June 15, 2012

Navy endorses groundwater management plan

By Peggy Shoaf

In the high desert, water is a precious commodity that must be protected and efficiently managed for a sustainable future.  To this end, Commander Navy Region Southwest, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake’s parent command, has once again joined forces with the Indian Wells Valley Cooperative Groundwater Management Group in endorsing a cooperative groundwater management plan for the local area.

According to Mike Stoner, China Lake’s Water Quality Program manager, water levels continue to decline in IWV as production out paces natural recharge.

Declining levels of groundwater directly increases production and distributions costs and has the potential for poorer quality of water than what Valley residents now enjoy.

The cooperative groundwater management plan for the IWV sets forth guidelines and management principles for the production, distribution and use of groundwater; seeks to better understand the nature and characteristics of the watershed and aquifer system; establishes guidelines toward sound conservation and management practices to extend the useful life of the aquifer to meet current and foreseeable future demands; and develops and refines criteria for the selection, collection, sampling and monitoring protocol of groundwater and groundwater production and/or monitoring wells within the IWV.

“Past studies show that the Valley’s groundwater aquifer system is complex and the supply is limited,” Stoner said.  “While we have a lot of data available regarding groundwater production, we only have limited data pertaining to the aquifer characteristics.  We need more information to characterize the watershed.  The recharge and discharge characteristics of the aquifer are not fully understood.  We need to be able to determine groundwater reserves and support the management of the aquifer system so it can provide us with water for years to come.”

The IWV Cooperative Management Group formed in 1995.  This is the third time the cooperative groundwater management plan for the IWV has been revised.  Members of the IWV Cooperative Groundwater Management Group need to resign the agreement every time the plan is revised.

Members of the IWV Cooperative Groundwater Management Group include the IWV Water District, NAWS China Lake, Searles Valley Minerals, City of Ridgecrest, Eastern Kern County Resources Conservation District, Kern County Water Agency, Inyokern Community Services District, IWV Airport District, Bureau of Land Management, Quest Farms and Kern County.

Stoner said that there are a variety of water uses in the Valley, including residential, agricultural, industrial, municipal, commercial and public.

In addition, Searles Valley Minerals currently exports water from the Valley and that the group took all these existing uses into account when developing its management plan.

The plan’s key objectives are to:

  • Limit additional large-scale pumping in areas adversely impacted;
  • Distribute new groundwater extraction that will minimize adverse effects to existing groundwater conditions and maximizes long-term supply within the Valley;
  • Aggressively pursue development and implementation of water conservation and education programs;
  • Encourage use of recycled water where appropriate and economically feasible;
  • Explore the potential for other types of water management programs that are beneficial to the Valley;
  • Continue the cooperative efforts between the members to better understand the groundwater resource in the Valley; and
  • Develop an interagency management framework to implement objectives of this plan.

The benefits to the local communities include:

  • Continued eligibility for State grants to investigate groundwater issues (the group has received two grants to date – one to create a database and GIS system and the other to drill eight monitoring wells in the Southwest area and to sample water quality parameters throughout the Valley);
  • Monthly public meetings on concerns and share information with the group;
  • Foster newspaper articles providing useful information to the general public; and
  • Maintain a website on the health of the IWV’s groundwater.  The website address is www.iwvgroundwater.org.

“It is all a matter of working together to maximize our resources, share costs (in installing monitoring wells, sampling, etc.) and for everyone to do their part in water conservation.  Water conservation is in everyone’s best interest, because without our water source, the Indian Wells Valley couldn’t support its communities and the Navy wouldn’t be able to accomplish its mission at China Lake.”

Questions can be directed to the NAWS Public Affairs Office at (760) 939-1683.

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