June 20, 2017

San Joaquin Valley Residents Invited to Free Groundwater Workshop

VISALIA, California (June 20, 2017)—Groundwater may be out of sight but it’s top of mind as San Joaquin County enters summer, the peak water demand season.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Community Water Center (CWC) will hold a free, sustainable groundwater workshop this Saturday, June 24, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Café 210, Assembly Room, 210 W. Center Ave. in Visalia. The workshop is the third in a series of in-person and web-based trainings offered jointly by UCS and CWC. Participants must pre-register by calling 559-733-0219 or emailing kristin.dobbin@communitywatercenter.org.

For more than 10 years, the Community Water Center has worked with San Joaquin Valley water districts to address community water challenges and advance both immediate and sustainable water solutions. UCS teamed up with CWC in 2015 to plan and present local stakeholder workshops as part of its national Climate & Energy program.

“Living in the San Joaquin Valley, groundwater is critical to each and everyone one of us, which means that we all should get involved in groundwater planning. I hear from rural residents all the time who are very interested in the subject, but often don’t know where to start,” said Kristin Dobbin, regional water management coordinator at CWC.

Dobbin will present at the workshop along with Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith senior climate scientist and water policy expert at UCS, and Coreen Weintraub, UCS outreach coordinator.

Attendees will learn the basics of state-mandated groundwater sustainability plans, water budgets, hydrologic models, and what are the most undesirable conditions of a groundwater basin, like subsidence or degraded water quality.

During the state’s most recent drought, over 60 percent of water was supplied from underground sources, and at the same time, according to the Sacramento Bee, Central Valley users created a groundwater deficit large enough to fill an empty Shasta Lake seven times.

“Groundwater management matters to San Joaquin County communities because if water supplies are decreasing, then livelihoods dwindle and communities no longer thrive. These workshops provide rural residents the information they need to begin sustainable management of their shared natural resource,” said Dr. Christian-Smith.

When the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) passed in 2014, it empowered local water agencies, usually made up of volunteer community members, to manage their groundwater basins and draft 20-year sustainability plans due in 2018. While sustainable groundwater management has many technical aspects that require expert input, defining what sustainability means for each community is not a technical question, but a social one.

“Under SGMA, local residents have an opportunity to engage in a discussion about what sustainability means and looks like in their groundwater basin. Yet, many smaller communities lack the resources, information and support they need. Too often small boards are left out of the decision-making processes that are critical to ensuring their communities have access to safe, affordable water. Our team aims to change this for the better with this workshop,” said Dr. Christian-Smith.

In addition to hosting trainings, UCS and CWC have developed a technical assistance tool so communities can obtain answers to questions related to groundwater problems and management options. Later this summer, UCS also will release a toolkit for residents who want to get involved in groundwater sustainability planning.

“If you care about the drinking water quality, river flows, drilling of wells, local ecosystems or property values, then you should consider getting involved in your local groundwater planning,” said Dr. Christian-Smith.

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.