Attorney Suggests That Meters Go on Pumps Now for SGMA

Meters Could Help From a Legal Standpoint

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

There are different options available to make the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) a bit easier on farmers. Lauren Layne of Baker, Manock & Jensen is helping her clients in the Central Valley carry out the SGMA Act in the most beneficial way possible.

“We want to see the Central Valley thrive. So we represent irrigation and water districts who are the local agencies that are forming these groundwater sustainability agencies, and I serve as a council to a number of those groundwater sustainability agencies as well,” explained Layne.

According to Layne, a lot of farmers are considering fallowing certain land to put in recharge projects that will allow them to regulate irrigation, while simultaneously being beneficial to the groundwater basin as a whole.

Layne also highly encourages growers to install meters or transducers to monitor how much water is being used, and what the groundwater table looks like.

“Data is very, very, important from a legal standpoint. It’s important to have the information as a backup for any argument we’re going to make,” she said.

If the cost of installing a meter is an issue, Layne is working on an incentive program that will grant funding to farmers and incentivize them to put meters on.

Simplifying Ag Terms Important in Advocacy

Advocating for Ag with Simplified Terms

By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor

It’s important when the agricultural industry is speaking with others outside the industry to use more simple ag terms that people can understand.

“Every industry, whether you’re a lawyer, a doctor, an agriculturists, we talk in code, and we kind of assume that other people understand and mostly, they don’t,” said George Soares, a partner of Kahn, Soares & Conway LLP.

Soares said we have to be clear in our message, and the way to do that with most public officials is to simplify the message, build off the simple starting point and through conversation, providing as much detail as you may need to provide.

“Instead, we lunge in, with all that we know about a topic, and many times, we just lose our audience by doing it that way,” Soares explained.

For example, many  wanted to comment on the importance of chlorpyrifos, a crop protection material that was meeting new regulations.

“You might go into a meeting with a legislator and launch in with the word chlorpyrifos and people cannot pronounce it, much less understand it,” Soares said. “We need to talk more simplistic, whether it’s chemicals or virtually anything that we do in agriculture, because the typical person just cannot relate.”

Soares suggested keeping the human condition in mind when talking with people.

“In my view, the human condition is a simple term but it takes the issues down to its essences. It’s talking about people and the effect on people of decisions that are being made,” he said. “It’s not a particular layer of people, but all people are impacted.”

“For example, when you prevent water from flowing like it should in California, what is the impact on the human condition? When you start probing at that level, you tend to get people’s attention,” Soares explained. “But too often, we in agriculture get ourselves lost in the technical and in the great detail of things, instead of boiling it down to its essence.”

Soares discussed the 2010 water bond negotiation and the fact that it wasn’t obtaining many votes until he brought in a group of Latinos to share how the lack of water affected them personally.

“It was very interesting, as it almost turned the votes on the dime, supporting the water bond. Because now, in the minds of the legislators, here are real people, experiencing the human condition. That brought a lot more authority to their message than other people. The legislatures started listening, and all of a sudden, the impossible became possible,” Soares said.

The legislature saw that these people might lose their jobs, have to move and most importantly, lose their American dream.

“An employee can speak more effectively about impacts on themselves instead of having their employer represent their interest in a conversation. We’re just not as believable as the individual themselves, speaking for themselves,” Soares explained.

Stockton Wins Appeal to Pump From Delta

Stockton can continue to pump water from the Delta this summer, ensuring that its new $220 million drinking-water plant – funded by ratepayers – will not stand idle.

The city was one of thousands of junior water-rights holders in the Central Valley ordered to stop taking water in recent weeks because of the drought.

That water was needed by those with older, more senior water rights, the State Water Resources Control Board said at the time.

The city appealed, arguing that its circumstances are different. Under a special section of state water law, Stockton is allowed to pump only as much water from the Delta as it releases back into the Delta at its wastewater treatment plant, a few miles downstream.

Ultimately, the state agreed, acknowledging in a letter that the city’s permit is “unique” and saying that the city can continue to take the water.

“It’s good news,” said Bob Granberg, assistant director of the city’s Municipal Utilities Department. “We’ll be able to back off groundwater pumping, and that will definitely help.”

The Delta water should help the city avoid any unusually aggressive water conservation requirements or rationing, he said.

The fact that Stockton will be drinking from the Delta this summer after all does not diminish the need to conserve. While the city has not taken any unusual steps to reduce water use, the rules that are in place every summer still apply.

Those rules include no outdoor irrigation from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., no washing cars unless hoses are equipped with nozzles, and no washing driveways and sidewalks except with pressure washers, among other requirements.

“We keep reminding people to conserve, and reminding them of the restrictions that are in place,” Granberg said.