The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA) is continuing to work on its Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Part of that plan involves finalizing the details on a Shallow Well Impact Mitigation Program.
Section 5 of the IWVGA’s GSP draft states that there are an estimated 872 shallow wells drilled throughout the Indian Wells Valley groundwater basin, mostly serving rural business and homes. Since the formation of IWVGA, the board has discussed the challenge of registering and monitoring these wells in order to mitigate what the GSP refers to as the chronic lowering of groundwater levels and water quality in the basin.
At the IWVGA board meeting on December 8, IWVGA water resources manager Steve Johnson provided a monthly update on the GSP progress, and this report included a brief update on the progress of the shallow well plan.
Johnson said, “We believe [the Shallow Well Impact Mitigation Plan is] close to being ready for board approval.”
He indicated that it is currently being reviewed by the IWVGA’s policy committee and technical committee, and it may be ready for an approval vote from the IWVGA by as early as the next meeting in January.
Following Johnson’s update, the IWVGA board opened the floor to public comment.
IWVGA policy advisory committee member West Katzenstein said, “The urgency of the situation is not captured in how we’re moving forward. If a shallow well fails, it’s a problem here and now for that well owner.”
He explained two scenarios. In the first, an individual shallow well may fail, in which case Katzenstein said the IWVGA should quickly be in contact with the well owner to provide information and support on how they can be reimbursed.
In the other scenario, Katzenstein said it could be a situation where multiple shallow wells fail in a region which would indicate that the basin’s water level or water quality has dropped below the wells’ usable level. Katzenstein said that in this scenario, IWVGA would need to be able to address the larger scale problem of the lowering water levels and provide water to people where the water level has dropped below the reach of their wells.
He added that a consistent problem has been encouraging owners of private wells in rural areas to register their wells, yet the IWVGA is still responsible to serve them.
“Private well owners tend to be private people,” Katzenstein said.
Other members of the public also expressed concern about the lack of detailed procedure in the GSP to address water shortage emergencies for private well owners, and suggested offering an incentive program to get more private well owners to register and meter their wells.
Kern County legal counsel Phill Hall said that a difficulty with finalizing an emergency procedure in the GSP is the variety in what may cause problems for a…