SodaCanyonRoad | WAAP Groundwater Update - Nov 2015

WAAP Groundwater Update - Nov 2015

Gordon Evans | Nov 6, 2015 on: Napa Vision 2050

Hi Folks - Time for another unscheduled update:

1. New well at 2100 Atlas Peak Rd. Many of you have been wondering about this very visible project (now completed). Here’s what I found:

The well was apparently drilled sometime in the ’70’s, driller info and logs N/A. The casing was 8” diam., composition UNK. The well was sleeved with a 6” casing, composition UNK, sometime in the late ’80’s, again driller info and logs N/A. Depth was about 250’, the same as our well here at 2381 APR. When the Sellers moved out, they still had water in their storage tank, which also supplied the limited residential needs for realtor showings and such while the house was vacant. The prospective Buyers discovered the well was putting out only 1-2 gal./min. Through negotiations, it was apparently decided not to spend any more money investigating the existing well for possible rehabilitation, rather to concentrate on drilling a new one. The new one is located approx. 30’ from the old one, and is approx. 600’ deep, cost unknown. I’m told they got plenty of water (60 gal./min.) at 400’. This anecdotal “evidence” of “deep” water availability in the AP area has been backed up by the realtors with whom I spoke.

FYI - Current well drilling costs for a 6” casing run $50-52/ft. Add to that: $1500 for permits, sanitary seal, etc. and, if necessary, a new (2hp) pump & related equipment at $10,000. All costs are approximate, depending upon access, trenching, availability of electricity, etc. Lead time is running approx. 6-8 weeks minimum, regardless of drilling firm used.

2. Assessor’s Parcel Report Language. In checking on the above project, as well as my own residence and a few others in the area, I discovered that almost every rural property outside the MST (Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay) Basin, basically the valley floor, was listed as “Not in a groundwater deficient area." Through some rather tortuous navigating of various County departments, it appears that this is the default language used in software supplied by a (unnamed) third-party vendor to Public Works that characterized any parcel not falling within the study boundaries of the 2003 USGS MST Groundwater Resources Report That report was a joint venture with the County collecting and assimilating data during 2000-2002, and cost several hundred thousand dollars, and applied ONLY to the confined MST Study Area Boundaries, NOT the much larger MST Drainage Basins. That (geographically limited) data was relied upon heavily by the BOS in affecting the County Groundwater Conservation Ordinance No. 1294 adopted on August 7, 2007 and changes to the County Water Availability Analysis adopted on May 13, 2015. In short, unless a parcel located in the MST Drainage Basins was not specifically identified through the permit process as having a “water problem,” it was assumed that no problem existed, because those areas had not been studied! I thought the language was misleading in its inference that there was sufficient groundwater. I believed it should be changed the to something more realistic, e.g., “groundwater data unknown, no data available,” or something similar.

Several discussions with Steve Lederer, County Director of Public Works, led to a modification, and it now reads:

    "GW Ordinance: Parcel not in a designated Groundwater Deficient Area (actual groundwater conditions may vary)”

It’s not as misleading, but still has enough legal “wiggle room” to remain somewhat ambiguous. At least it should mean something a bit different and worth further pursuit to anybody who’s interested in a particular parcel and bothers to read it.

Of greater import, however, is the extent to which that original language and the 2003 report have been relied upon by various government agencies in the decision-making process to promulgate programs, policies and statutes - that may never be known.

3. Monitoring Wells in the MST Watersheds. Items #1 & 2 above led to researching the number and location of any monitoring wells outside the aforementioned MST basin. This info is NOT publicly available (I was told for reasons of privacy on privately-owned parcels and “national security,” i.e., the threat of terrorism on public lands). Discussions with Steve Lederer and Patrick Lowe, County Natural Resources Conservation District Manager, led to the following email response on 10/29/15 from Lowe:

    "Our monitoring program was expanded over the past several years to fill in areas where we had data gaps and to address State requirements under the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) legislation. You’ll find more about this in the annual report and studies on the website. As we add wells, the county’s costs go up due to the staff time needed to monitor the wells, from a minimum of twice annually to monthly for some. So we have to focus our efforts/resources on wells that meet our program needs and address state requirements.

    However, we are setting up a new program for well owners that may be outside of our current program needs but are interested in monitoring their wells. This will get underway in early 2016 with public workshops to provide more information and gauge the level of interest. If there is enough interest, we will provide training on portable “sonic” monitors that will be available for checkout, as well as information on relatively inexpensive monitors available for purchase. I’ll have both of these monitors available at the (League of Women Voters) Forum on November 23rd if you’d like to take a look at them.

    I also followed up with our groundwater consultant (LSCE), to provide additional information on your MST related questions:

    The County’s groundwater monitoring effort in the MST area focuses on the MST groundwater subarea in order to track conditions and trends in areas where groundwater use is concentrated and where geologically-controlled groundwater storage units have been mapped. This approach is consistent with the monitoring effort led by the USGS for the 2003 study, as well as the 1977 USGS study by Johnson. In fact many of the wells now monitored by the County were previously monitored by the USGS. The MST groundwater subarea boundary is consistent with the 2003 study area boundary.

    The County recently added two volunteered wells to the monitoring network that are located in the watersheds upslope of the MST groundwater subarea. These are accounted for in the 2014 Annual Monitoring Report by their location in the Eastern Mountains subarea. These upslope wells were added to the monitoring network, in part, to provide data on conditions in the vicinity of the MST subarea and to potentially inform the understanding of how much groundwater flows into the MST subarea as subsurface contributions from the watershed areas to the east.

    As you indicated, it is possible that in the future there will be a need for additional monitored wells in the watershed areas outside of the MST groundwater subarea.

    Reid Bryson
    Project Hydrologist
    Luhdorff & Scalmanini, Consulting Engineers
    500 First Street, Woodland, CA 95695-4026”

Curiously, Lowe’s earlier email response to me of 10/27/15 stated:

    "We do have monitoring wells throughout the MST and our groundwater consultant LSCE has indicated that we don't need additional wells at this time. I will keep you in mind should our needs change in that area. While we don’t provide precise well locations, you may want to take a look at the 2014 Napa County Comprehensive Groundwater Monitoring Program – Annual Report for additional information and maps. You can find it on the Watershed Information & Conservation Council (WICC)/Groundwater website, under the monitoring link.”

4. SGMA (State Groundwater Management Act). Our neighbor Chris Malan has discovered that the County may be trying to do an "end-run” around the SGMA of 2014. She writes, "Napa County BOS (Board of Supervisors) has fast tracked, without County-wide public hearings, to an GSP-Alternative, which is to continue to study the aquifers and NOT DEVELOP a SUSTAINABLE GROUNDWATER PLAN/SAFE YIELD." While doing a little digging on the County WICC (Watershed Information Center & Conservancy) website, as she suggested, I came across this sentence, which I extracted from this document.

    "In addition to groundwater monitoring, Napa County is also developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan-Alternative (GSP-A), or Groundwater Basin Analysis, for the Napa Valley sub-basin. Its purpose is to demonstrate the continued sustainability of our groundwater and to address requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).”

I don’t know if there are provisions in SGMA for this procedure, but the cynic in me says that their agenda is already geared to saying there’s no major problem now and they’ve got things under control, but are probably scared to death about the State telling them what to do. Rest assured, Chris and others are following up on this.

5. League of Women Voters Groundwater Forum (What’s Up With The Water Below?). They are hosting what should be a very interesting and timely presentation at the Napa Main Library, 580 Coombs St., Napa, CA 94559 on Monday, Nov. 23, at 7 P.M. Tentative agenda items (plus a Q & A period) include:

    A. Overview/Welcoming Remarks (Joyce Kingery, LWV & Supr. Brad Wagenknecht)

    B. Update on the Drought, El Nino, Valley Fire and local water resources, Phil Miller, Deputy Director, Napa County Public Works

    C. State Groundwater Management Act - “What is SGMA, what are we doing locally, what’s next?”, Patrick Lowe, Napa County Natural Resources Conservation District Manager

    D. Local Groundwater Conditions & Monitoring in Napa County - Improving our understanding: what we have learned, what we need to know, expanded groundwater monitoring, next towards sustainability, Vicki Kretsinger, Luhdorff & Scalmanini, Consulting Engineers

6. Donations. As stated earlier, WAAP is an information vehicle only, and does not solicit or accept financial aid. There are also many fine people who are working hard as volunteers on all our behalf to address our mutual groundwater concerns. However, these activities necessitate the use of experts (attorneys, engineers, hydrologists, geologists, biologists, etc.) who are familiar with the labyrinthian workings of government proceedings, and that requires money. You are heartily encouraged to contribute to one or more of the following:

    A. The Living Rivers Council, P.O. Box 2076, Livingston, MT 59047 (

    B. The Sierra Club Foundation or The Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, Napa Group, P.O. Box 5531, Napa, CA 94581 (

    C. Defenders of East Napa Watersheds (DENW), 153 Ridgecrest Dr., Napa, CA 94558 (Attn: R. Cannon, Treasurer) (

    D. Napa Vision 2050 (NV2050), P.O. Box 2385, Yountville, CA 94599 (

    E. Protect Rural Napa Educational Fund, P.O. Box 5184, Napa, CA 94581 (

These entities may be either 501(c)3 tax-deductible or 501(c)4 non-deductible, so check with the individual organization. Please earmark your funds for a specific use or project here in Napa County.

7. Help Wanted. If any of you have the interest and the time to help a beleaguered soul research and prepare these newsletters, your assistance would be greatly appreciated. No pay.

8. Photo of the Week: Note the language from the Napa Valley Vintners, “SOILS: Volcanic in origin, with basaltic red color, shallow with limited water retention, so irrigation is often required.” (Taken at Sattui’s Castello di Amarosa, Nov. 4, 2015)