The Chino Groundwater Subbasin: Where Definition Diverges From Reality

In this world, some things are what they are, irrespective of how they are perceived. They are entities unto themselves, defined by their own integrity and their natural physical limitations. Some other things exist based solely or in large measure on their being defined as what they are or the name, label, title or status conferred on them by people.
At the west end of San Bernardino County, a host of governmental entities – state, regional and local – are testing the absolute applicability of the actual versus the perceived and whether something is what it is or rather what it is defined as being.
The California Department of Water Resources has been tasked with ensuring all-around compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA), which was signed into law in September 2014 by Governor Jerry Brown and which requires local agencies to draft plans to bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. Local agencies are required to submit groundwater sustainability plans (GSP) relating to most of the state’s 127 groundwater basins and subbasins designated as medium or high priority to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) by January 31, 2020 or January 31, 2022, respectively.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 also authorized local agencies to request a modification of the state-drawn boundaries for a basin or subbasin by March 31, 2016.
Adjudicated basins and subbasins are exempt from the groundwater sustainability plans requirement and, instead, must annually submit organization and basin management documents to the California Department of Water Resources, starting on April 1, 2016.
In 1978, the Chino subbasin (labeled 8-02.01 by the California Department of Water Resources) was adjudicated through a judgment in Chino Basin Municipal Water District v. City of Chino, et al. (Case No. RCV 51010), establishing boundaries covered by the judgment.
The adjudicated boundaries of the Chino Basin do not exactly align with the California Department of Water Resources boundaries for the Chino subbasin. As the Chino Basin Watermaster does not meet the definition of a local agency under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Three Valleys Municipal Water District, and Western Municipal Water District have joined to develop an application to request that the California Department of Water Resources conform the majority of its Chino subbasin boundaries to the adjudicated boundaries. If approved, the proposed basin boundary modification would result in the entirety of the Chino subbasin in San Bernardino County being covered by the basin management activities of the Chino Basin Watermaster and the continuing jurisdiction of the court. Small portions of the Chino subbasin extend into Los Angeles and Riverside counties.
One catch applies, however.
Under the California Department of Water Resources’ regulations for basin boundary modification requests, those applying for and supporting the modification agencies must marshal scientific and technical data to support a finding that there is grounds to redefine the basin. As such, the County Geologist will review the scientific and technical information contained in the Chino Basin boundary modification request. The engineering consultant for the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Three Valleys Municipal Water District, and Western Municipal Water District will provide its technical information to the county by March 25, 2016. San Bernardino County’s geologist will review the technical information and then make a recommendation as to whether the County should submit a statement of support for the basin boundary modification request in time for it to be included in the application. It is anticipated that the county will indeed make such a recommendation.
In order to ensure the application deadline of March 31, 2016, is met, the county board of supervisors this week directed San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux to execute and submit the statement of support.

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