The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Technical Advisory and Policy Advisory committees met Thursday at the Indian Wells Valley Water District boardroom.

Special Legal Counsel Jim Markman was present during both meetings, though he mainly spoke and gave updates on the pumping and allocation process during the first portion of the PAC meeting.

Markman discussed his encounters and experience up until this point with other legal counsel involved in a handful of successful water negotiations in California, all of which had different scenarios and factors to them to show the possible solutions and outcomes to the committee.

“It’s not a game to us, we are really trying to get this done,” Markman said. “We will make the water balance work.”

Public outreach for de minimus domestic well owners, those pumping 2 acre-feet or less per year, was discussed during the PAC meeting. The Groundwater Authority requested the help of the PAC to help create an outreach letter to help domestic well owners understand that participating and giving the GA information could be beneficial to them, and to help encourage them to participate. Incentives were mentioned, but not discussed in detail.

This would also help the GA come up with more precise numbers, rather than averages or estimates. This outreach would include verifying well locations, any drilling or deepening that has occurred, and additional maintenance to help prioritize wells in sections with pumping depressions.

Judie Decker was also appointed to the PAC as a representative for the Eastern Kern County Resource Conservation District, replacing Donna Thomas.

Both committees have a deadline next week to submit any changes to the first draft section of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Once all comments have been submitted, the GSP will be updated and resubmitted to the committees for review at the next meeting on Feb. 7. The first draft section of the GSP is available to the public on the IWVGA website under the references tab.

TAC discusses model updates

The "Plan Area and Basin Setting" portion of the TAC meeting was spent going over updates on both the hydrogeologic conceptual model (HCM) and the baseline model. The HCM was just an updated graph of a 2D model of the basin. The baseline model was also presented during the last committee meeting, where members requested an update to the model so that it read that some large agriculture estimations were not available, or “missing.”

The baseline model continues to be an area of concern, because of the jump in baseline pumping for Meadowbrook Dairy and Mojave Pistachios. This was also questioned during the last committee meeting as well. The increase by Mojave Pistachios has been explained by the maturation of trees – the more mature the tree is the more water the tree needs, though this explanation is still questioned by residents.

Derek Hoffman, legal counsel for Meadowbrook, explained the number is not actually an increase, but restores Meadowbrook to its historical pumping levels as a result of new, better producing wells and addition plantings.

Meadowbrook's estimated recent pumping is listed as 9,640 acre-feet per year, and the estimated pumping total increases to 12,303 for 2020, 2040, and 2070. Mojave Pistachios' estimated recent pumping is listed as 3,655 afy, and the estimated pumping total increases to 6,054 afy for 2020 and then increases again to 6,891 afy for 2040 and 2070.

The baseline pumping results showed drawdowns, hydrographs by model analysis zone and water budget. The model result uses assumptions including a simulation period from 2017-2070, monthly time steps, water level initial condition from the historical model, variable recharge and baseline pumping (the aforementioned model).

One of the issues that arose from the presentation was whether or not climate change was considered when creating the results. The model used historical numbers from 1990-2015 as their guide for creating the model.

“Climate of the past is not the climate of the future,” said Tim Parker, Indian Wells Valley Water District representative.

Two model and management scenarios were presented to the TAC. These scenarios will help the GA come up with a fitted solution as a part of the GSP. These scenarios include rampdowns for Searles Valley Minerals, IWVWD, Inyokern CSD, commercial water, most agriculture, and other non-de minimis water users. “Cliff” pumping was included in these scenarios for selected agriculture. Cliff pumping is consistent pumping for an initial time period, and then an immediate stop. The Navy and de minimis users would have no rampdown in these scenarios.

Some suggestions from the TAC were to create “bookend” scenarios that would include the worst-case and the best-case scenarios.

Lastly, the Navy-Coso funding priority projects were quickly discussed during the TAC meeting. The only recommendation mentioned was switching priority one and two, making “planning, design, permitting, and construction of imported water facility” the No. 1 priority and “assess and mitigate impacts to shallow wells” the second priority. There are 15 items a part of this list.

Future agenda items for the TAC meeting include having more discussion on the plan area basin setting, projects and management actions, as well as sustainable management criteria. There will be new subsections for discussion on the sustainable management criteria portion.

Future agenda items for the PAC meeting include discussion on the ad hoc committee’s report on unregistered well owners, approving agenda minutes, reviewing the first edits of the first section of the draft GSP as well as reviewing the second section if applicable. The PAC will also review Markman’s comments and any new ones that may come up.

The TAC and PAC will meet again on Feb. 7, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. Both meetings will be held at the IWVWD boardroom.