[env-trinity] Sisk.Daily: Scott Valley Water Users Work Toward Solutions

Sari Sommarstrom sari at sisqtel.net
Tue Sep 25 10:34:45 PDT 2012




September 24. 2012 1:06PM


Water users work toward solutions

/AR-120929913.jpg&MaxH=225&MaxW=225PHOTO/ Submitted

Above, Preston Harris checks well levels in Scott Valley as part of a
community effort to understand the valley's groundwater system.

In drought years, certain sections of the Scott River go dry by late summer
and, inevitably, accusations fly about who or what is to blame, with
groundwater pumping often the target. As a response to this controversy,
local efforts are seeking to reduce the conflict between groundwater use and
environmental needs.

According to a recent press release from the Scott River Watershed Council
(SRWC), the Scott Valley community is taking a "Grab the bull by the horns"
approach to tackle this long-running debate over groundwater's effect on the
surface flows of the Scott River.  

As a key step toward better understanding of groundwater in the Scott
Valley, the community has been collecting data on groundwater levels.
Monthly measurements are made at 36 wells around the valley through a
voluntary program that began in April 2006 led by a partnership effort. One
of those partners, Dr. Thomas Harter of the Groundwater Cooperative
Extension Program at the University of California at Davis (UCD), calls this
groundwater level monitoring program "a significant cornerstone of Scott
Valley's groundwater management actions."  

According to the SRWC, this well data and some historic data has already
helped answer a key question: Is the valley's aquifer being overdrafted? 

An overdraft condition is the continued decline in groundwater levels during
years of normal precipitation and recharge.

Based on data collected so far,  Harter says Scott Valley is not in an
annual overdraft situation.
Understanding how groundwater affects surface water through a scientific
approach is the goal of the Scott Valley Groundwater Study Plan, the release

Prepared with the help of UCD, the study plan is one of the tasks in the
Scott Valley Temperature Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Action Plan of the
North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB). 

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors adopted the plan in February 2008.
Included in the plan are hypotheses to be tested, including Scott Valley
geologic and hydrologic conditions, how groundwater dynamics work, proposed
research methods, and a "road map" of tasks to carry out the plan in three
phases over a 20 year period, as funding is available.

According to the SRWC, "UCD has made significant progress on developing a
sophisticated groundwater model, now in version two."  

Bryan McFadin, Senior Water Resource Control Engineer with the NCRWQCB, says
that he thinks the Scott Valley Groundwater Study is going very well.  

"The Regional Water Board expects that the groundwater model Dr. Harter is
developing with the County and the community's assistance will be a powerful
tool for evaluating opportunities to manage the resource to improve water
quality and provide a reliable water supply," says McFadin.

He adds, "The hydrology of Scott Valley is quite complex.  Development of a
tool to understand and manage a system this complicated can't be
accomplished overnight."

To help the county manage and coordinate its water resources, the board of
supervisors created the Scott Valley Groundwater Advisory Committee in
December, 2010 - the first one in the county.  Its 11 appointed members
represent various groundwater users in the valley. They've met monthly for a
year and a half, advising the board and the UCD groundwater model team about
crop acreage, irrigation methods and water application rates.

According to the release, "Growers in this small farming community use some
of the most efficient and modern irrigation systems available for the
alfalfa, pasture and grain crops grown in this mountain environment." 

"I feel I am going above the call of duty by volunteering to modernize my
irrigation system for maximum efficiency at my own expense," says Tom Menne,
Scott Valley alfalfa grower.  Menne has installed center pivot sprinklers to
irrigate his alfalfa fields, replacing the less efficient wheel line

"I have 12 of these automated systems, which have increased my water
efficiency by more than 20 percent," Menne said. 

Monitoring soil moisture helps ensure that farmers like Menne don't
over-irrigate, which could also add excessive costs to their operation due
to the cost of electricity.  

Menne, along with other farmers are cooperating in a detailed field study by
UC Farm Advisor Steve Orloff and UCD irrigation specialists. Its intent is
to gather data on actual water application rates by local growers and
compare that with values based on weather instruments so the groundwater
model is not based on theoretical values.

Scott Valley rancher and member of the groundwater advisory committee,
Preston Harris said, "We have an opportunity to do some remarkable things to
manage and enhance our groundwater in Scott Valley." 

He added, "The uniqueness of our watershed and the willingness of the Scott
Valley community will make this possible.  The partnerships we have
developed with UC Davis, Siskiyou County,  the Scott Valley Groundwater
Advisory Committee, watershed council and government agencies will play a
huge role as well.  This is an exciting time in Scott Valley restoration." 



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