Borrego Sun - Since 1949

SGMA Q&A

 

Last updated 8/1/2016 at 5am



(Condensed from an article by Borrego Water District Director Lyle Brecht)

Q&A

•What is the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act or SGMA? A new law that requires all medium and high priority groundwater basins in the State to be brought into balance by 2040.

•Does SGMA apply to the Borrego Valley Groundwater Basin (Borrego Basin)? Yes. The overdraft was identified by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and has been designated as critical by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) hydrologists.

•Who is responsible for implementing SGMA for the Borrego Basin? The Borrego Water District and the County of San Diego are the only two public agencies eligible to implement SGMA for the Borrego Basin. Both have filed a request with DWR to become a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), and are working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to address any overlap. Thereafter, it will be the responsibility of the two GSAs to create a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

•Who will write the plan and what will be in it? The process has yet to be decided, but public stakeholder meetings will be held and input from the discussions will then be communicated to an Advisory Committee. A consultant will be selected to write the plan and conduct the necessary technical work.

•Does SGMA mean that water rates will increase? Yes. Under SGMA, the groundwater pumped from the basin will cost something for all basin pumpers.

•Who will enforce the GSP? Both the County of San Diego and the Borrego Water District, as GSAs, once the GSP is approved.

•What will prevent current water users from hoarding water or speculators from gouging municipal and recreational users with outrageous prices for water transfers? Market rules that ensure moral and fair trades will be established as part of the GSP.

•How will a GSP go into effect? The GSP has to be approved by the County Board of Supervisors and the District Board and accepted by the DWR no later than January 2020.

•Who gets to represent the ratepayers in the planning process? The District Board may appoint one ratepayer representative to the Advisory Committee.

•How will this ratepayer representative to the Advisory Committee be selected by the District Board? The Board will be seeking a representative who is willing to fairly represent all ratepayers’ interests and is able to build trust among the other members of the Advisory Committee and those working on the GSAs’ project team. He or she will hold a leadership position facilitating the ability of ratepayers to meet, express their opinions and insure their input is adequately and accurately communicated to the GSAs.

•Instead of working to produce a GSP, why don’t we just let the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) take over the Borrego Basin from local control? That will occur if the local management of the basin fails, but it will not be free. The exercise of local control to deal with the overdraft is the most economical option.

•Instead of using SGMA to eliminate the overdraft, why don’t we just adjudicate the Borrego Basin? Adjudication would not preempt or delay the requirements of SGMA, and would add the cost for attorneys to the costs associated with SGMA. The only purpose of adjudication is to ask the courts to determine who has rights to pump a specific amount of water when there is a dispute.

•Why hasn’t the District Board done something about the overdraft long before now? Prior to SGMA, the District did not have the authority required to control or limit withdrawals. The County had the necessary police powers but did not exercise them.

•Why didn’t the County act to limit withdrawals from the basin if it always had the police powers to accomplish this? No County in California has previously exercised its police powers to limit groundwater withdrawals. Thus, SGMA was enacted.

•Didn’t the District under the AB3030 Groundwater Management Act have the authority to limit withdrawals? Yes, but it could not limit withdrawals without an approved plan including specific reduction targets, a budget, and clear policies and penalties for not meeting reduction targets. The Groundwater Management Plan approved by the District Board in 2002 possessed none of these required attributes. Further, the District had no police powers to enforce reductions or to collect tax.

•How do we know that the Borrego Basin is in critical overdraft? The District commissioned over three million dollars in studies, for which the ratepayers contributed approximately one million dollars, to determine unequivocally that an overdraft exists, its magnitude, and that no other sources of water are economically available to the Borrego Valley in the near future. The most recent 2015 USGS study is available for review at https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/ sir20155150.

•But, I know of wells that are at the same water levels they were years ago or have been increasing recently. Does that mean the overdraft is not as serious as the studies claim? Over time, individual wells can increase, decrease, stay the same or do all of the above. A systemic analysis of the whole basin is required before a definitive and defensible analysis can be used to define the issues associated with an overdraft.

•Does overdraft mean we are running out of water? No. According to both USGS studies, there is ample and adequate water available within the basin. An overdraft results in basin changes that potentially have large economic impacts.

•Is it fair to say that only the ratepayers have borne the cost of the overdraft to date? Yes, but only when discussing studies. In terms of actual dollars invested in end use efficiency measures, investments made by the golf course and the farmers have likely exceeded the investments in end use efficiency measures by the ratepayers.

•Why does the Borrego Water Coalition recommend a 70 percent reduction of withdrawals across all sectors – agriculture, recreation (golf courses & resorts) and municipal uses? The 70 percent reduction is just an estimate. It is supported by California Water Law and a likely potential outcome if adjudication were to occur. It is also supported by the USGS study.

•Is the sky falling? Should I be worried about the overdraft? The cost of using water will become more expensive in the future, but we are not running out of it. The District is carefully considering how to best apportion these expenses to most efficiently and effectively manage future costs. Almost all groundwater basins in California are in overdraft, so we aren’t the only ones seeking methods to create cost controls for water use. If this community is to successfully address the overdraft, it is up to us to ensure our own future by getting involved, becoming informed and working together.

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