Key deadline to form local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies met by 99 percent of required basins

By on August 30, 2017
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

The State Water Resources Control Board announced on Monday that 99 percent of the state’s high- and medium-priority groundwater basins have met a key deadline to form local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) as required by the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014. One hundred and twenty-seven high- and medium-priority groundwater basins met the June 30, 2017 deadline requiring formation of locally controlled GSA’s; as of Monday, 99 percent of basins in that category are now covered by a local GSA, a groundwater adjudication or an alternative sustainability plan.

“Groundwater accounts for a third of the state’s water supply on average and serves as a critically important source in dry years,” said Department of Water Resources Director Grant Davis. “It’s encouraging to see such a strong commitment from land owners and communities to manage this critical water source now and for future generations.”

Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board, was quick to praise the hard work by local communities to form their GSAs. She said, “This is a signal accomplishment that required the leadership of myriad Californians who care about the future of their communities. The successful formation of so many GSAs doesn’t by any means mean that this was easy. It was really hard–and it’s a great down payment on the hard work to come as GSAs move into developing their management plans.”

The SGMA is landmark legislation that empowers local agencies to sustainably manage groundwater resources which was signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in 2014. Inasmuch as the state and its residents depend on groundwater for a major portion of its annual water supply, particularly during times of drought, the intent of the long-term planning required by SGMA is to provide a buffer against both drought and climate change, and will contribute to reliable water supplies regardless of weather patterns in the state.

GSAs will now work to create and implement groundwater sustainability plans that describe needed actions and implementation measures to bring their basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge within the required timeframe as outlined in SGMA. Basins identified as critically overdrafted are required to have sustainability plans in place by Jan. 31, 2020. All other high- and medium-priority basins have until Jan. 31, 2022 to adopt plans.

The SGMA permits plans tailored to the GSA’s economic environmental needs of their regions. The SGMA will also be providing tools and the authorities for developing projects and regulating groundwater use to meet the GSA’s sustainability goals. The GSA’s plans will be reviewed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) and will be continuously updated to ensure sustainable management of the state’s groundwater by the year 2042.

In assisting with the development of groundwater sustainability plans, DWR staff will present sustainability plan workshops for GSAs around the state. The first is scheduled for Sept. 20, 2017 in the Fresno area. Information on all of DWR’s SGMA resources and activities is available at http://www.water.ca.gov/groundwater/sgm/index.cfm. DWR will also provide important information and data, technical and non-technical assistance, best practices, guidance publications and grant funding opportunities that may be crucial to a plan’s success.

For the few remaining groundwater basins that did not meet the GSA formation deadline, the State Water Board sent letters to property owners late last week to identify if there are active wells drawing groundwater that must be reported to the state. Groundwater extractions made from an unmanaged area must be reported to the state as part of the SGMA of 2014. The locations of unmanaged areas can be viewed on the unmanaged area identification map at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/gmp/index.shtml.