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Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA) is a comprehensive three-bill package aimed at regulating groundwater in California. The Act required the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to prioritize the basins as high, medium, low, or very low priority using the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring System (CASGEM). A high priority basin is one that is thought to be in critical a groundwater overdraft condition. San Joaquin County Basin is located primarily in Basin 5-22, WID is located in sub basin 5-22.01, which is classified as high-priority.

 

SGMA requires the formation of local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) that must assess conditions in their local water basins and adopt locally-based management plans. The act provides 20 years for GSAs to implement and achieve long-term groundwater sustainability through these Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs).

 

GSAs may investigate surface waters, ground waters, and surface and groundwater rights. The GSA may also inspect the property and facilities of a person or entity in its management area to determine whether that person or entity is in compliance with SGMA.

 

The Act gives a GSA broad power to:

  • Prepare and adopt a groundwater sustainability plan (GSP)
  • Implement rules and regulations

  • Require registration of wells

  • Require reporting and collect fees

  • Monitor compliance and enforcement

  • Require every well to be measured by a water measuring device, at the expense of the well owner

  • Require a well owner/operator to file an annual statement setting forth the total extraction of groundwater from that well for the previous year

 

GSAs responsible for high and medium priority basins must adopt groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) within five to seven years, depending on whether the basin is in critical overdraft. Agencies may adopt a single plan covering an entire basin or combine a number of plans created by multiple agencies. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) does not apply to the preparation and adoption of a GSP, however any implementation actions taken pursuant to an adopted GSP are subject to CEQA. Plans must include a physical description of the basin, including groundwater levels, groundwater quality, subsidence, information on groundwater-surface water interaction, data on historical and projected water demands and supplies, monitoring and management provisions, and a description of how the plan will affect other plans, including city and county general plans. Plans will be evaluated every five years.

 

State Review and Intervention

The State Water Resources Control Board may intervene if a GSA is not formed or it fails to adopt or implement compliant plans by certain dates. DWR is tasked with reviewing GSPs for adequacy after they are adopted at the local level. If DWR determines in its review that a GSP is not adequate, the State Board may designate the basin as “probationary.” If the local agency does not respond within 180 days, the State Board is authorized to create an interim plan that will remain in place until a local GSA is able to reassume responsibility with a compliant plan.

 

Key Implementation Dates

  • January 1, 2016: DWR adopts regulations with which to evaluate a GSP.
  • June 30, 2017: Local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) formed.
  • Jan. 31, 2020: Groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) adopted for critically over drafted basins.
  • Jan. 31, 2022: Groundwater sustainability plans adopted for high- and medium-priority basins not currently in overdraft.
  • 20 years after adoption: All high and medium-priority groundwater basins must achieve sustainability.

 

In collaboration with the California State Water Resources Control Board, DWR created a suite of informational tools and resources, including a centralized state groundwater website managed by DWR. That and other informative websites can be reached via the links below: