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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 1st, 2016, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 17, Issue 13 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 17, Issue 13

Santa Maria Valley groundwater decreases, nitrates increase, according to Twitchell Management Authority

By DAVID MINSKY

Not that you couldn’t have already guessed, but a new report issued by the Twitchell Management Authority on May 24 shows that the drought caused a slight dip in groundwater in the Santa Maria Valley Management Area in 2015. 

Production of the report is a stipulation of a 1997 lawsuit against Santa Maria by the Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District, which sought to establish water use limits. The report measures how much water goes into and gets taken out of the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater basin. It’s the eighth such report since the stipulation was made. 

The report comes as California enters a fifth year of drought and measures intake from rain flow, and stream and river flow, as well as recharge from the Twitchell Reservoir, according to Randy Sharer, chairman of the Twitchell Management Authority. 

Groundwater levels dipped slightly and nitrate concentrations remain near or below detection limits in the deeper parts of the aquifer, the report notes, although concentrations have increased in the shallow zone near Orcutt and gradually increased in areas near the coast. 

“The recent gradual decline in groundwater levels is most likely attributable to this extended dry period and current drought conditions,” the report stated.

However, the conditions of the basin are all within their historical ranges—which is a good thing, according to Sharer.  

The basin itself is in good shape, Sharer said, because it doesn’t have the saltwater intrusion like other coastal aquifers in the state, and there hasn’t been a huge dip in static levels. 

The Santa Maria Valley Management Area encompasses roughly 175 square miles of the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin in northern Santa Barbara and southern San Luis Obispo counties. 

The basin supplies water to Guadalupe, Orcutt, and Santa Maria. It also supplies water to Nipomo and the Five Cities, Sharer told the Sun

The biggest takeaways of the report, Sharer said, are the fact that agriculture continues to use water as efficiently as possible and that urban users are getting better at conservation.  

Water usage for agricultural land increased slightly—from 112,680 to 115,750 acre-feet—between 2014 and 2015, respectively, the report said, also noting that farmers added more crop acreage in that same time period. 

Municipal water supplied by the basin went down a little bit. However, imported water supplies from the State Water Project increased from the previous year, going from 1,765 to 3,448 acre-feet, according to the report, which also noted that the State Water Project supplied
82 percent of the municipal water supply in 2015. 

A total of 135,371 acre-feet of water was delivered from the basin, the report states, with the majority of it going to agriculture. 

He credits city leaders for securing more water from the State Water Project and previous generations for putting in the effort and making a strong basin. 

“Urban users will have adequate supplies going through this year and in all likelihood the near future,” Sharer said. “We are benefitting from the efforts of the previous generations to make these things happen.” 




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