Sustainable Groundwater Management Implementation

  • Jul 15, 2020

Photo: CA Department of Water Resources

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires local governments and water agencies of high and medium-priority basins to form groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) to develop groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs). The GSPs describe how GSAs will prevent, halt and/or reverse overdraft and undesirable results. Plans will also chart a path forward in setting sustainability goals for each basin based on minimum thresholds and measurable objectives and through the development of projects and management actions to sustainably manage groundwater basins with balanced levels of pumping and recharge over a 20-year planning and implementation horizon.

ACWA member agencies are participating in GSA efforts across the state and ACWA strongly supports local agency efforts related to SGMA and increasing opportunities for groundwater replenishment. This page provides up-to-date information and resources related to sustainable groundwater management that includes recent announcements, funding opportunities, legislative and regulatory information and more. Click on the below drop-down menus to learn more.

2020 Updates

DWR Hosts Public Comment Period Deadline for GSPs: SGMA required GSAs in critically overdrafted basins to submit their GSPs to the DWR by Jan. 31. The comments were due May 15 and June 3. The plans and comments are available online. DWR has two years to review the plans.
DWR Closes Public Comment Period for Draft Water Budget Handbook: DWR recently closed their public comment period on a technical resource document, the draft “Handbook for Water Budget Development: With or Without Models”. ACWA’s Groundwater Committee provided public comments and endorsed the technical comments by the Groundwater Resources Association. Both comment letters can be found on ACWA’s website. DWR will continue working with interested stakeholders to finalize this technical resource document.
State Water Board Water Rights Permits for Groundwater Recharge: Capturing and storing surface water generally requires an appropriative water right. Capturing surface water to recharge groundwater aquifers is an important method for achieving groundwater sustainability and complying with SGMA. Accordingly, GSAs may elect to submit an application for a new water right permit. There are three permit options:

DWR’s Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge (Flood-MAR) Survey: At the October 2019 Flood-MAR Public Forum, a proposal was recommended to create a Flood-MAR Network to communicate, coordinate, and share information to explore Flood-MAR implementation. Unlike traditional organizations, in a network no one is “in charge” – rather, all participants invest themselves in working together, using common operating principles, to enhance their separate activities. DWR is requesting water community input by May 22 via a survey for what a Flood-MAR Network could look like.  Click here for the online survey.


Groundwater Sustainability Plans:

Under Water Code Section 10733.2, DWR is required to draft and adopt emergency regulations for the evaluation of GSPs and Alternatives, the implementation of GSPs and Alternatives, and coordination agreements. Throughout 2015 and into 2016, DWR met regularly with numerous SGMA advisory groups and conducted public meetings and webinars to gather input from other statewide stakeholders, partners, and local agencies for consideration in the Draft GSP Emergency Regulations. On May 18, 2016, the proposed GSP Emergency Regulations were presented for consideration and unanimously approved by the California Water Commission, then submitted to the Office of Administrative Law.

Basin Boundaries:

SGMA established a process for local agencies to request DWR to revise the boundaries of existing groundwater basins or subbasins, including establishing new subbasins. DWR developed the Basin Boundary Emergency Regulations after extensive outreach to SGMA advisory groups, partners, local agencies, and members of the public. The Basin Boundary Emergency Regulations were approved on October 21, 2015 by the California Water Commission, then submitted to the Office of Administrative Law.


On September 16, 2014, former Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a three-bill legislative package, collectively known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act:

Member Agency Case Studies

Visit the below to learn more about how ACWA member agencies are working towards sustainable groundwater supplies.

ACWA Groundwater Replenishment Framework & Policy Principles

In November 2019, ACWA prepared A Technical Framework for Increasing Groundwater Replenishment  in response to a growing need to promote groundwater replenishment activities as a strategy to maintain or improve groundwater levels statewide. This framework summarizes tools and resources, and provides a narrative framework and checklist for water managers to consider as they pursue groundwater recharge projects and activities. The document provides the financial, technical, institution and administrative considerations for how to develop groundwater replenishment projects which will be included in the projects and management actions section of GSPs.

ACWA’s Board of Directors approved the following groundwater management policy principles and other framework documents to guide the association in :

Funding Opportunities

DWR Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program:

The Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Grant Program provides funding for sustainable groundwater planning and implementation projects through a competitive grant solicitation process. Projects may include the development and implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) and those that provide investments in groundwater recharge with surface water, stormwater, recycled water, the prevention of groundwater contamination.

  • Planning Grants: In March 2020, DWR awarded its third round of planning grants, approximately $47 million in grant funding to 53 applicants to support the development and implementation of GSPs.
  • Implementation Grants: The implementation grant solicitation is anticipated to open in early 2022. At least $88 million will be available for competitive grants for projects that address drought and groundwater investments.

More information can be found at DWR’s website online.

Department of Conservation SGMA Coordinator Grants:

A new 2020 Sustainable Groundwater Management Watershed Coordinator (SGMA) Grant Program is being launched at the Department of Conservation.  Approximately $1.5 million is available in grants for watershed coordinators in parts of the state impacted by implementation of SGMA.  Information about the program can be found at online. The public comment period for the draft Solicitation and Application for 2020 Sustainable Groundwater Management Watershed Coordinator Program Grants (PDF) is now closed. The Department of Conservation is now reviewing comments received. Final solicitation materials will be published approximately May 15, 2020.​