Most San Joaquin Valley rural disadvantaged communities (DACs) rely entirely on groundwater sources often contaminated and/or located in groundwater basins, which are critically overdrafted. Groundwater overdraft is a serious problem, which worsens during drought periods. California’s most recent historic drought of 2014 had a devastating and disproportional impact on disadvantaged communities and persons relying on groundwater sources.
These same communities often lack information, technical expertise and financial resources to engage in local regional water management and groundwater sustainability planning. In order to build resilience to future water shortages, it is vital that DACs participate in regional water management and groundwater sustainability planning.
The Community Engagement and Planning (CE&P) team supports community participation in regional water management and groundwater sustainability planning and seeks to build long-term water management capacity and expertise in rural communities. Within Self-Help Enterprises’ Community Development Department, our team serves as the bridge between communities and the technical and governance processes.
The CE&P is working with several Integrated Regional Water Management Groups located within the Tulare-Kern and San Joaquin River Funding areas in order to assist them with the implementation of their Disadvantaged Community Involvement Program, which aims to improve community participation in IRWM activities. Within the Tulare-Kern Funding Area, which encompasses most of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare Counties, SHE was awarded $550,000 to implement the Disadvantaged Community Education and Engagement Program (DACEEP). The DACEEP will focus on improving understanding of community water needs and the IRWM process as well as encouraging DAC participation and engagement in IRWM activities.
In the San Joaquin River, which encompasses most of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced and Madera Counties, as well as parts of Contra Costa and Sacramento County, SHE was awarded over $120,000 to support the community water needs assessment, conduct outreach and build community capacity. SHE will also act as the Community Liaison for Madera Regional Water Management IRWM group and launch a private well testing program.
Additionally, CE&P conducts community outreach, convenes workshops, tours and roundtable discussions, develops and distributes bilingual educational materials and supports project development activities. Recently, the CE&P team has been responsible for the success of the new Drinking Water for Schools grant program. As one of only two technical assistance providers for the program, SHE has delivered Technical Assistance to 30 school districts (134 schools) and has laid the foundation for the implementation of the program.
The CE&P also works with the Central Valley Salinity Collation to offer free private well testing in eligible areas within Tulare County and provide interim drinking water supplies to eligible households with contaminated water. For more information on the Nitrate Drinking Water Testing and Interim Drinking Water Supply Project, click here.
What is the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act?
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA) is a recent law that, once fully implemented, will fundamentally change the way groundwater is used and managed in California. SGMA requires local agencies to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to manage and regulate groundwater and to be ultimately responsible for ensuring that groundwater conditions improve within 20 years. Learn more here.
What is the Integrated Regional Water Management?
Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) is a voluntary planning and implementation program designed to incentivize regional collaboration, implement multi-benefits water management actions and develop projects that further IRWM goals. For more information about IRWM visit: https://bit.ly/2sIqmLv.
How can communities get involved in water management and groundwater sustainability and planning?
There are several ways community members can get involved, including: registering as an interested party for your GSA or IRWM group to receive notices of meetings, attending board and/or committee meetings and applying to serve on an advisory committee. To identify your GSA or IRWM group contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.