Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy

Protecting Drinking Water and Groundwater Planning in the Salinas Valley Workshop

On July 31, 2019, over 50 residents and community leaders attended a drinking water protection and groundwater planning workshop at San Jerardo Cooperative hosted by Community Water Center, San Jerardo Cooperative, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The majority of attendees get their drinking water from private wells and small water systems in the Salinas Valley. 

This workshop was an opportunity to share information about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, sustainability indicators, and what is being proposed in the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan by the Salinas Valley Basin GSA. During the workshop, we received feedback on how residents would like to see groundwater managed and get involved in the process. Community Water Center will continue to work with those who attended to continue to increase engagement among drinking water stakeholders in around groundwater planning in the Salinas Valley.

For more information about how to get involved in groundwater planning in general, please visit: CWC Learn More about SGMA page.

For more information about the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, we encourage you to visit their website ( and sign up for their “interested parties” list. 


Link to materials provided at the event: 


Part 1: Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Overview 

Adriana Renteria, Regional Water Management Coordinator for Community Water Center provided an introduction to groundwater and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the importance of groundwater, and how sustainability management criteria relate to drinking water. The presentation also included the powers and responsibilities held by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) and the requirements of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) to manage groundwater to prevent “undesirable results” that are significant and unreasonable. The focus of this workshop was on three sustainable management criteria which can impact drinking water supplies: 1) degraded water quality, seawater intrusion, and 3) lowering of groundwater levels. 


Part 2: Minimum Thresholds Activity 

Coreen Weintrab, California and Western states campaign organizer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, led the group in an interactive activity on setting minimum thresholds in a hypothetical “Sun Valley GSA.” Minimum thresholds, determined locally by each GSA, are failure points to be avoided. In this activity, three options for minimum thresholds for groundwater levels (250 ft, 180 ft, or 130 ft) were provided along with information about the average depth of private domestic wells (150 ft) and community wells (200 ft), as well as social and economic considerations of each option. Each small group had to discuss and select and option for the Sun Valley GSA. Each small group then shared their decision with the wider group. 

Part 3: Salinas Valley Groundwater 

Heather Lukacs, Director of Community Solutions at Community Water Center, then shared a presentation on Salinas Valley Groundwater. The vast majority of drinking water in the Salinas Valley comes from groundwater. Groundwater is the only water source available for most residents in the Salinas Valley. The Salinas Valley Basin GSA is in the middle of the planning process that will impact groundwater levels, groundwater quality, and the coast of groundwater. 

The goal of this presentation was to connect the experiences of individuals who rely on private wells or shared wells with the planning efforts of the Salinas Valley Basin GSA. An overview of pumping, sea water intrusion, groundwater levels, and groundwater quality in the Salinas Valley were provided, followed by a discussion of the timeline, location, composition, of the Salinas Valley GSA. In the Salinas Valley about 93% is agricultural use and 7% is urban. About 50% of the private wells sampled did not meet the safe drinking water standards for nitrate. The 180/400ft aquifer is the one critically overdraft (closer to the coast). Information was then shared on draft minimum thresholds from the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan Chapter 8 for the 180/400 ft aquifer, which is the subbasin of the Salinas Valley Basin closest to the coast. 

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