Many Questions Around SGMA Law

SGMA Law is Poorly Written

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

A recent meeting brought farmers and other stakeholders to California State University, Fresno to discuss the possible impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

SGMA requires governments and water agencies of high and medium priority groundwater basins to halt overdraft pumping and to bring those basins in equal levels between pumping and recharge. Under SGMA, these basins should reach sustainability within 20 years of implementing their sustainability plans. For critically over drafted basins, that will be 2040. For the remaining high and medium priority basins, 2042 is the deadline.

Don Wright,the publisher of WaterWrights.net, which is the only agriculture water reporting service in the Valley, spoke om the topic.

“SGMA is an overwhelming concept for most people because it’s an overwhelmingly poorly written law,” Wright said. “However, you show me anybody more creative than a farmer trying to get water. Hopefully, people left [the meeting] with the hope that others are looking out for solutions.”

Farmers and other stakeholders attended a recent SGMA meeting at California State University, Fresno.

Wright explained that the meeting helps blunt the impacts, the intended consequences, and the unintended consequences that come from legislation like this.

On the panel were farmers, agronomist, soil engineers, farmers, and a water attorney.

“All of these people are intimately involved in how the junction between water being delivered to the plants and harvest taken place. A lot of questions were answered, more importantly, we started defining the issues that need to be asked. And often that’s often the most critical step,” Wright said.

Lauren Layne, a water law attorney with Baker Manock and Jensen, suggested that farmers take action and put meters on their wells to start collecting data that could be of use to them.

“That’s a double edge sword,” Wright said. “For one it’s, it’s like putting a GPS on your vehicle for the government to follow you around. You don’t want that. You don’t want the government necessarily know how much water you’re using. But on the other side, if you keep that information private, once SGMA starts being implemented, and you can prove that you’ve used X amount of water, you can report your average cost per acre. Also, if a farmer is in an area with surface deliveries, how much does the surface deliveries impact your pumping? That’s a great combination to have.”

Wright said if the industry can get enough information, then they can report that the reason the farming industry needs to repair aquifers is due to cut offs from the deliveries to farmers.

Service providers, product manufacturers, and designers are looking at solutions to SGMA. These products can be seen at Fresno State’s Water Energy and Technology (WET) Center.

“It’s all about how can we keep farmers farming,” Wright said. “I know when a farmer is by himself and your back is against the wall, people are looking out for you.”

Wright also explained that the people that are populating the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) boards are not the enemy.

“They are men and women like you and I, with a stake in it. They are not the ones trying to cut off the water; they are the ones with boots on the ground dealing with a poorly written law.”

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Fresno State’s WET Center Home to BlueTechValley Entrepreneurs

BlueTechValley Series – Part 3

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

We’re continuing our series on California Ag Today regarding the BlueTechValley Initiative, which was established on the Fresno State campus in 2011, and part of an innovation cluster that provides access to commercialization services that will accelerate innovation and growth of water and energy-oriented companies in 39 counties from central to northern California.

We spoke to Helle Petersen, the manager of the Water, Energy and Technology Center – also known as the WET Center – at Fresno State, where BlueTechValley is centered.

“The WET Center is a physical building located on the Fresno State campus, and it has six offices for entrepreneurs that want to grow their water, energy or agricultural business and be around companies that share those same visions and the same business,” Peterson said. “The WET Center also has a testing lab to test different kind of water technologies.

“The WET Center is very unique. I haven’t really seen anything at any university that’s the same. It was built in 2007 as a partnership between Fresno State and what used to be the Central Valley Business Incubator, but now it has rolled in under the International Center for Water Technology, and it’s part of their program,” Peterson said.

Petersen said it is a very busy place. “As I mentioned, we have six offices, but we also have about 30 other company startups … [and] also more mature companies that are members of the center, and they really want to be part of the community, if you will, because there’s something synergetic about working with companies or maybe talking about some of the same problems you have when you work in the same industry.”

Peterson said the WET Center is expanding for those entrepreneurs that may be coming out of town.

“Actually what we’re doing is across the street … there’s another smaller building that we are actually incorporating into the WET Center, and we’re going to build an additional six offices there, plus a plug-and-play space,” she explained. “ Let’s say you have a tech company out of the Bay Area and you’ve kind of outgrown that space, because you’ve realized you need to be in the central San Joaquin Valley if you have anything to do with agriculture. So you can come down here for a few days a week or a month, and you have a workspace. You also will have a conference room that you can all use.”

This is part of an ongoing series on the BlueTechValley Innovation Cluster, which includes entrepreneurs at several California State Universities and the Sierra Small Business Development Center. It’s all about finding efficiencies in water and energy.

 

 

 

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