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File #: 22-635    Version: 1
Type: Administrative Status: Passed
File created: 3/16/2022 In control: Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Agency
On agenda: 3/22/2022 Final action: 3/22/2022
Title: SET MATTER 1:45 PM Director of Planning, Building and Environmental Services will provide the Water Year 2021 Annual Report on groundwater conditions with a focus on the Napa Valley Sub-basin, and recommendations regarding Project and Management Actions (PMAs) to implement the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).
Attachments: 1. Annual Report, 2. Table ES-4, 3. Presentation (added after meeting)

 

TO:                     Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Agency

FROM:                     David Morrison - Director of Planning, Building, and Environmental Services

REPORT BY:                     Jamison Crosby, Natural Resources Conservation Manager

SUBJECT:                     Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Annual Report - Water Year 2021

 

RECOMMENDATION

title

SET MATTER 1:45 PM

Director of Planning, Building and Environmental Services will provide the Water Year 2021 Annual Report on groundwater conditions with a focus on the Napa Valley Sub-basin, and recommendations regarding Project and Management Actions (PMAs) to implement the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Water Year 2021 (defined as October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021) saw a continuation of very dry conditions throughout Napa County and the Napa Valley Sub-basin.  Water Years 2020 and 2021 registered as the driest consecutive years since at least the 1890s, as measured by the precipitation gauge at the State Hospital in Napa.  Despite the early rains in October and December, Napa remains well below average rainfall for Water Year 2022.  As of March 10, 2022, Napa County remains designated as D2 - Severe Drought, by the US Drought Monitor. 

As a result of the current prolonged and increasing drought conditions, and as documented in the GSP Annual Report attached, the Minimum Thresholds for the following Sustainability Indicators have been exceeded:
1.
                     Chronic groundwater decline;
2.
                     Reduction in groundwater storage;
3.
                     Depletion of interconnected surface water;
4.
                     Land subsidence;
There have been substantial groundwater level declines in more than 20% of our monitoring wells.  One monitoring well and one stream monitoring site have indicated a decrease in the level of interconnected surface water at those locations.   Groundwater declines in monitoring wells indicate the potential for subsidence, although InSAR land surface displacement data indicate that the Minimum Threshold of 0.2 feet of subsidence has not occurred. 

More importantly, Sustainability Indicator for reduction in groundwater storage has reached the Undesirable Result stage.  The 7-year running average of estimated annual groundwater extraction has exceeded the sustainable yield of 15,000 acre-feet/year for the Napa Valley Sub-basin.  While the sub-basin does not meet the definition of long-term overdraft, groundwater pumping has exceeded the sustainable yield in 5 of the past 7 years, resulting in a total net reduction of nearly 19,000 acre-feet of groundwater storage during this period.  . 

As described in the GSP, once Minimum Thresholds and/or Undesirable Results have been exceeded, the GSA should assess the causal factors resulting in the exceedance(s), including the extent to which the drought has contributed to these conditions. This analysis is critical to ensure careful consideration of potentially changed groundwater conditions before taking steps to implement Project Management Actions (PMAs).  Assessment will also include review of subsequent mid-winter hydrologic conditions to determine whether additional PMAs are warranted.

PROCEDURAL REQUIREMENTS
1.
                     Staff presentation
2.
                     Receive public comments
3.
                     Motion, second, discussion and vote to accept the GSP Annual Report and direct staff to continue with Project and Management Actions as described above.

 

FISCAL & STRATEGIC PLAN IMPACT

Is there a Fiscal Impact?

Yes

Is it currently budgeted?

Yes

Where is it budgeted?

Org 2720000

Is it Mandatory or Discretionary?

Mandatory

Discretionary Justification:

Implementation of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan, as informed by the Annual Water Report, is required under the State Water Code.

Is the general fund affected?

Yes

Future fiscal impact:

Analysis of future impact is pending

Consequences if not approved:

Given current groundwater conditions and the likelihood of a third consecutive year of drought, it is imperative that the County begin implementation of the GSP to prevent Undesirable Results within the Napa Valley Sub-basin.

County Strategic Plan pillar addressed:

Vibrant and Sustainable Environment

 

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

ENVIRONMENTAL DETERMINATION: The proposed action is not a project as defined by 14 California Code of Regulations 15378 (State CEQ Guidelines) and therefore CEQA is not applicable.

 

BACKGROUND AND DISCUSSION

GROUNDWATER SUSTAINABILITY PLAN (GSP)
Pursuant to California Code of Regulations §356.2, an Annual Report is required to be submitted to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) each year by April 1 following adoption of a GSP. This first Napa Valley Sub-basin GSP Annual Report is due April 1, 2022 and covers the period from October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021. DWR has provided forms and instructions for submitting the materials electronically through the DWR online reporting system. The GSP Annual Report contains both a narrative description and data in various formats including DWR provided templates. Similar to GSPs, Annual Reports are submitted to DWR through the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) Portal and are available for public comment at https://sgma.water.ca.gov.

The County’s response to the increasingly severe drought continues to move at an accelerated pace.  The Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) was formed in December of 2019.  The Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee was created in 2020, and the Drought and Water Shortage Task Force was formed in 2021.  The Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) was adopted by the GSA in January 2022.  Only two months after adoption of the GSP, staff is presenting the GSP Annual Report, in accordance with the April 1, 2022, State deadline.  The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) will be appointed in May, and preparation of the various work plans required by the GSP are underway.  

The goal of the GSP is to achieve sustainability by ensuring that there are no Undesirable Results in the Napa Valley Sub-Basin by 2042.  To accomplish the goal, the GSP includes 6 Sustainability Indicators, as follows:
1.
                     Chronic groundwater decline;
2.
                     Reduction in groundwater storage;
3.
                     Depletion of interconnected surface water;
4.
                     Land subsidence;
5.
                     Degraded water quality; and
6.
                     Seawater intrusion.
These are critical factors used to measure the long-term health of groundwater in the Napa Valley Sub-Basin.  For each Sustainability Indicator, the GSP has established a Minimum Threshold, which defines when the Indicators are declining to a point where the GSA should evaluate the conditions and determine the necessary responses needed to maintain or achieve sustainability, including implementing Management Actions to avoid Undesirable Results.  Each Sustainability Indicator also has a defined Undesirable Result, which indicates conditions that need to be avoided to protect the long-term health of the sub-basin groundwater. 

WATER YEAR 2021 CONDITIONS
Water Year 2021 (defined as October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021) saw a continuation of very dry conditions throughout Napa County and the Napa Valley Sub-basin.  Water Years 2020 and 2021 registered as the driest consecutive years since at least the 1890s, as measured by the precipitation gage at the State Hospital in Napa.  Despite the early rains in October and December, Napa remains well below average rainfall for Water Year 2022.  As of March 10, 2022, Napa County remains designated as D2 - Severe Drought, by the US Drought Monitor. 
Total water use in the Napa Valley Sub-basin in Water Year 2021 is estimated to have been approximately 44,000 acre-feet, including uses by agriculture, cities, small public water systems, individual well users, groundwater dependent ecosystems, and other native vegetation. This is within the range of total annual water use documented since 1988, which has varied between approximately 38,000 and 47,000 acre-feet per year. 

The amount of groundwater pumping was greater in Water Year 2021 than in any year since 1988.  Groundwater extraction by wells totaled approximately 23,000 acre-feet in Water Year 2021, representing 52% of total water use.  The second highest year of groundwater pumping was in 2020, when 19,610 acre-feet of groundwater was used.  For the second consecutive year, groundwater pumping exceeded the sustainable sub-basin yield of 15,000 acre-feet per year.  With reduced rain and available surface water supplies, landowner appear to continue to increase their use of groundwater.  Direct uptake of groundwater by groundwater dependent ecosystems and native vegetation accounted for another 11% (approximately 5,000 acre-feet) of total water use.
As a result of the current prolonged and increasing drought conditions, and as documented in the GSP Annual Report attached, the Minimum Thresholds for the following Sustainability Indicators have been exceeded:
1.
                     Chronic groundwater decline;
2.
                     Reduction in groundwater storage;
3.
                     Depletion of interconnected surface water;
4.
                     Land subsidence;
There have been substantial groundwater level declines in more than 20% of our monitoring wells.  One monitoring well and one stream monitoring site have indicated a decrease in the level of interconnected surface water at those locations.   Groundwater declines in monitoring wells indicate the potential for subsidence, although InSAR land surface displacement data indicate that the Minimum Threshold of 0.2 feet of subsidence has not occurred. 

More importantly, Sustainability Indicator for reduction in groundwater storage has reached the Undesirable Result stage.  The 7-year running average of estimated annual groundwater extraction has exceeded the sustainable yield of 15,000 acre-feet/year for the Napa Valley Sub-Basin.  While the sub-basin does not meet the definition of long-term overdraft, groundwater pumping has exceeded the sustainable yield in 5 of the past 7 years, resulting in a total net reduction of nearly 19,000 acre-feet of groundwater storage during this period.
Once Minimum Thresholds in the GSP have been exceeded, the GSA should assess the factors that resulted in the exceedance, including whether drought conditions have contributed to the exceedance. This analysis is critical to ensure careful consideration of potentially changed groundwater conditions before taking additional steps to implement PMAs.  Assessment will also include review of subsequent mid-winter hydrologic conditions to determine whether PMAs are warranted.  Minimum Threshold and Undesirable Result exceedances and response actions are summarized in Table ES-4 9 (see attached). 

To that end, staff recommends the following:
                     Expand implementation of PMAs (GSP Management Action No. 1) for this summer, including the development and enforcement of local water conservation standards appropriate for rural agricultural areas, as well as enforcement of water conservation standards in existing unincorporated communities, and continued work with industry groups to voluntarily reduce agricultural groundwater use.
                     Continue with the implementation of PMAs (GSP Management Action No. 3), relating to the update of the Water Availability Analysis guidelines and the County Groundwater Ordinance as previously directed by the Board of Supervisors, to reflect issues related to the public trust, discretionary well approvals, and current drought conditions. 
                     Once established, the Technical Advisory Group should prioritize the Agricultural Water Conservation, Groundwater Pumping Reduction, and Interconnected Surface Waters and Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems work plans, and continue work on the Storm Water Resource work plans, as previously directed by the GSA.  
                     The Technical Advisory Group should review the 2021-2022 winter conditions to determine whether (GSP Management Actions 1 and 2) may be recommended to reduce groundwater pumping by 10% for all owners within the sub-basin who use more than 2 acre-feet annually. 
                     Install groundwater monitoring facilities at four sites for the purpose of enhancing the understanding of interconnected surface water and groundwater, as previously directed by the GSA.
                     Staff will continue to work on developing options for funding the Groundwater Sustainability Agency for presentation at a future regular meeting, as previously directed by the GSA.

A summary of each of these recommendations is provided below:
Water Conservation
On January 4, 2022, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) adopted an emergency regulation to prohibit wasteful water use practices statewide. The regulation went into effect on January 18, 2022, and may be enforced by local cities and counties, but does not require their enforcement.  Enforcement may include warning letters, mandatory water use audits (for large commercial or institutional properties), and fines (up to $500 per day).
Enforcing jurisdictions are encouraged to provide one or more warnings, to consider peoples’ ability to pay, to consider payment plans of at least 12 months without a tax lien, and to not cause peoples’ water service to be shut off for nonpayment.  The SWRCB also encourages agencies to provide assistance to disadvantaged communities, including translation of water conservation announcements into various languages.
However, the defined wasteful water practices are primarily focused on urban uses and are not as applicable to rural areas.  Examples include:
                     Applying potable water to outdoor landscapes such that incidental runoff flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures;
                     Washing a motor vehicle with a hose that does not have a shut-off nozzle or similar device;
                     Using potable water for washing sidewalks, driveways, buildings, structures, patios, parking lots, or other hard surfaced areas, except where health and safety are at risk;
                     Using potable water for street cleaning or construction site preparation purposes, unless no other method can be used or as needed to protect the health and safety of the public;
                     Using potable water for decorative fountains, lakes or ponds, except for those features that use pumps to recirculate water and only require refilling to replace evaporative losses;
                     Watering turf and ornamental landscapes during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall of at least one fourth of one inch of rain; and
                     Using potable water for the irrigation of ornamental turf on public street medians.
Staff recommends the development and enforcement of local water conservation standards appropriate for rural agricultural areas, to provide the tools needed to discourage wasteful water use in areas primarily served by wells to reduce the impacts of the drought on groundwater.  GSA staff would coordinate with County PBES staff on enforcement in the unincorporated area, and coordinate with County Public Works Department staff on continued enforcement of water conservation in the Lake Berryessa and Napa Berryessa Resort Improvement Districts. 
In addition, GSA staff will continue to work with County Public Works Department staff on public awareness, such as the Save Our Water campaign video sponsored by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Contractors (https://swc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Save-Our-Water-Whiteboard-Video_English.mp4). 
Update of the Water Availability Analysis (WAA) Guidelines and the County Groundwater Ordinance
The WAA provide guidance and procedures to assist county staff, decision makers, applicants, neighbors, and other interested parties to determine whether a project would substantially deplete groundwater supplies or interfere substantially with groundwater recharge such that there would be a net deficit in aquifer volume or a lowering of the local groundwater table level.  The WAA is not an ordinance, is not prescriptive, and project specific conditions may require more, less, or different analysis in order to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). However, the WAA is used procedurally as the baseline of analysis for any given discretionary project. 
In 2009 Napa County began a comprehensive study of its groundwater resources to meet identified action items in the County’s 2008 General Plan update. Following public workshops and with support by the Watershed Information Center and Conservancy (WICC), the Board of Supervisors created the Groundwater Resources Advisory Committee (GRAC) in June 2011. The GRAC made several recommendations, including recommended changes to improve the County Groundwater Ordinance. Those changes were not adopted. 
On February 8, 2022, the County Board of Supervisors directed staff to work with stakeholders to revise the WAA Guidance document to: incorporate applicable provisions of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan; update the guidelines to reflect recent court decisions regarding the public trust and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of wells; suspend the Tier I water use screening criterion during a drought emergency and require Tier II analysis for groundwater use on parcels located on the Napa Valley floor; and transfer decision making authority under the WAA from the Public Works Department to the Planning, Building, and Environmental Services Department.
The Board also directed staff to work with stakeholder to update Chapter 13.04 (Approved Water Supply Systems); Chapter 13.12 (Wells); and Chapter 13.15 (Groundwater Conservation) of the Napa County Code to: incorporate applicable provisions of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan; update the County Code to reflect recent court decisions regarding the public trust and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of wells; integrate applicable recommendations of the Groundwater Resources Advisory Committee (GRAC); and make other procedural and process revisions to bring these chapters into greater consistency with the County Code.
Technical Advisory Group (TAG)
As indicated in the GSP, implementation of the plan began immediately following adoption by the GSA. At the February 8, 2022 meeting, the GSA approved initiation of many key GSP implementation activities, including efforts to form the Technical Advisory Group.  The purpose of the TAG is to provide well-informed, practical recommendations to the GSA as plan implementation occurs, based on the best available scientific information and best practices in groundwater management.

A Request for Qualifications for qualified candidates for participation in the TAG was posted on March 7, 2022. The application period is open until March 31, 2022.  Statements of Qualifications will be reviewed, and qualified candidates will be interviewed in April 2022.  Recommendations by staff for TAG candidates meeting the required qualifications will be presented to the NCGSA Board of Directors for consideration in May 2022.  The GSA Board will make the final selection of technically qualified TAG members.
Work Plans

GSP Implementation Work Plans
At their February 8, 2022, meeting, the GSA directed staff to proceed with preparing the following work plans, as described in the GSP:
1.  Agricultural Water Conservation Work Plan

This work plan would evaluate the costs and benefits to advance conservation measures, including advanced agricultural water management and irrigation practices, as well as winery water management and reuse practices. Elements of the work plan could include (but would not be limited to) one or more of the following programs:
                     Estimate the degree to which various tools, technologies, and practices are in use today.
                     Identify areas (and the approximate number of growers and associated acreage) where opportunities exist to advance the use of tools, technologies, and practices to improve water conservation.
                     Quantify the potential benefit from vineyard and winery water conservation tools, technologies, and practices.
                     Evaluate costs and benefits (water conserved and high value product retained) of using various vineyard water conservation tools, technologies, and practices.
                     Identify “demonstration areas” in various areas of the Sub-basin where different physical conditions (soils, depth to water, etc.), varietal grapes, and vineyard ages can be used to further assess the costs/benefits of various vineyard water conservation tools.
                     Plan a staged implementation of vineyard water conservation tools.
                     Provide outreach and education approaches associated with the goals of the program.
                     Consider potential ways to incentivize conservation measures.

The Water Conservation Plan would describe the steps needed to design and implement each program. Although the Water Conservation Plan would emphasize vineyard and winery water conservation, the Plan would also consider measures to achieve water conservation efforts by other groundwater users.
2.   Groundwater Pumping Reduction Work Plan
Pumping reductions provide a direct means of reducing the impacts on groundwater storage, declines in groundwater levels, land subsidence, and interconnected surface water and groundwater dependent ecosystems in the sub-basin. Groundwater pumping reductions would be applied to all wells within the Sub-basin that are not de Minimis groundwater users (residences that use less than 2 acre-feet of water annually). The planned management action involving groundwater pumping reductions, and approved by the GSPAC, is summarized in GSP Section 11. Additionally, this Plan would describe operational and logistical details as to how groundwater pumping reductions could occur and also how such reductions would be measured, tracked, and reported.

While meters can provide information on the volume produced where installed at a specified location, meters would not account for all groundwater use (e.g., de Minimis users are exempt and groundwater consumption by crops can and does occur via direct groundwater uptake rather than groundwater applied to crops). Other technologies, such as satellite imagery and analysis may provide a more comprehensive assessment and tracking of overall groundwater use.
3.   Interconnected Surface Waters and Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) Work Plan:

This work plan would guide the continued evaluation of data gaps related to the relationships between groundwater, interconnected surface waters, and GDEs (GSP Section 5). The work plan will be developed with input from the TAG and agencies such as the Napa County Resource Conservation District, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  The work plan will also incorporate existing plans and knowledge about sub-basin conditions.  Potential activities to fill data gaps could include focused data collection on stream seepage rates in ecologically significant stream reaches throughout the Sub-basin, as well as plant rooting depth, and species counts.  The work plan would also incorporate data quality objectives, monitoring protocols, and quality control/quality assurance procedures for work plan activities, which may include biological field assessments, stream habitat investigations, and evaluations of GDE species.

4.   Storm Water Resource Work Plan (SWRP)
Water supply augmentation through Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) enhances groundwater replenishment with the potential to reduce undesirable results, particularly during periods of drought. Managed aquifer recharge can be accomplished directly through the use of recharge ponds and injection wells, or indirectly by allowing high stream flows to flood broader riparian corridors and/or adjoining agricultural and vacant lands. The implementation of managed aquifer recharge was preliminarily simulated with the Napa Valley Integrated Hydrologic Model (NVIHM) and determined to be potentially suitable project for the sub-basin.

California Water Code §10563(c) requires the development of and compliance with a SWRP to receive grant funds for storm water and dry weather runoff capture projects from bond acts approved by the voters after January 1, 2014.  Development of a SWRP would also serve the needs of the Napa Countywide Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program (NCSPPP) and it is expected that this item could be cost-shared between the NCGSA and the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District who oversees the NSCPPP.
Groundwater Monitoring Wells

The GSA plans to install 4 dual completion wells, where two monitoring wells are installed within the same casing but to different depths to measure both the alluvial aquifer (shallower) and deeper aquifer at that location.  This will result in 8 new data points.  Staff are in discussion with local landowners to install the wells south of Calistoga, near Rutherford, in the Northeast Napa Special Study Area, and in the wetlands south of the City of Napa.  

The well installation would be paid from a Proposition 68 grant funded by the Department of Water Resources.   The amount earmarked specifically for well drilling (and related monitoring) is $212,490.  The grant ends in August of 2022 but may be extended.  The wells are expected to be completed by December 2022. 

Funding
Implementing the GSP will be an ongoing challenge for the County both in terms of effort and cost.  Staff estimate the cost for the first year will be approximately $1.3 million.  Cost estimates for subsequent years are being developed and are estimated at $1.3 million to $2.4 million per year.  In addition to the costs for staffing and GSP operation, there will be additional costs for responding to future comments from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on the adopted GSP and making any necessary revisions or amendments, as well as the start of the next GSP 5-year update beginning in 2025.  Grant funds will be pursued to offset these costs wherever feasible, but are unlikely to pay for all of the above expenditures. 
At their February 8 meeting, the GSA directed staff to investigate and report back on options for ongoing funding of GSP implementation, the pros and cons of different approaches and the range of costs, regarding each of the following options:
1.                     County General Fund (current condition);
2.                     Special Tax approved by the voters;
3.                     Special Assessment approved by the voters: and/or
4.                     Fee.

Staff anticipates returning to the GSA later in 2022.