GRA’s Contemporary Groundwater Issues Council weighs in on BMPs for Groundwater Sustainability Plans

by Thomas Harter, Vicki Kretsinger Grabert, Reid Bryson, and Tim Parker On May 26, 2016, eight days after the California Water Commission voted to approve emergency regulations for Groundwater Sustainability Plans, the Groundwater Resources Association (GRA) held the sixth annual workshop of the Contemporary Groundwater Issues Council (CGIC) to address a closely related component of Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation: best management practices (BMPs).
With input from CGIC and other groups, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has since published its first round of BMPs and Guidelines on some core activities within Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs): monitoring protocols, monitoring networks, development of hydrogeologic conceptual models, water budgets, and modeling.
Additional BMPs and guidelines as well as statewide data support will be forthcoming as Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) prepare their GSPs.
Suggestions for short-term actions included: building trust amongst local agencies, stakeholders, and the public through clear communication about the goals of sustainable groundwater management and governance options; targeted capacity-building to encourage participation by all stakeholders; and coordination of current monitoring and modeling efforts within a basin or subbasin.
One area of particular concern included activities around the management of groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) and surface water flows impacted by groundwater management.
Many GSAs and local agencies will face challenges managing this important aspect of sustainability.
Several participants noted that GSAs will need clear communication from DWR and the State Water Board as to the various datasets that the state will provide to GSAs versus those datasets that GSAs should anticipate developing at the local level.
Participants also noted that local agencies will need guidance from the state regarding its interpretation of requirements under SGMA for local agencies to: (1) identify and map GDEs, and (2) avoid impacts to GDEs, relative to efforts associated with other interactions of surface water and groundwater, including non-ecosystem-related beneficial uses.
CA Department of Water Resources Groundwater Sustainability Plan Emergency Regulations (GSP Regulations).
CA Department of Water Resources BMP 2: Monitoring Networks and Identification of Data Gaps.

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