Groundwater reporting consequences discussed

Groundwater reporting consequences discussedBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Water District Board held a very brief meeting Monday night, when much of the discussion pertained to IWV Groundwater Authority matters – mainly mandatory well metering and registration, as well as groundwater extraction reporting.

The GA passed its first well-registration ordinance in 2018, requiring all major pumpers to register their wells with the authority. There is an exemption for “de minimis” users, who pump less than two acre-feet annually for domestic use. There are currently 115 de minimis and 107 non-de minimis wells registered with the GA, but estimates suggest that hundreds more wells are still unaccounted for.

With the GA’s plans to establish more groundwater pumping fees, boardmembers have stressed the importance of valleywide well registration, even for those who pump a relatively small amount, in order to levy fees equitably.

“It seems like there are not real consequences for people not registering,” said Pat Farris during the Monday meeting.

Jim Worth, the water district’s legal counsel, said that violators of the ordinance could be subject to penalties – but offered no specifics of what those penalties might be.

“That’s a decision for the GA board as to what type of action they’d like to see to enforce nonregistration,” said Worth.

The board also discussed the GA’s Groundwater Extracting Reporting notice. The authority is collecting information in order to establish water allocations for all major pumpers who wish to be considered for water allotments in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

General Manager Don Zdeba said the notice also resulted in 27 additional well registrations.

Board President Chuck Cordell asked about the GA “refusing access to groundwater” and taking away water rights from those who chose not to respond.

Worth clarified that the GA has no authority to alter water rights. However, the notice states that “a party’s failure, especially willful failure, to timely provide this information could significantly impact that party’s legal ability to access the basin groundwater.”

The GA also intends to formally adopt a metering requirement on all non-de minimis pumpers during its March 19 meeting. According to the ordinance, violators are subject to “all applicable laws, including, but not limited to, the penalties and procedures set forth in Water Code section 10732.”

Water Code penalties include fees ranging from $500 per acre-foot to $1,000 per day.

Pictured: General Manager Don Zdeba and Legal Counsel Jim Worth relay Groundwater Authority initiatives at Monday’s IWV Water District meeting. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2020-03-13