A recently released report provides different options for addressing water issues in the San Joaquin Valley. Research conducted on behalf of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) estimates that 500,000 acres of irrigated cropland would be taken out of production to mitigate groundwater overdraft concerns. The Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley report provides an analysis of the options available to combat groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley.
“It’s a region that has been facing a lot of water stress and it’s a pivotal moment because the region is now having to implement the new groundwater law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” said Director of the Water Policy for PPIC, Ellen Hanak. “That’s going to be a really good thing for the valley over the long-term but it’s going to cause some tough decisions and tough adjustments in the first couple of decades of implementation.”
Hanak noted some of the concepts that are going to be integral to addressing water issues in the San Joaquin, on both the supply and demand side. “What we see as an area with a lot of potential on the supply side is increasing groundwater recharge. That is capturing the high flows that aren’t already spoken for, especially from the rivers on the east side of the valley, and getting that water into the ground,” Hanak stated.
Data from the report points out that roughly one-fourth of the current groundwater deficit can be filled from new supplies at a cost the farmers can bare. The remainder will need to come from managing demand, which highlights the value of water trading. “We’ve got a lot of diversity of conditions, different soils, different crops that earn more or less money with the water and different areas are more or less productive,” said Hanak. “So, if you give farmers the flexibility to trade water within their groundwater basins that can really lower the cost of adjustment.”
The report also details the need to respond to water quality issues as well as fostering beneficial water and land-use transitions. Multiple approaches are likely going to be required as the San Joaquin Valley is facing a groundwater deficit estimated to be nearly 2 million acre-feet of water a year.