- Innovative approaches to addressing groundwater deficits from charges for going over assigned water budgets and water trading to groundwater bank accounts are working in CA’s Kern County.
- Emphasizing approaches that let growers decide what’s best for them—whether it’s helping them put unused water into a market or compensating them for using their land for recharge– is a key strategy to achieving groundwater sustainability.
Lori Pottinger February 28, 2018 read full post from the Public Policy Institute of CA (PPIC) here
California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires communities with ongoing groundwater deficits to bring their aquifers into balance in the coming years. This will be a difficult and complex process, but it’s also an opportunity to devise workable solutions at the community level. We talked to Eric Averett of the Rosedale–Rio Bravo Water Storage District about groundwater management innovations being tried in his Kern County district and lessons learned that might have wider application.
…Eric Averett: The most challenging area is managing and mitigating impacts associated with demand reduction. Rather than mandating that individual landowners reduce demand, our district has pursued a path that we think gives individuals greater flexibility. The idea is that every acre will be assigned a water budget based on what the district can provide or considers sustainable. If a landowner uses more than that amount, it triggers a water charge. The district will use those funds to develop water supply programs or purchase land from willing sellers to retire it from production. Either way, this system doesn’t take anything away from landowners’ ability to manage their own water, it just gives them more options.
Another important area we’re looking at is water trading within our district’s boundaries. We’ve implemented a pilot study that empowers landowners to act as buyers or sellers in managing their water resources. We think water trading will be an essential tool to getting aquifers into balance and maximizing the value of the resource. For example, during a drought, a small grower with row crops may find greater value in fallowing a field and selling the water. At the same time, a grower who may be short of water and facing the loss of a permanent crop may enter the market as a buyer. If we don’t find a way to create these buy/sell opportunities, we strand the asset.
A third area we’re working on is creating individual groundwater bank accounts for landowners. We have a number of landowners who’ve committed to make their land available for recharge in exchange for a portion of the recharged water being credited to their account. Alternatively, some landowners have acquired a source of water and asked the district to use it for recharge on their behalf. Both types of programs were tested successfully in 2017, and we look forward to expanding the concept. Ultimately, we’re looking at ways the district can assist landowners in becoming sustainable and mitigating SGMA impacts….