As we face a long, frustrating summer and fall in the Sacramento Valley, everyone...farmer, homeowner, rancher, environmental advocate, businessperson, water deliverer, etc. will be profoundly affected by our current and pending drought conditions. In the immediate, there are no easy answers. Scarce resources inevitably create conflict. However, such conditions can also create uncommon partnerships and with the right tools, powerful solutions. In 2014, the State Legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA); a sweeping law that foundationally changes how groundwater is and will be managed. Our part of California is unique and we need groundwater management methods that will work for us and for our communities. We have answered the call and the requirements of SGMA and are finalizing a locally driven, locally focused Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Colusa Groundwater Subbasin (covering most of Colusa and Glenn Counties).
SGMA is hard. It is cumbersome, expensive, complicated, intrusive and far reaching. Few people, regardless of where they sit on the ideological spectrum, like it when legislation is created that dramatically affects them. As water users in this region we are no exception. But it is undeniable that SGMA was written for just this circumstance. It forces us to build local solutions and partnerships to achieve and maintain sustainable groundwater conditions for the future, particularly during droughts. In an era of water uncertainty, it is an uncomfortable reality that being forced to be more resilient to drought may not be what we wanted; but it is what we need.
Think about why we live in this region. Why our relatives settled here and put down roots. Why we stayed or came, raising families, building homes, businesses and futures. Whether it is the productivity of the soils, the charm of our communities, the beauty of our natural resources, we hope to pass these attributes on to the next generations. Then think about this region without a resilient water supply.
We need to think about “sustainability” not as a title forced on us from people in Sacramento but instead, as a way of life that protects what we hold dear. Like it or not, SGMA helps or will help us do what we have not been able to do on our own across the State. It created new, regulating groundwater agencies, vested with powerful authorities to guarantee that groundwater is protected. It gives us the ability to manage these resources locally and to bring a diverse collection of affected parties together to make this happen. In our case, SGMA led us to create the Glenn Groundwater Authority (GGA) and Colusa Groundwater Authority (CGA). Multi-organization, multi-person public agencies represented by your neighbors, colleagues and friends. We shop in the same stores, send our kids to the same schools, and love the same communities and natural resources that you do. And we are dedicated to building the necessary solutions that in time, can help protect us from drought.
We have a robust surface water supply in the Sacramento Valley. One that has historically supported water needs and the groundwater beneath us. But we know all too well that some of these sources are being challenged and have proved legally uncertain and beyond our control to protect. Within the groundwater aquifers lies a safety net. That safety net however, is only as good as the tools we create to support it. In the case of SGMA, this comes in the form of the aforementioned Groundwater Sustainability Plan that the GGA and CGA are jointly preparing. The Plan defines our current groundwater situation, and describes what we will do in the future to better understand and protect these resources. The Plan describes the conditions we are obligated to address. Important factors like preserving and enhancing groundwater levels, minimizing potentially damaging subsidence, avoiding adverse water quality impacts and protecting natural resources that depend on the connection between groundwater and surface water. Once the Plan is adopted and submitted to the State, the GSAs will then have the authority to implement the actions in the Plan.
By State law, we are nearing the end of the period to prepare the Plan. In the coming weeks and months, the CGA and GGA will host and encourage you to attend public meetings to discuss the draft Plan and provide written comments to us. The CGA and GGA will consider comments received and then finalize and adopt the Plan by January 2022. The projects and management actions described in the Plan won’t be easy to achieve. They may require new investments, an unfailing commitment to collaboration, uncomfortable options we haven’t wanted to discuss in the past, and potential sacrifice in the future. They will reflect a continued commitment to work collaboratively for the common good of our region, rather than as individual water users and organizations competing for limited resources. The Plan will not be ready in time to help us through the current drought. We won’t even be able to begin to implement aspects of the Plan until February 2022 at the earliest. But we will learn from the current and recent water crises and that will inform our Plan and actions. Over time, SGMA will live up to its promise, warts and all, to support resilience as best we can locally and to ensure that we work together to achieve successful outcomes.
In closing, on July 28 and 29 from 6 – 8 p.m, the CGA and GGA will hold the next round of public meetings in our “SGMA-Series”.
The meeting on the 28th will be held virtually. See the following websites for more information:
The meeting on the 29th will be held at:
– Sites Project Authority Office - 122 Old Highway 99W, Maxwell, CA 95955.
These meetings will focus on the sustainability conditions we have been studying for the Plan, and the potential projects and management actions that we refer to above. We encourage you to attend these meetings and to visit our websites and related social media to learn more about SGMA and the GGA and CGA. We need you to participate in upcoming meetings, to embrace the need for these collaborative changes and to work with us to forge a new resilient groundwater future in the Sacramento Valley.
On behalf of the Colusa Groundwater Authority Board and Glenn Groundwater Authority Board
Ms. Denise Carter, Chair of the Colusa Groundwater Authority and
Mr. John Amaro, Chair of the Glenn Groundwater Authority