors will hear a presentation by Water Department Director Bob Harrington at Tuesday, at 1:30 p.m. in Independence.

The county already participates in the groundwater sustainability agency, GSA that oversees the Indian Wells basin, considered in critical over-draft. Harrington’s report will provide alternatives and recommendations for forming agencies and sustainability plans, GSPs, for Swall Meadows and Chalfant, Hammil and Benton, or the Tri-Valley.

The legislation requires agency formation by June 30, 2017 and GSPs by 2022 and provides for a flexibility within those agencies. Single or multiple public agencies can form the GSA, but private interests can participate as well.

While Harrington’s report provides a number of “if’s and then’s,” the preferred alternative seems to be a single plan for the non-LADWP portions of the Owens Valley basin funded through a state grant.

One interesting quirk could resolve the issue of groundwater pumping under the Owens Lake. The County has argued for years such pumping would be regulated under the Long Term Water Agreement; LADWP says no. But, if that portion of the Owens Valley basin isn’t included in the adjudication, it does come under provisions of SGMA.


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One Response to Inyo Supervisors to discuss Sustainable Groundwater

  1. Philip Anaya October 3, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    It is my understanding that SGMA has the requirement that all medium and high priority Basins in California have to achieve sustainability by the year 2042 whether they are adjudicate or non adjudicated basins. Our medium priority Owens River Basin has both adjudicated (LADWP lands) and non adjudicated portions of the Basin
    The non adjudicated lands have not had ground water management. LADWP and Inyo County manage groundwater extractions through the LTWA (Long Term Water Agreement)
    Although the LTWA exempts LADWP and Inyo County from the GSA (Groundwater Sustainability Agency) and the GSP (Groundwater Sustainability Procedures) process, the LADWP and Inyo County will be submitting each and every year their Annual Report to the California Water Resources Agency and will be expected to meet yardstick sustainability goals by the year 2042. For the first time in the DWP’s history in the Owens Valley there is be regulatory oversight of it’s operations
    The definition of “sustainability” in the new SGMA may be somewhat a low bar but the Powers and Authority of GSA’s are far reaching. Conducting investigations, requiring registration of groundwater extraction facilities, requiring meters at operators expense and annual reporting, reporting surface flow for recharge, acquiring property and water rights, import ,store & treat water, programs for fallowing agriculture land, impose spacing requirements for wells, regulate, limit or suspend groundwater extraction, limit construction, enlargement or reactivation of groundwater wells, transfer groundwater pumping allocations, impose fees on groundwater permits,extraction or other regulated activity to fund a GSP and GSAs may impose fees to fund the preparation of a GSP.
    Domestic water user’s who use less than 2 AF per year are called de minimis users and are exempt from metering and reporting requirements . They are also exempt from fees if de minus users are not regulated under a GSP.
    While these restrictions/requirements pertain to the non adjudicated portions of a Basin be reminded that the LTWA is a current accepted process for the adjudicated portions of the Basin. The LADWP must know that if the LTWA is not meeting the sustainability goals that the SGMA requires, there will be groups and individuals who will advocate/litigate in the future for GSA Power and Authority measures to be applied to help the DWP to become sustainable here in the Owens Valley.


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