By Patty Poire, President, Kern County Farm Bureau
Here we are in December already with a new year just around the corner and the “fun” is now just beginning.
The Kern County Subbasin submitted the required Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP) to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) back on January 31, 2020, and under the statute DWR has two years to review and provide a decision on the GSPs. As the point of contact for the Kern County Subbasin under the Sustainability Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), I am expecting to receive an informal comment review letter from DWR this December that will provide an insight into their review of the GSPs. This should provide an opportunity to understand their interpretation of the GSPs and for the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to begin the task of working through DWR’s interpretation and concerns. This means that the Kern Subbasin is getting closer to having a final decision on the submitted GSPs on January 31, 2022. Once we receive the final decision and if the decision is an incomplete, the Kern subbasin will have 180 days to provide additional information to support the submitted GSPs. If the decision is inadequate, then the Kern Subbasin begins the process of dealing with the State Water Board in the process called “probationary” and this is not where we want to go. And the best decision is approved with recommendations which would mean that in the next update in 2025, the Kern subbasin would need to provide information on the recommended items. As you see, an approval or incomplete are the two decisions that will allow the Kern subbasin to maintain the “local control” that is the foundation of SGMA. As this unfolds, I will be keeping the agricultural industry informed through the e-blasts that go out and through the Farm Bureau meetings.
If you are a landowner, your engagement is vital to the success of SGMA in the Kern subbasin. To assist in the engagement, the Kern GSAs developed a data management system (DMS) that provides water level information for the entire basin. (To access the DMS, go to the Kern Groundwater Authority website (KernGWA.com) and the DMS link is located on the home page, halfway down the page look under the header of Important Notices & Upcoming Events.) There is also a guest access instruction manual listed as well to assist you. If you need any assistance on the site, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 661-479-7171. The DMS map viewer shows all the monitoring wells under SGMA as well as providing hydrographs to assist in understanding the water levels and how they relate to the minimum thresholds (not to exceed level). This should assist you in understanding water levels around your property. There will be additional information added to the DMS such as water quality during the month of December.
Another tool that was just released is OpenET. The website for this tool is Explore.ETData.org/Auth#12/35.1577/-118.9143. This tool was developed using satellite data from NASA and covers all the western states. Currently, I am working with local farmers and landowners in ground truthing the data because it is important to have this as accurate as possible. I believe that if we don’t validate the data and stay silent on it, the data will be used in establishing water usage numbers going forward. As SGMA continues through the implementation phase from now to 2040 and beyond, having accurate water consumption usage is vital to be able to substantiate sustainability. In SGMA, the water checkbook has two columns, water demand (consumption use) and water supply using water levels to provide current status on the balance of the checkbook. I recommend that you explore the OpenET tool and investigate its accuracy on your property. Then, please engage with the Kern County Farm Bureau and your water district to advise of your findings.
The above information pertains to SGMA and water but unfortunately pesticide usage is also becoming a hot topic with the Department of Pesticide (DPR) now moving forward in the development of a statewide notification system. The governor and the legislation allocated $10 million dollars in the budget to accommodate the development and thus DPR held its first public workshop to provide input. To assist you in understanding where this process is going, please go to this site: CDPR.CA.gov/Docs/PressRls/2021/102721.htm. There you will find information on a focus group summary that several farmers and CA Farm Bureau participated in along with the slide presentation that was used at the workshops. Monterey County developed a notification system several years ago and unfortunately found out that advocates who want to stop the use of pesticides are using the notification system to attempt to stop legal applications. This is a topic that will continue into 2022, and, again, engagement is stressed.
As you can see the fun is now beginning and I encourage your engagement. As I have said before, if you are not at the table then you are on the menu.
The month of December should not just be about the above times but more importantly about why this month is the most special month of all. I wish you and your family a heartfelt Merry Christmas!