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Water Advisory Committee charts course for groundwater management
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The Stanislaus Water Advisory Committee convened for their first meeting of 2015 Tuesday morning to discuss taking steps towards establishing a Groundwater Sustainability Agency, one component of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act that was passed in 2014 to allow regional control of local groundwater resources.

Precipitated by the state’s ongoing drought, GSAs must be formed by June 30, 2017 and are responsible for developing and implementing a plan that is considered beneficial to all uses and users of groundwater in a basin. There are over 500 groundwater basins in the state and four local sub-basins considered in the region: the Northern Delta Mendota Canal, Modesto, Turlock, and San Joaquin County.

Like many agencies in the state, the WAC is in the genesis of establishing its plan and on Tuesday the committee discussed several drafts that outline potential ways to structure groundwater sustainability.

“So far it’s just concepts, words, and ideas. We really need to get traction,” said the county’s Water Resources Manager Walter Ward.

The most favorable draft includes creating a GSA for each sub-basin and a coordinating committee subject to the determination of needs by each GSA. Input from special task forces and the public will also be included.

“We get to lay out a map of our world and where we want to go with it,” explained Ward of the local control allocated to the WAC.

However, a model, or institution framework, to implement the plan will also need to be determined in upcoming months as each option affords a different amount of flexibility and benefit to the GSA. Ward presented pros and cons for several models on Tuesday such as establishing an ad-hoc special committee, a memorandum of understanding, contractual agreements, a joint powers authority, or a chartered organization. Presently the WAC is determining the optimal model that will meet the diverse needs of the water districts and users involved.

“You don’t just put the plan together and walk away,” said Ward. “You have to implement it, evaluate it, and update it appropriately as you learn things and find out things that don’t work well or do work well.”

The next step for the WAC is determine the role and structure of the coordinating committee which will collaborate with the four sub-basin’s GSAs as well as perform outreach with the surrounding counties.

The Water Advisory Council typically meets at 9 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the month at the Kirk Lindsey Center located at 1020 10th Street in Modesto.