Local agencies form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) for Bulletin 118 groundwater basins designated as medium- or high-priority.
GSAs adopt Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for basins in critical overdraft.
GSAs adopt GSPs for non-critical medium- and high-priority basins.
Past practices for groundwater use may not be an option in the future. SGMA will drive the development of projects and programs to achieve long-term basin sustainability. Generally, SGMA requires:
Chronic lowering of groundwater levels indicating a significant and unreasonable depletion of supply
Significant and unreasonable:
Surface water depletions that have significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses of the surface water.
Is my basin a medium- or high-priority basin?
Bulletin 118 is the basis of boundary definition but boundaries may be revised based on DWR guidance.
Any local water or land use agency or combination of local agencies overlying a groundwater basin may form a GSA.
GSP must be developed by 1/31/2020 for basins in critical overdraft, and by 2022 for all other medium/high priority basins. A GSP will include measurable goals and objectives, and implementation actions to achieve/maintain basin sustainability.
Monitoring, project implementation and administrative actions implemented to get basins under sustainable management by 2040 (basins with critical overdraft) or 2042 (basins without critical overdraft).
In Bulletin 118, DWR identified 515 groundwater basins and sub-basins based on physical and geopolitical boundaries.
To revise existing basin boundaries or establish a new subbasin, a local agency must submit a request to DWR and demonstrate:
Basin Boundary Modification requests were due March 31, 2016. Bulletin 118 to be updated by September 2016 to reflect changes.
Any local agency or combination of local agencies overlying a groundwater basin may form a GSA by joint powers agreement, memorandum of agreement or understanding, or other legal agreement. Key to GSA formation are:
"Ninety days following the posting of the GSA formation notice by DWR, the GSA shall be presumed the exclusive GSA within the area of the basin the agency is managing as described in the notice, provided that no other notice was submitted. (Water Code §10723.8(b))”
One GSA assumes responsibilities and authorities for the entire basin
Could be a new or existing agency
Would need to coordinate with local land use and water agencies in the basin
Several GSAs cover the same basin, allowing existing local agencies to retain authorities within its service area and assume new groundwater-related authorities
Requires mandatory coordination among all GSAs for the entire basin
Flexibility in terms of responsibilities and authorities
Requires mandatory coordination agreement among all GSAs for the entire basin
A Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) can be a single plan covering an entire basin prepared by one or multiple GSAs or multiple plans prepared by multiple GSAs coordinated pursuant to an agreement that covers the entire basin. If multiple plans are prepared for the same basin, the GSAs must coordinate to ensure the same assumptions are made.
A Groundwater Management Plan (AB3030 Plan) can be used as a starting point, but a GSP is much more comprehensive.
The Basin Management Objectives of a Groundwater Management Plan should be useful in crafting the sustainability goals.
Central to each GSP is a water budget analysis. It allows one to track all water supply sources and water demand sinks in a geographic area to reduce vulnerability and risks to people, economy, and environment.
“ Water budget means an accounting of the total groundwater and surface water entering and leaving a basin including the changes in the amount of water stored.” (AB 1739)
Sustainable groundwater management is defined as managing groundwater in such a way that it can be maintained during the planning and implementation period without causing undesirable results.
GSPs are required to include sustainability goals and measurable objectives for sustainable groundwater basin management.
Interim milestones are required for every five years.
Development of the GSP is meant to be an open process in which interested parties have the opportunity to participate in the planning process.
At the start, a GSA must release a written statement about how interested parties can participate
Coordination and outreach is required with other GSAs in the same basin or adjacent basins and stakeholders
Following completion of the GSP, the GSA must:
A GSP must be implemented in order to achieve the sustainability goal within 20 years of GSP adoption. Each year, the GSA must submit an annual report to DWR.
GSP must be periodically evaluated to determine whether modifications need to be made to the plan due to changing conditions in the basin or to adaptively manage the basin and ensure the sustainability goal will be met.
Projects and/or programs may be identified and implemented to:
Projects would be implemented in order to achieve a basin’s sustainability goal and to help address identified basin issues such as groundwater overdraft or saline intrusion.
DWR has released a white paper entitled Water Available for Recharge. This paper can be found www.water.ca.gov/groundwater/sgm/wafr.cfm
Click here for a summary of this public draft white paper.
To effectively manage groundwater extraction, a GSA can:
GSAs are not authorized to issue permits for the construction, modification, or abandonment of groundwater wells, except as authorized by a county with authority to issue those permits.
To finance the preparation and implementation of a GSP, a GSA may:
Proposition 1 – the 2014 Water Bond Authorizes $7.54 billion for water resources projects in California.
$900 million to Groundwater Sustainability funding programs to be administered by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and DWR.
Other portions of Prop 1 that may be available to SGMA-related efforts include: $2.7 billion for water storage projects and $810 million for integrated regional water management projects.
RMC Water and Environment’s professionals have been actively involved in the development of Groundwater Management Plans since the passage of the Groundwater Management Act in 1992, and are currently working with agencies around the state to comply with new guidelines created by the passage of SGMA in 2014. We have worked with many local and regional agencies throughout California—as well as the Department of Water Resources, and State Water Resources Control Board—on groundwater related projects. Through this work and our industry involvement, RMC has helped California agencies move toward sustainable groundwater management.
RMC Water and Environment is a California-based environmental engineering company focused exclusively on water. We work with public agencies and local communities to develop innovative solutions for managing one of the earth’s most vital resources. Every day, RMC brings sound technical expertise and innovative thinking to a broad range of local and regional water-related projects.
Please contact us for more information about how RMC can help you navigate the new sustainable groundwater management requirements.