Agency approves groundwater sustainability plan

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The Yolo Subbasin Groundwater Agency (YSGA) met on Jan. 24 for a special public hearing and adopted the 378-page draft of the Yolo Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan, (PLAN) and submitted it to the California Department of Water Resources by the statutory Jan. 31 deadline.

The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) mandates local groundwater sustainability agencies develop and implement Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) in high and medium priority groundwater basins. With an emphasis on local management, the Act established requirements to protect groundwater resources.

“The Yolo Subbasin appears to have a robust groundwater system that has recovered quickly after various periods of dry and critical WYs (water years), including single and multi-years,” the Plan noted.

The Plan calls for monitoring and documenting groundwater conditions to establish management standards and to identify courses of actions to achieve and maintain sustainable groundwater management by 2042. It also establishes goals, thresholds, and measurable objectives to achieve 20-year goals through project development and action.

Development of the Plan began in 2017 and included public meetings, workshops and 280 comments were received as

the Plan was established.

“The Yolo Subbasin is a relatively stable basin, with groundwater levels maintaining a relatively consistent long-term average elevation or depth to groundwater. While groundwater levels decline during dry conditions due to reduced recharge from precipitation, local runoff, and seepage, and continued reliance on groundwater for agricultural and municipal demands, groundwater levels substantially recover during wet years,” the Plan states.

As available science and methods become available the Plan will be updated to conduct surveys to make advancements that will render best management decisions.

YSGA Executive Director Kristin Sicke said in an email, “The California Department of Water Resources requires five-year updates to the GSP; this document is considered a living document that will be revised and updated as we thoughtfully, responsibly, and adaptively manage the Yolo Subbasin.”

“Water resource managers have historically practiced conjunctive use management in the Yolo Subbasin – relying on surface water supplies in wet years and groundwater supplies in dry years. However, responsive short-term and long-term management is necessary to mitigate impacts and ensure overdraft does not occur,” the Plan states.

The Yolo Subbasin covers 400 square miles and is nearly 24 miles wide and 45 miles long. Six management areas have been established in Yolo County for management in the Subbasin because each area is distinctive in either its level of groundwater use, land uses or access to surface waters.

The City of Winters is a groundwater dependent city and one of the YSBA’s 26 members.

Groundwater is found at varying depths beneath the earth’s surface. It moves slowly by gravity and pressure through geologic formations of rocks, sand and soil into aquifers. An aquifer is an underground area of permeable and porous rock, such as sandstone. Accessing groundwater from aquifers for municipal and farming uses require wells to be drilled to appropriate depths and pumping water to the surface.

According to the Plan, criteria and thresholds for sustainability goals for the Yolo Subbasin include:

Achieve sustainable groundwater management in the Yolo Subbasin by maintaining or enhancing groundwater quantity and quality through the implementation of projects and management actions to support beneficial uses and users.

Maintain surface water flows and quality to support conjunctive use programs in the Subbasin that promote increased groundwater levels and improved water quality.

Operate within the established sustainable management criteria and maintain sustainable groundwater use through continued implementation of a monitoring and reporting program.

“The YSGA and the stakeholders in the Subbasin are committed to an open, transparent, and all-inclusive process to resolve important local issues related to groundwater,” the Plan stated. “This is an exciting opportunity to work together to preserve this valuable community resource and ensure the well-being of Yolo County.”

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