Management of Groundwater in California through an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan
Kings River Conservation District
California?s thirst for water supplies to support population growth, food production and enhancement of environmental resources has stretched surface and groundwater supplies to unsustainable conditions in many areas of the state. A significant percentage of California?s groundwater basins are being over-drafted to address these demands and compensate for reduced reliability of surface water supplies due to inadequate storage and conveyance infrastructure, hydrologic conditions, and changes in state and federal policy. Local management solutions are being encouraged and developed to support sustainability of these important resources. The California Legislature has conditioned financial support for regional projects with a requirement that Integrated Regional Water Management Plans (IRWMP) be prepared and implemented by local public agencies to promote creation of regional water supply strategies to improve water supply sustainability. The Legislature recognizes that integration of local planning activities can lead to politically acceptable solutions that expand regional water supplies to meet urban, agricultural and environmental objectives. IRWMPs also provide a framework for coordinated management and monitoring of groundwater supplies and quality. The California Legislature has established local groundwater management criteria that must be developed with the IRWMP framework. Enacted in 2002, Senate Bill 1938 (SB1938) amended sections of the California Water Code defining process and terms for adoption of a local groundwater management plan. In order to meet the requirements of SB1938, a local public agency must conduct a stakeholder-driven process to establish basin management objectives for groundwater elevation (supply), quality, subsidence, and interrelationship with surface water flows. The local agency must also establish monitoring programs that assess performance of these objectives. Traditionally prepared and implemented by individual water agencies, cities and counties, the IRWMP structure requires coordination of these groundwater management plans to meet regional objectives. The Comprehensive Water Package signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in November 2009 included Senate Bill 7x 6, amending the California Water Code and establishing provisions requiring the development of a statewide groundwater monitoring framework by the California Department of Water Resources. IRWMPs can play a key role in development of the monitoring and reporting framework utilizing the structure of the SB1938 groundwater management plans. Water agencies, cities, counties, local community interests and several non-governmental agencies have come together in the central San Joaquin Valley of California to develop and implement the Upper Kings Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. The Plan covers over 600,000 acres in portions of three counties that lead the State in annual agricultural production, have rapidly growing urban centers, and are dissected by the Kings River, one of California?s significant remaining riparian corridors. Plan participants have developed a vision, objectives, governance structure, project lists, an interactive groundwater model, and an open process for discussion of regional resource management issues and potential solutions. Plan participants are currently discussing further coordination of member agency groundwater management plans and monitoring strategies to meet basin management objectives and legislative requirements.