Information provided by Shawn Novack, water conservation program manager with the Water Resources Association of San Benito County.
The Sustainability Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is the state law requiring certain local agencies to manage their groundwater basins sustainably. This essentially means maintaining balanced levels of pumping and recharge and assuring reliable water quality. Everyone should recognize the vast importance of basin sustainability for today, for our children, their children, and the generation beyond.
The San Benito County Water District is the designated Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for the North San Benito Basin in San Benito County. SGMA requires for medium-priority basins, such as ours, to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) by 2022 and that the basin must demonstrate sustainability by 2042, according to a recent release.
The next public workshop will take place on Tuesday, March 24 from 4-5:30 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building, 649 San Benito Street, Room 218 in Hollister if you’d like to attend.
SGMA requires the GSA to reach and involve the community and stakeholders around the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. The water district recognizes that this is a critical aspect of ensuring that this process is transparent, engaging, effective, and fully available to the members of the community. Overall community engagement, which includes involvement of diverse social, cultural, and economic elements of the population within the basin area, helps the district to best consider the full range of interests of all beneficial uses and users of groundwater, as the plan moves forward.
The water district also assembled a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), to assist in reviewing and contributing to the technical aspects of the GSP as its elements are produced. The TAC is made up of individuals selected to represent GSP-related subject areas, including but not limited to environmental, technical, and land use planning fields. This diverse group of experts in their respective fields will be responsible for reviewing the GSP scope of work, draft products, and materials prepared by consultants, analyzing them, and providing recommendations to the GSP Technical Team to develop a technically-sound GSP.
The GSP for the North County Basin has nine sections, several of which have been completed.
Sections 1 and 2—Introduction and Plan Area ✔ Draft Complete
These sections introduce the GSP and set the foundation for the plan by defining the GSA management structure and legal authority, estimated implementation costs and funding plans, jurisdictional boundaries, existing monitoring and management programs, well distribution, land use designations, and description of land use plans.
Sections 3 and 4—Hydrogeologic Conceptual Model and Groundwater Conditions ✔ Draft Complete
Here, we characterize how the groundwater/surface water system works, and the state of the basin. We analyzed groundwater elevation maps and hydrographs, changes in groundwater storage, groundwater quality issues (contamination sites, salt and nutrient loading), subsidence extent and rate (if any significant), and interconnected surface water systems/groundwater dependent ecosystems.
Section 5—Water Budget ✔ Draft Complete
This section provides a quantitative assessment of the water balance (or water budget) of the North San Benito Basin, including estimates of inflows and outflows for individual Management Areas, and changes in groundwater storage over time, including historical, current, and projected future conditions. It provides a tool to evaluate management actions and future conditions including potential growth and climate change. The Water Budget Section has shown our groundwater basin is sustainable (not overdrafted) as long as we have imported water and no undesirable effects.
Section 6—Sustainability Criteria Now Underway
Section 6 identifies the undesirable effects that we want to avoid. These include such possibilities as lowering of groundwater levels, reduction of groundwater storage, degraded water quality, land subsidence, and surface water depletions with adverse impacts on beneficial uses.
Sections 7, 8, and 9—Management Actions and Projects, Monitoring, and Implementation Plan
Upcoming in 2021
The Management Actions and Projects section will identify actions—including projects, programs, and policies—to maintain or achieve sustainability according to the sustainability indicators. To support effective management focused on local issues, four Management Areas have been defined (Southern, Hollister, San Juan, Bolsa) which together cover the entire basin. Each of these may have different minimum thresholds, management objectives, monitoring, or management actions.
The Monitoring Section will identify and describe the basin’s monitoring network used to measure each sustainability indicator and track the basin’s progress relative to sustainability. The Implementation Plan will provide a roadmap for moving forward with basin sustainability once the GSP has been completed.
The San Benito County Water District website has lots of information on our basins and the Plan. Go to: https://www.sbcwd.com/community-involvement/ if you’d like to sign-up for updates on SGMA or Water Conservation information.