Of the approximately 110 minutes of public session at the Indian Wells Valley Water District Board meeting on Monday, February 14, nearly 30 minutes were spent discussing water level data from the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority.
The water district is responsible for providing water to IWV customers, while the IWVGA is responsible for developing a groundwater sustainability plan for the valley.
According to Water District board members, the IWVGA is not doing enough to provide accurate data on how much water is flowing in and out of the IWV groundwater basin.
The IWVGA Board of Directors is made up of the main stakeholders of the IWV Groundwater Basin, and the Water District is one of those main stakeholders. Other major stakeholders include the City of Ridgecrest and Kern County, as well as Inyo County and San Bernardino County. Non-voting members include the Navy Department and the Bureau of Land Management.
Water District Board Member Stan Rajtora represents the Water District on the IWVGA Board. At each monthly Water District Board meeting, Rajtora provides an update on what is happening with the IWVGA. This month’s update led to a lengthy discussion of what Rajtora sees as the IWVGA’s failure to update the annual overdraft report.
The overdraft indicates the amount of water extracted from the IWV groundwater basin relative to the amount that returns to it each year.
Rajtora’s comments began when he discussed the draft IWVGA 2021 Annual Report presented to the IWVGA Technical Advisory Committee and on the IWVGA website.
“Two observations jumped out at me. The first was that there was no overdraft update,” Rajtora said, noting that the reason given by IWVGA is that only 66% of wells have been measured. He said that after not measuring all the monitoring wells in 2020, he expected them to fix the problem in 2021, but he thinks they measured fewer wells in 2021.
“Then the second thing that jumped out at me was that there was no corrective action to avoid [errors] like this in the future,” added Rajtora.
At this time, the IWVGA’s top priority is to develop a plan to import water into the IWV from elsewhere in California. This incurs costs both for the purchase of these water rights and for the development of the infrastructure to bring the water to IWV.
Water District Board Member Chuck Griffin said: ‘We need to know what’s here before we start looking for water so we know how much water we have. really need.”
Griffin has stated his desire to prioritize local reclaimed water projects first, then see how much overdraft still exists in the IWV groundwater basin.
During public comments on the matter, Renee Westa-Lusk said that she watched the recent IWVGA board meeting and that one of the reasons for the lack of well monitoring data is due to shortages. of staff caused by Covid-19. Westa-Lusk also said IWV residents pay taxes to the Kern County Water Agency to read wells, and this should be reported to Kern County IWVGA Representative Phillip Peters.
Rajtora responded by saying there was no direct link between Kern County Supervisor Peters and the Kern County Water Agency, although he said some of the property taxes went to the Kern County Water Agency.
Water District Board Vice Chairman Mallory Boyd wondered if Water District staff could provide support to the IWVGA to provide more accurate overdraft figures.
“If it’s a staffing issue, maybe we can help you out,” Boyd said. “I don’t want to sit here as a board member and point the finger at other people who aren’t doing their job as a reason for not understanding it if that’s something we can help with. “
Rajtora said it is important to get accurate data on overdrafts and water pumping before local farmers start pumping water as this will skew the figures.
“Our taxpayers are paying $4 million a year due to the current understanding of overdraft,” Rajtora said.