Groundwater provides approximately 40% of California’s water supply in average climatic conditions and greater than 60% during periods of drought and lower surface water availability. While recently passed groundwater legislation (SB1168, AB 1739, and SB1319) provides clear deadlines for sustainable groundwater management objectives, it does not have clear tools for making the two most difficult decisions needed to achieve sustainable groundwater management: determining the total amount of groundwater available for use at a sustainable level, and allocating that water among competing users. Traditionally groundwater allocations have been dealt with through the groundwater adjudication process, and to a limited extent through city and county ordinances and Special Acts Districts. However, the legislation does not address the interplay between sustainable groundwater management plans and groundwater adjudications. It is therefore critical that we begin to develop clear tools that support sustainable groundwater management decisions in advance of these implementation deadlines to ensure that the new groundwater legislation and adjudication process work together help Groundwater Sustainability Agencies meet their groundwater sustainability goals.
Water in the West is embarking on a research project to develop potential tools for reaching successful, negotiated resolutions to groundwater allocation decisions and disputes. These tools could be used under the new groundwater statute, or to assist in resolving adjudications. The purpose of this 1.5 -day workshop is to help shape the project’s activities to best address needs and gaps identified by those with expertise in groundwater allocation and dispute resolution. The interactive workshop will engage groundwater managers, industry representatives, resource conflict experts, water lawyers, policy makers, technical experts, and others in discussions on groundwater allocation disputes, the tools and frameworks used in other resource dispute resolutions and their applicability to groundwater, and the attributes and impediments of technologies in dispute resolution.
- Identify the major barriers groundwater management agencies, water users, and others confront in making groundwater allocation decisions, including factors that contribute to disputes about such decisions. These barriers may include data limitations; modeling uncertainty or other model limitations; policy barriers; legal rules regarding groundwater rights; or problems with existing processes.
- Determine the consistency of these barriers across groups and regions.
- Solicit suggestions for practical and meaningful next steps in streamlining groundwater management and allocation decisions, and facilitating sustainable and negotiated resolutions to such decisions. These next steps could include exploration of improved models, study of better negotiating processes or other dispute resolution tools, more robust data, or new laws and policies.
- Examine the possibility that information technology can aid in resolving disputes and what such software tools would look like.