Funds to be Used for Launching Groundwater Plans
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced that Proposition 1 grants have been awarded to 21 counties for a total of $6.7 million. Proposition 1 – the Sustainable Groundwater Planning Grant Program (SGPGP) – was enacted by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014.
DWR announced draft funding recommendations in January and then considered public commentary on the proposals. The awards were made to counties with high-to-medium priority groundwater basins; some of the groundwater basins are in critical over-draft.
Senior Engineering Geologist with the SGPGP Laura McLean stated that DWR gave priority to proposals benefiting disadvantaged communities, basins exhibiting stressed conditions, those addressing critically over-drafted basins, and proposals enacting ordinances to address groundwater sustainability. DWR staff is working with grantees on detailed work plans for their respective projects including efforts to develop groundwater ordinances and develop plans that protect basins, their beneficial uses, and facilitate basin-wide sustainability.
“This funding will help counties address long-term planning goals, better understand what’s coming in and going out of their aquifers, and get the much-needed jumpstart on addressing the new regulations,” said McLean.
Twenty-three grant applications were received by DWR requesting a total of roughly $7 million. Matching funds provided by the grantee recipients brings the project to approximately $13 million which will be dedicated to projects in counties needing to begin long-term planning for sustainable groundwater management.
“More funding will certainly become available to help groundwater sustainability agencies moving forward,” said McLean. “We aim to complement the timeline requirements of the law as we continue to streamline our grant processes to get the money out as quickly as possible.”
The 21 counties receiving the SGPGP funds span the state. Five counties received the maximum award of $500,000 that the program provided; the smallest grant awarded was $200,000 to Mendocino County’s Initial Groundwater Sustainability Plan Development.
Grant funds for the five counties receiving $500,000 and their projects include: Fresno County, Kings/ Westside Groundwater Basin Boundary Monitoring Program; Kern County, for Sustainable Groundwater Planning and Technical Support; Kings County, Critically Over-drafted Groundwater Basin Modeling Plan; Madera County for Madera Sub-basin and Chowchilla Sub-basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) Formation; and, Tulare County, 2015 SGMA Planning Grant.
According to a press release from DWR, on average, groundwater makes up over one-third of California’s water supply and over one-half of the supply during drought years. When groundwater basins are critically over-drafted, chronically lowered groundwater levels, seawater intrusion, and land subsidence can result. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires basins with critical overdraft to be managed under a groundwater sustainability plan two years prior to other high-and-medium priority basins, stressing the need for funding to implement sustainability plans and take steps to rehabilitate basins as soon as possible.
Over the next several months DWR will continue to work with counties on budgets and schedules for receipt of the funds. Counties can expect to receive the grants as soon as June. For a map of the counties which will be receiving the funds and their specific project(s) go to http://www.water.ca.gov/irwm/grants/sgwp/solicitation.cfm.