California Marks Key Step Toward Achieving Sustainable Groundwater Management

  • by Will Holbert
  • Jan 31, 2020
  • Water News

SACRAMENTO – Local agencies representing 19 of the state’s most stressed groundwater basins were required to submit plans to the state today on how they will manage their basins to achieve sustainability by 2040. Several plans were submitted early and were posted online today, starting a public comment period which closes on April 15, 2020. The remaining plans will be posted online in the coming weeks for a 75-day public comment period.

“SGMA deserves an opportunity to work, and ACWA strongly supports preserving existing requirements under SGMA as it enters this critical phase,” wrote ACWA Executive Director Dave Eggerton in a Voices on Water blog posted today. “We must join together to empower the efforts of local leaders working together with stakeholders in affected communities to achieve the laudable goals of SGMA.

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), signed into law in 2014, requires locally led Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to develop groundwater sustainability plans outlining actions and implementation measures to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into sustainable conditions. Plans for critically overdrafted basins are due today, Jan. 31, 2020. High- and medium-priority basins have until 2022 to submit plans and are required to reach sustainability by 2042. SGMA allows for more than one GSP to be prepared for a single basin as long as the GSAs demonstrate the plans work together through a coordination agreement.

GSAs are submitting plans to DWR, the lead state agency providing compliance and regulatory oversight. The State Water Resources Control Board can intervene in basins when local management of groundwater is not successful.

Once a plan is submitted, DWR has 20 days to post it on the website, at which point the plans are open to public comment for 75 days. GSAs will begin implementing their plans immediately after they adopt them.

SGMA directs DWR to evaluate and assess all plans to determine whether each plan is adequate, based on best available science and information, and whether implementation of the plan is likely to achieve the groundwater basin’s sustainability goal. More information about the plan submittal and review process and the significance of managing groundwater for long-term sustainability is contained on DWR’s website.

Groundwater accounts for about 40% of the state’s water use in a normal year and up to 60% during dry years. Groundwater is the only water supply for approximately a third of California residents, and many municipal, agricultural, and disadvantaged communities rely on groundwater for all of their water supply needs. Implementation of SGMA is an important component of Governor Newsom’s recently released draft Water Resilience Portfolio.

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