District presses GA to get it right

By Patricia Farris

News Review Publisher At the April 11 Indian Wells Valley Water District (IWVWD) Board Meeting the main focus again was on the report from Stan Rajtora who represents the IWVWD on the Groundwater Authority (GA) Board. Rajtora reported that it was very dwiscouraging to see that although the GA agenda is now out, it does not include a Fiscal Year 2020 audit which is now 16 months overdue. He did announce that the 2021 Annual Report was sent to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on April 1, which was the due date.

The Board did review a draft copy of the Annual Report but there are many holes in the document. The Board got a lot of comments and were told that the report would be corrected before the final one went out. “I reviewed the final version,” Rajtora said, “but I did not see where the comments were addressed. The report did go out on time, however, but without Board authorization. The biggest hole, as we spoke last time, is in the lack of a change to the groundwater in storage computation.

The GA was unable to measure 41 wells that were needed to provide that computation. This is the second year in a row that those wells were not measured. It turns out this is a significant issue even though there are members of the GA Board who downplay this. This is a second year in a row that it’s happened. As a result no recharge was able to be calculated. Without the recharge calculation we can’t estimate a safe yield. The Board previously agreed that we need to have another process for releasing that report. We’re just going to have to figure out how we’re going to try to impose that.”

Don Decker, who serves on the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), spoke during public comment. He said, “The problem is far more severe than just 41 wells that didn’t receive their semiannual measurement. Many of the wells chosen in the beginning for monitoring were chosen for the purpose of the Annual Report. It’s only a handful. It does not properly cover the basin’s productive areas - or previously productive areas. It’s completely inadequate. That’s been pointed out since the very beginning. And Stetson (the engineering firm) stubbornly sticks with the list they’ve got and I’ve pointed out over and over the wells that have gone dry. It’s really the GA’s responsibility now and Stetson is the contracted agent for those technical areas. When it’s not measured properly Stetson needs to measure and step up to the task. It’s that simple,” Decker said.

At the March 9 GA meeting a report was presented by Stetson’s Heather Steele which indicated the valley is pumping groundwater at the rate of 2.7 times its natural recharge. Previously, the GA had reported that we are pumping an estimated 4.5 times what the natural recharge is. Rajtora spoke to the GA Board again reminding them, “We cannot be expected to control our overdraft until we can measure our overdraft.” At that meeting stakeholders questioned the validity of the reported inconsistencies.

“There is 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. “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.” Rajtora told the GA, “The numbers need to be reconciled before the GA moves forward with more decision making.”

Rajtora continues to express these major concerns to tboth he Water District Board and the GA Board.

Story First Published: 2022-04-15