The Tule River GSA Technical Advisory Committee meeting was held remotely on Zoom and at Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters in Tipton on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. This should be a pretty good meeting. The Tule River Subbasin is ground zero for subsidence problems because of the impacts on the Friant Kern Canal and has as many challenges as anywhere in California. But the area also has extremely creative water managers and engineers who have plenty of experience solving problems.
Engineer Dave DeGroot is acting as chair and called the meeting at 2:00pm. The first item was a call for additions or deletions to the agenda and there were none. DeGroot reminded everyone there is a Tule River SGMA website full of information. There were two sets of minutes needing approval, October 11, 2020 and the January 20, 2021 meetings. The Advisory Committee meets quarterly. There was quite a long silence as the committee members reviewed the minutes. That’s something that typically happens when folks don’t read the packet ahead of time. There was a motion to approve and it passed.
Public comment was next. No one at the location had anything to say and no one on the call had anything to say either.
DeGroot gave the board a report on what’s happening in the Tule Subbasin since the last meeting. The Tule Subbasin covers about 477,000 acres and has seven GSA members. SGMA requires a data management system. Each of the GSAs signed a coordination agreement which lends definition to the DMS. Land IQ’s satellite ET figures, metered pumping and surface water deliveries will be part of what’s covered.
A report showing 624,840 a/f of surface water supplies were brought to the subbasin in 2019/2020 water was posted. It also showed 755,640 a/f of groundwater extracted from the subbasin. DeGroot said this was calculated from satellite ET and return flows. He said that made a 1,380,480 a/f total water use. It also shows 130,800 a/f more pumped than imported. The decrease in groundwater storage was a negative 1,331,000 a/f.
Hydrogeologist Tom Harder said the annual reports uses the difference in groundwater elevations taken from monitoring well readings. Harder said only the storage changes in the upper aquifer are noted. It looked like about two dozen well sites were recorded. There is a depression in the mid-west side of the subbasin. Any further west and the data wasn’t available so assumptions where made. Also, new wells added to the monitoring network were brought online but there is no historical data. The groundwater dropped pretty dramatically in some areas, up to 40-50 feet drop. There are some locations, especially on the east side that show levels rising. The 2019/2020 water year showed the greatest drop in recorded history. Harder said he believes this needs to be reevaluated. He gave a few reasons, faster than I could type but one question was – are the levels recorded being impacted by pumping or are they static measurements for that monitoring site?
Harder said increasing the monitoring network by drilling new wells is ongoing with grant money. He said he met with DeGroot to come up with some ways to improve the monitoring program. He listed greater access to wells, replacing wells no longer accessible and improving the monitoring procedures by noting more special conditions and double checking twice. DeGroot said the ET showed about one million a/f. He said staff is working to improve all the data gathered and things are heading in the right direction. There were some, data deserts I think he called some of the areas lacking information.
It’s not an easy thing to look at the findings and see a 1.3 million a/f reduction in groundwater storage in one year. But if you look at the graph showing the levels for many year’s back this report shows what could be called an anomaly compared to any other year. I think it was Sean Geivet who suggested there are some real problems with the contour maps. Harder said he believes the water budget is more accurate than this past year’s monitoring network. The water budget shows a decrease of 300,000 a/f or so. Underground water doesn’t care about where it flows, it follows the path of least resistance. Having more data and understanding it better is an ongoing process.
DeGroot said four projects that have received grant funds have been completed in the subbasin. DWR has a Technical Support Service that helps develop monitoring wells. So far five new wells have been completed. From what I’ve heard if you can dedicate a well to only monitoring your data will be much better. If you use a working well for monitoring there are so many variables to take into account the accuracy can fall quickly.
In addition the groundwater flow model was updated with Prop 68 grant funds. Some of these funds are also being used to develop a Data Management System which DeGroot hopes will be in place by this fall. He said Tule Subbasin applied for Prop 68 implementation funds and while they didn’t get a dime they learned more about what to and what not to do. There will be another chance to apply this year and he hopes to be more competitive. DeGroot said to get the project lists together. With most of the communities in the subbasin disadvantaged there could be some coinage coming their way.
Speaking of coinage DeGroot gave a report and the net balance of the group is $568,947.57 so that ought to keep them in beer and cigarettes you’d think but one or two new monitoring wells could eat that up no prob.
That was the last item and Eric Quinley, General Manager Delano Earlimart ID apologized for the tardiness of the request but he wanted the minutes to reflect Director Kelly Hampton was present at the last meeting. It sounded to me like Steve King but I’m not sure, but anyway whoever it was that made the motion to accept the minutes earlier in the meeting agreed to alter his motion to reflect that. The way the screen was set up the office cam showed the boardroom but it was just a small rectangle amongst several other small rectangles. You can see someone is there in the LTRID boardroom but you can’t tell who it is. There was no roll call so you have to use the combined hearing of a dolphin and a bat.
There was some more discussion about billing the assessments and the meeting adjourned at 3:00pm on the dot. One hour long is just enough to give you a bunch of information for making better decisions and your butt doesn’t get as tired as it could so your attention is better.
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SGMA The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 calls for the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Areas within Basins and Sub-basins to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans.
TULE RIVER GSA – Alpaugh GSA, Delano-Earlimart ID GSA, Eastern Tule GSA JPA, Lower Tule River ID GSA, Pixley ID GSA, Tri-County Water Authority GSA http://www.ltrid.org/sgma/
Basin San Joaquin Valley; Sub Basin Tule DWR Listing: 5-022.13