Three Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) in Sonoma County are slated each receive a $1 million award from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to aid in the development of plans for each of the basins. California’s Proposition 1, approved by voters in 2014, authorized $100 million in grant funding for groundwater planning and projects across the state under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
On April 4, California awarded $85.8 million for groundwater plans and projects within the state. The development of Sustainability Plans (GSPs) is a requirement of the 2014 SGMA. Sonoma County’s three GSAs – serving the Petaluma Valley, Santa Rosa Plain and Sonoma Valley – each received the maximum allowable award of $1 million.
GSAs are intended to ensure that there is a balance in the amount of water that is going out of and coming into groundwater basins. The development of the groundwater plans are anticipated to include recommendations for groundwater recharge, recycled water and new incentives for water conservation and sustainability, along with regulating groundwater use.
“The $1 million will help the Sonoma Valley GSA continue the community’s investment in protecting and improving our groundwater basin,” said Sonoma County Supervisor and Sonoma Valley GSA Chairwoman Susan Gorin. “The plan that is funded by this grant will make it possible for farmers, well owners, environmental groups and businesses to continue using clean, abundant freshwater into the future.”
The Sonoma County GSAs were formed in 2017 as part of the state-designated medium and high-priority basins a SMGA requirement. GSAs are now required to create GSPs to sustainably manage groundwater in each basin by 2022.
Community workshops were held in March by the Sonoma’s County’s Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to seek feedback and suggestions for funding alternatives for the GSAs and the development of each agency’s groundwater sustainability plan.
“At a recent workshop, we heard from community members who want to ensure the cost of the GSA is spread fairly to everyone who benefits from a healthy groundwater basin and a healthy environment,” said Lynda Hopkins, Sonoma County supervisor and Water Agency director. Hopkins is also the chair of the Santa Rosa Plain GSA. “We know the agencies will need additional resources, beyond the $1 million DWR grant, and we are working to identify an equitable approach.”
Each GSP is expected to include an assessment of available groundwater under current conditions as well as a detailed 20-year plan to ensure that groundwater is available to meet foreseeable needs for the next 50 years. The plans are to be goal-oriented and include technical, science-based foundations.
“This grant significantly reduces the cost to our community of running the Petaluma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency. We are glad to see Proposition 1 funding making its way back to Sonoma County,” said Sonoma County Supervisor and Water Agency Director David Rabbitt. Rabbitt also chairs the Petaluma Valley GSA.