California has met one of the deadlines put forth by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), in the creation of local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). The formation of so many agencies was a difficult task requiring strong cooperation, commitment and leadership from numerous individuals and communities.
SGMA mandated the creation of locally controlled GSAs by June 30, 2017. As of now, 99 percent of California’s 127 high and medium priority groundwater basins are covered by either a local GSA, groundwater adjudication or alternative sustainability plan. The State Water Resources and Control Board is addressing the remaining basins that did not meet the GSA formation deadline by attempting to identify any active wells drawing groundwater. Extractions of groundwater from unmanaged areas that are not covered by a GSA, adjudication, or alternative plans must be reported to the state.
Now that GSAs have been formed, the next step is to establish and implement groundwater sustainability plans which will be reviewed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Sustainability plans will provide a blueprint and timeline for how to bring basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge, to meet the deadlines created in SGMA. GSAs will be able to craft their plans according to the economic and environmental needs of the local community. The plans will be continuously updated to meet the goal of sustainable management of California’s groundwater by the year 2042.
Basins that have been identified as critically over-drafted will need to have sustainability plans in place by January 31, 2020. High and medium priority basins will have until January 31, 2022, to adopt plans.
DWR will be providing assistance in the creation of sustainability plans through the sharing of important information and data, along with offering guidance publications and grant funding opportunities. DWR is also presenting sustainability plan workshops throughout the state with the first scheduled for September 20th in the Fresno area.
The requirements established by SGMA are intended to provide a safeguard against sustained periods of drought and contribute to a more reliable water supply regardless of weather conditions. Information on SGMA resources and activities is available on the DWR website.