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Posts Tagged: Thomas Harter

Groundwater records should be public, says UC ANR expert

Because of a 64-year-old law in California, groundwater information (like groundwater) is out of sight.
Thomas Harter, a groundwater hydrologist with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has called for a change in California law that will make information about the state's dwindling underground stores of water available to the public.

Harter, a UC ANR specialist based at UC Davis, and co-author Laurel Firestone, shared their thoughts in an op-ed penned for The Guardian. Firestone is co-executive director of the Community Water Center in California, which helps disadvantaged communities gain access to clean, affordable water. 

The authors wrote that state records with information needed to characterize groundwater aquifers are kept confidential under a 64-year-old law that considers them proprietary to well drillers. The well logs contain data that is public in every other state in the West and include details such as where wells are located, their depth, potential pumping rates, diameter and descriptions of the sediments and rocks the wells go through.

"The lack of information is a major impediment to stewardship of the resource," the op-ed says.

California State Senator Fran Pavley introduced Senate Bill 20 in December, which if passed will make well log data publicly available in California.

"Perhaps as more community and farm wells dry up this summer, the legislature will extend its enthusiasm for transparency to the critical information needed for more equitable and sustainable management of our groundwater," Garter and Firestone conclude.

Posted on Monday, March 30, 2015 at 1:18 PM
Tags: drought (4), groundwater (6), Thomas Harter (8)

Farmers of the future will be happy about 2014 groundwater regulations

New legislation will require some farmers to cut back on groundwater use.
The new groundwater laws that Gov. Brown is expected to sign may not be popular with today's farmers, but tomorrow's farmers likely will look back with gratitude, reported Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times.

"Some farmers are going to be having to cut back at least in the short run," said Doug Parker, director of the UC California Institute for Water Resources.

Thomas Harter, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, predicted the farmers' successors will appreciate the coming regulations.

"In the long run, my view is that the next generation and two generations down of farmers will find this a lifesaver," Harter said.

The bills waiting for the governor's signature won't provide an instant fix, the story said. The law will take years to implement and it could take decades for the most depleted groundwater basins recover.

In most years, groundwater amounts to 30 to 45 percent of the state's water supply, but in dry periods, it increases to 60 percent. The new law will direct local public agencies to develop sustainable groundwater management plans. If they fail, the State Water Resources Control Board steps in. The legislation gives local basin managers the ability to:

  • Collect fees from groundwater users
  • Monitor withdrawals
  • Limit pumping
  • Buy water or water rights to replenish aquifers

The Association of California Water Agencies supports the new regulations; agricultural interests are opposed, the article says.

"We thought these bills were too far-reaching," said Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Posted on Monday, September 8, 2014 at 9:26 AM
Tags: Doug Parker (1), drought (4), groundwater (6), Thomas Harter (8)

Current groundwater management is not sustainable

Thomas Harter.
Groundwater management in California can be likened to the economic theory "tragedy of the commons," according to Thomas Harter, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis. Harter made the comment on the National Public Radio program Here & Now, which is broadcast nationally.

According to the theory, individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one's self-interest, behave contrary to the whole group's long-term best interests by depleting some common resource. The result for California groundwater in this drought year has been reliance on groundwater to meet fully two-thirds of the state's urban and agricultural water needs.

"It's a significant concern because it's not a rate at which we can continue to use this resource," Harter said. "It's not sustainable."

Here & Now host Jeremy Hobson pointed out that California is the last Western state to regulate groundwater. Last week the California legislature sent three bills to Gov. Brown that would end a commonly held view in California that property owners have the right to draw as much groundwater as they want from wells on their property.

The lack of regulation and a continuing drought have resulted in severe overdraft of the state's aquifer. By studying the state's geology and measuring groundwater levels over decades, scientists know how much water is there, Harter said. Californians should not expect any new hidden reservoirs to be found.

"The best way I think we can address this is make information about the resource more available and let people know what happens to the resource, where (water) comes in and where it goes out, and involve the public on the decision-making on how we want to manage that resource," Harter said.

Posted on Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 12:16 PM
Tags: drought (4), groundwater (6), Thomas Harter (8)

California drought is depleting the state's groundwater reserves

Nervousness over California's epic drought has given way to alarm, reported Joby Warrick in the Washington Post. Streams and lakes are drying up, and now the aquifers are being pumped at an unsustainable rate.

The massive shift to groundwater has helped farmers survive this year, but a UC Davis study says tapping groundwater at the same rate into the future could soon deplete this valuable resource.

"A well-managed basin is used like a reserve bank account," said Richard Howitt, professor emeritus in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis. "We're acting like the super rich who have so much money they don't need to balance their checkbook."

Thomas Harter, UC Cooperative Extension groundwater specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water at UC Davis, said depleting the aquifer is more serious than depleting water reservoirs because aquifers take far longer to replenish.

"It's a downward path," he said. "We cannot do what we did this year on a permanent basis."

Huntington Lake, a reservoir in the Sierra Nevada, is at about one-third of its capacity. In this July 2014 photo, the basin is also shrouded in smoke from a nearby forest fire.
Posted on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 9:28 AM
Tags: drought (4), Thomas Harter (8), water (2)

San Joaquin Valley residents learn more about groundwater nitrate problem

UC Cooperative Extension advisor Richard Smith is one of many UC scientists conducting research to mitigate California groundwater nitrate contamination.
Pamela Creedon, executive officer of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, said the state of California failed to protect San Joaquin Valley residents' drinking water from fertilizer, dairy and septic contamination, according to a report in the Fresno Bee by Mark Grossi.

Creedon spoke yesterday at a conference arranged by Fresno State's International Center for Water Technology. Also on the panel was Thomas Harter, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources at UC Davis, who described his recently released research report on nitrates in Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley groundwater.

The conference featured panels and speakers on many of California's water issues, including underground water banking and Southern California's quest for new water sources, Grossi reported. However, no issue was bigger than Harter's study, he said.

Earlier Thursday, Harter and his research team presented details of the report to an audience of about 150 at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Two local television stations, ABC affiliate Channel 30 and CBS affiliate Channel 47, provided their viewers with live reports from the scene.

Posted on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 8:27 AM
Tags: nitrate (2), Thomas Harter (8)

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