Rajtora: we can’t control overdraft until we understand it

By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Correspondent

The IWV Groundwater Authority (GA)heard the annual report on its Groundwater Sustainability Plan earlier this month. The plan was approved by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) in January of this year, but requires annual reports during its decades-long span.

Water Resources Manager, Steve Johnson of Stetson Engineers, expressed that the GA was “in a very good place” with the state, but some thought the annual report was lacking in important details to get a comprehensive look at the state of the groundwater basin.

The report, presented by Stetson’s Heather Steele, indicated the valley is pumping groundwater at a rate of 2.7 times its natural recharge. Previously, the GA has reported that we are pumping an estimated 4-5 times what the natural recharge is.

This is in part explained by reduced agricultural pumping as a result of groundwater fees, tight groundwater allocations, and conservation efforts. But reported pumping is also generated from voluntary reports.

“We cannot be expected to control our overdraft until we understand our overdraft,” said GA representative Stan Rajtora of the IWV Water District.

Stetson mentioned that COVID-related difficulties made data collection for the 2020 and 2021 years more difficult. But stakeholders questioned the validity of the reported inconsistencies.

“There’s no question that a huge amount of work went into the report, but I’ve never seen a report that has so many missing pieces,” said Don Decker, who serves on the GA’s Technical Advisory Committee. “Some have been offered as a COVID issue, but the fields required for depth measurement are out in the open … two years in a row is inexcusable in my humble estimation.”

The report shows wells that are declining in an excess of 18 inches per year – that’s 9 feet over a six year period. But the rate of decline varies significantly across the valley, with some areas seemingly unaffected. And while the report mentions an overdraft of more than 25,000 acre-feet each year, some earlier reports suggest significantly less overdraft.

Rajtora said the numbers “need to be reconciled” before the GA moves forward with more decision making.

Decker commented on the DWR being the intended audience for the report. Johnson said it was a “staff-to-staff” report that didn’t necessarily need board approval.

“I think the summary should be more accessible to the public,” said Decker. Rajtora also expressed frustration that the annual reports were being submitted to the state without board approval.

Rajtora expressed many of these concerns to the IWV Water District at its monthly meeting (see previous edition). The IWVGA meets monthly. See future editions for updates.

Story First Published: 2022-03-25