Evidence is being ignored

Our valley’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan being prepared by IWV Groundwater Authority is using the assumed, albeit generally accepted, recharge numbers of 7,650 acre feet per year. Our basin is declared as being in “critical overdraft” by the state, due to our annual pumping of approximately 27,000 acre feet. But how can we accept that we’re in overdraft when we haven’t actually proven what our natural recharge is, or even whether we’re an open or closed basin?

The proposed solution for bringing those numbers into balance is to import water. But even IWVGA boardmembers question the availability and affordability of importation.

The GSP is due to the California Department of Water Resources in four months. We must reach certain goals every five years and that plan has to show that we have achieved sustainability and our water table is no longer declining by 2040. If we cannot do that, the state will step in and take over management of our resource.

When existing data, facts and evidence are brought to the attention of the IWVGA and its Technical Advisory Committee that contradict the theory that our basin is in overdraft, it seems to be ignored. Why aren’t people up in arms if eveidence of existing water sources are being brought to the table and ignored.

There will have to be a day of reckoning soon.

Hopefully, stakeholders will become involved in the solution. The reason people believe we are in overdraft is that they haven’t heard the other side of the story.

Last week’s editorial on “How Deep is the Lake?” addresses the additional data that challenges currently accepted water availability. This week we are following up with excerpts from a previous interview with Dr. Carl Austin (founder and developer of Coso Geothermal) that further supports a different story. The interview was originally published in the News Review, February 1981.

Given Austin’s success with Coso, he commands some level of authority on the subject of water. — Pat Farris, publisher

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Excerpt from article:

Austin conceives of the valley as a washbasin that is full. “There’s evaporation at the top … There’s some unknown amount running in from various recharge sources. There is overflow and a bunch leaking out to Trona. There’s a bunch leaking out to other areas like Cantil.

“I believe that, by proper production practices, we might tap a lot of that water that goes to Cantil … I think we can capture more out of the water production of the Sierra bedrock if we want to increase the production into the valley for quite a few decades,” he said.

“The [U.S. Geological Survey] folks will state that the Sierra, being granitic, is non-groundwater bearing. They ignore the fact that there’s an awful lot of it alongside our valley, above the valley floor and inside the drainage divide, just that small portion of it. And if you assume it had only 2 percent fracture pore face, which is a very conservative estimate, there’s three cubic miles of water in that rock.

“We have done some drilling of granitics alongside Rose Valley, and we came out with close to 10-percent pore face. And that was a 4,000-foot-plus hole, a deep one. If Sierra granitics have 10-percent pore face, you’re talking 51 million acre feet of water in the fractures of Sierra Nevada alone.

“If it were only 2 percent, you’re still talking 10 million acre feet — 10 times what’s in the upper portion of this valley floor naturally.

“You’re talking big numbers,” he said.

“And it’s all water that will ultimately run into this valley. I can’t resist pointing out that that’s the buffer that protects us in the dry years and the wet years. Because it moves slowly and steadily through the years in the underground into the valley. I would comment that, at our current estimated recharge of the valley, it would take us 2,500 years to deplete that storage above the valley floor. And I don’t really care whether it rains next year or not. The point is there’s a lot of water stored out there beside us — 15 cubic miles, possibly.”

Story First Published: 2019-09-27