GUSTINE - The city is facing a fast-approaching deadline for identifying steps that will be taken to achieve groundwater sustainability, as required under state legislation enacted five years ago.

City Manager Doug Dunford told Mattos Newspapers recently that the city, which relies solely on groundwater wells to meet municipal water needs, has until Dec. 31 to submit its plan for achieving sustainability.

“We’re pumping 1,000 acre-feet a year, and 600 acre-feet is being percolated back into the system. We’re losing 400 acre-feet a year that is not recharging the system. That is where we are short,” Dunford explained.

Dunford reviewed alternatives with the City Council at its Aug. 6 meeting.

The city has previously decided to act as its own Groundwater Sustainability Agency, or GSA, rather than joining a larger coalition of agencies.

“We wanted to be in charge of our own water,” Dunford explained.

Now, city officials face a decision on how to meet the sustainability goal.

Dunford ran down a list of a half-dozen or so steps the city could take in asking for direction from the council.

Two in particular drew little enthusiasm from the council, he said, as the elected leaders showed little interest in conservation measures or establishing a secondary water distribution system (commonly known as purple pipes) which would deliver treated wastewater for uses such as landscape irrigation.

Others hold more promise, Dunford said.

“One option we’re seriously looking at is to irrigate Schmidt Park and Borrelli Park with surface water instead of pulling it out of the ground,” he said. That strategy would significantly reduce the city’s draw on groundwater supplies, Dunford stated, while promoting groundwater recharge.

Purchasing groundwater credits from other agencies was also an alternative in which the council expressed interest, he noted.

Other options, he said, include capturing storm drain run-off for use or for storage in recharge ponds.

The city could also encourage residents to collect rain water for yard and garden use, Dunford said by way of example, which further reduces the groundwater demand.

Dunford said he will further explore options and return to the council with a second report, most likely at its Sept. 17 meeting.

“This is on the table, and we have to make a decision by Dec. 31 on the actions we will be taking,” Dunford commented. “We have to have a course of action, and start implementing it. We don’t have to have it in place until 2023, but we can’t wait until December 2022 (to begin putting the practices in place). We have to show constant progress toward our goal of sustainability.”

Groundwater agencies are asked to implement plans which achieve sustainability within 20 years, Dunford added.

The Central California Irrigation District has been working closely with city officials to assist with groundwater assessment and compliance with the sustainability act, Dunford said.