Water Planning for Our Future

Water Planning for Our Future

Water Planning Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comBy Zach Friend

Water Planning Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comHaving a sustainable water supply is essential for the future of our county and state. Recognizing the need to ensure long-term water sustainability throughout the state, the legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014. The Act requires local agencies to coordinate efforts to bring our groundwater basin into sustainability by writing and implementing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

The Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency (MGA) tasked with submitting the Sustainability Plan – is a partnership between the County of Santa Cruz, Soquel Creek Water District, the City of Santa Cruz, Central Water District, and the community. The Sustainability Plan is due to the State by January 31, 2020.

Water Planning Times Publishing Group Inc tpgonlinedaily.comIn order to help draft the Plan, the MGA reached out to community members that represented different constituent groups in the basin. The selected individuals served on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee.

The committee met monthly for multiple-hour evening meetings from October 2017 until June 2019 to work through two major decisions: what is our local goal for sustainability, and how is sustainability defined? The Committee had to navigate through dense technical reports and complex policy language to reach an understanding on these questions.

The Plan considers sustainability through the lens of several different criteria: reduction of stream flow, lowered groundwater levels, groundwater storage, groundwater quality and seawater intrusion. The committee worked through each one of these criteria at length, revisiting some topics several times.

For each one, the committee had to set a minimum threshold. As long as the Basin stays above those thresholds, it is considered sustainable.

Because the Plan defines the meaning of sustainability for our groundwater basin, and because it identifies the actions needed to reach sustainability, it needs to reflect the values that we as a community share. As such, the MGA is soliciting comments from you.

The Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan is available for public comment until September 19. Your participation is valued! Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the Plan and provide feedback is critical. Ultimately, the Plan will have impacts for our community for the next few generations:

  • Groundwater is currently the only source of drinking water for more than half the population living and working in the basin boundary. It also provides irrigation water to local farmers and critically important stream flow during the summers and dry periods.
  • One or more of the sustainability criteria are critical to every user of water – customers of the large water agencies, private well owners, agricultural interests in the basin, and environmental concerns around habitat for endangered species. Take the time to read the definition of sustainability and the explanation about how the decision was made for each one.
  • The Plan evaluates projects to reach sustainability. These projects are led by the partner agencies but assessed using a groundwater computer model as they relate to the sustainability criteria listed above. River transfers, recycled water, and stormwater recharge are all reflected in the Plan. You can read about how the proposed projects will impact the basin.
  • The Plan has a strict timeline. The MGA must achieve sustainability by 2040, and maintain it for at least the subsequent 30 years.
  • There are real consequences to failing to meet sustainability by 2040. The State has the authority to take over groundwater management and control if we are not meeting our goals.
  • There are costs to run this new agency and the effort to reach sustainability. Right now, the costs are being paid for by the partner agencies and grant funds from the State. This is because the biggest impacts to the basin are due to municipal pumping. In the long run, other water users may be asked to contribute as well. A breakdown of cost estimates is included in the draft Plan.

The MGA is planning several events that you can attend to learn more about the Plan and to ask questions about its outcomes. Here are the dates, more information is on the website:

  • August 28th 7pm-9pm: Q&A Session with staff at Simpkins Swim Center
  • September 19th 7pm-9pm: Public Hearing with the MGA Board at Simpkins Swim Center

With current overdraft conditions and further stresses anticipated from a changing climate, investing in the sustainability of our water resources is vital to the future health and prosperity or our community. To learn more about the upcoming events and how to review the plan, visit www.midcountygroundwater.org.

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As always, I appreciate your feedback. You can call me at 454-2200 or visit me in my office hours in Aptos, Corralitos, Watsonville or La Selva.

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