Monday, September 1, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS


Groundwater becomes next big California fight

elias column sig

By
From page A13 | April 23, 2014 |

The next front in California’s long-running water wars has already opened, and the reasons for it will sometimes be hard to see – but not always.

That next fight is over groundwater, source of about 35 percent of the state’s fresh water in normal years and a much higher percentage in dry ones like 2014. This battle has the potential to become far more bitter than even the quarrels over how to distribute water from the Delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems.

Why? It’s all but certain that regulations of some kind will come soon to this only source of California fresh water that currently has virtually none.

“In the coming months, I will be working . . . on strategies for more effective groundwater management,” wrote Democratic state Sen. Fran Pavley of Calabasas in her latest constituent newsletter.

When Pavley broaches a subject like this, no one involved can afford to ignore her. Only last year, she authored the state’s first regulations on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for oil and natural gas, and back in 2006, she was the force behind the Assembly Bill 32 restrictions on greenhouse gases, progenitor of the state’s ever-controversial cap-and-trade program.

For sure, the long-running drought here is producing conditions that almost demand regulation.

As things get drier, especially for San Joaquin Valley farms now drawing just a small fraction of their normal water entitlements from both the state Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project, many of those farmers are pumping groundwater furiously to keep their crops and businesses alive.

The longstanding presumption here has been that if there’s water under your land and you have a well, you can take as much as you want. That has sometimes ignored effects on other nearby property owners and the public.

One of those effects can be land subsidence, which in some Central Valley locales has topped 20 feet and can be spotted by passing motorists who see instruments and wellheads that once were on the surface perched on pipes reaching high above the current ground level.

Subsidence, in turn, can lead to problems moving surface water in canals, something water agencies cannot long tolerate. Overpumping groundwater can also spur intrusions of brackish saltwater into freshwater aquifers.

The reality is that some of California’s most significant environmental laws have been the direct results of crises. The Field Act, passed just after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, changed the way schools all over the state are built. Building standards for other structures changed immensely after the 1971 San Fernando earthquake severely damaged the Olive View Medical Center. The drought of 1975-77 produced major water conservation changes, among them wide government distribution of low-flow toilets and shower heads, now standard in new homes and one reason today’s drought has not yet proved as disastrous as previous ones.

So far, drought has not produced great enthusiasm for Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed twin tunnels water project to bring Sacramento River water under the Delta to the state’s aqueduct. That’s partly because in return for more than $20 billion, the state would get no more water, even if the tunnels might assure more level supplies from year to year. So far, the main backers are water districts on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, whose member farmers are prone to major water allocation swings from year to year.

So that project won’t go anywhere for a while, which could mean that legislators who want at least to purvey the image of doing something about the drought will become more likely to adopt groundwater regulations.

If they try this, expect another loud and large fight to break out, as farmers and water districts with wells of their own can be expected to fight anyone who tries to tell them what to do with water they’ve long viewed as their own property.

Thomas Elias is a California author. Reach him at tdelias@aol.com.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Highway 12 project nears completion

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Goodwill opens Outlet Store in Fairfield

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
Fairfield economic team announces addition

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

Premier post details of new lease

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

 
Il Fiorello to host jazz event

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

Partnership HealthPlan releases survey results

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

 
New doctors join NorthBay

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A7

Small earthquakes shake Solano

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9

 
.

US / World

.

Opinion

Compromise on Cordelia Road rail crossing costs

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Justice for all

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Good job, Susan Winlow

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Source: 49ers OL Boone agrees to new 2-yr deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49er Ray McDonald accused of domestic violence

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Kahne holds off Kenseth to win Atlanta shootout

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Wozniacki outlasts Sharapova, in US Open quarters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Falcons looking to be defensive

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
A’s frustrated after 8-1 loss caps sweep by Angels

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Ernst wins LPGA’s Portland Classic in playoff

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Giants power past Brewers 15-5 for 3-game sweep

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Down at half, US beats Turkey in basketball worlds

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Source: Chiefs’ Smith agrees to 4-yr extension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Tony Stewart’s return to race track ends early

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sam clears waivers, meets with Fisher

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
FC Kansas City wins NWSL title over Seattle, 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Raiders claim DE Mayowa off waivers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jensen waived after Jaguars awarded TE Shuler

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Otto wins Italian Open; Gallacher comes up short

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Weather for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Henley takes a 1-shot lead at Deutsche Bank

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Dunn dealt to A’s, could be his last shot playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Fred Couples wins Champions Tour event

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Jerry Lee Trammell

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 6 Comments

 
Laurie Danielson Bailey

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Hazel Gertrude Wamsley

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Pickles Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Garfield Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

For Better or Worse Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Crossword Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth Sept 1

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Dilbert Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Garfield Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth Sept 2

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7