Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) Draft Emergency Regulations

By Sheryl HamlimCADeptWaterResoucesEmblem

On September 21, 2015, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) hosted the third of three webinars to conclude the presentation of the draft SGMA Emergency Regulations. The implementation schedule of SGMA calls for these regulations to be approved by 2015 and in use by 2016.  Previous webinars were reported here and here. To see all of the material for the ten topics, webinars and draft papers, click here. Timeline and major milestones should be reviewed. Click here to see the entire timeline. The next decade is critical in water management milestones.

SGMA was passed a year ago (2014) and went into effect on January 1, 2015. The legislative intent of SGMA was multi-faceted.

Legislative Intent

Near term milestones include the formation of the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) and the creation of the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP). Note that 65 GSA’s have identified themselves to DWR. In Ventura County, there are eight, which are shown below. To view updates to this list click here.  For a complete list of the GSA responsibilities, click here.

SGMA Milestones

The GSA Formation query is just one of several interactive tools on the DWR website. Note that the GSA formation is a function of the condition of the basin. Those basins with the highest critical overdraft must form GSA’s first. For a list of the high and medium basins, click here. A basin may protest its inclusion in one of the critical area or may petition to change its boundaries. Ventura County is located in the Central Coast hydrologic region which is the most groundwater dependent hydrologic region in the state of California. There are 127 high (43) and medium (84) groundwater basins identified which provide 96% of the groundwater supply and 88% of the 2010 population. There are 515 basins total in California. By June 30, 2017, the state has the option of becoming the GSA for areas who have not declared their intent to manage a basin.


The basins must improve on six “undesirable results” defined as follows: lowering of groundwater levels, reduction of groundwater storage, seawater intrusion, water quality degradation, land subsidence and surface water depletion. Measurements for all conditions must be taken regularly and provided to DWR. There will be a new database with the exact definitions for the measurements. This is not to be the CASGEM database, but will be a new database specific to SGMA GSP monitoring.

There are ten topics which have been identified from the texts of the SGMA. Based on this summer’s outreach, DWR has written ten papers which give practical explanations of each topic and how or where in the law the topic appears. All ten papers have been published here under the heading “Groundwater Sustainability Plan Regulations”. These regulations will be adopted by January 1, 2016. To view the full timeline, click here. This timeline extends for the first decade of the SGMA legislation through 2025.


First, Trevor Joseph from DWR presented modifications to Topic 4 allowing alternatives to GSP. The distinction is that the alternative MUST cover the entire basin, which differs from a GSP which can cover a part of a basin. Next, topics 7, 8, 9, and 10 were reviewed.

Topic 7 and Topic 9

Dan McManus presented topics 7 and 9. Water Budget is defined as “an accounting of the total groundwater and surface water entering and leaving a basin including the changes in the amount of water stored”. Data must be developed and maintained for these purposes, including the resolution of disputes. Remember that “sustainability” means a basin that can be maintained; it is in stasis and does not cause “undesirable results” as defined above. Water budgets require “measureable objectives”. In Topic 7, a basic analysis is shown versus a comprehensive analysis requiring more data and a different model. Remember that the GSA can collect a fee for this data collection and water management. DWR has an interactive GIS website that shows well reporting, dry wells and location. DWR is looking to provide minimal standards, eg, standard units and metadata. Groundwater models can take the place of monitoring, but not all agencies have the capability of creating models or the budget. DWR is looking at providing model templates. Adjudicated basins must provide annual reports, but their management is not predicated on sustainability.

Topic 8

Rich Juricich presented Topic 8, which explain the proposed coordination between the State Water Board (SWRCB) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR). If DWR deems a plan incomplete or inadequate, the State Water Board may chose to prepare an interim plan in order to remedy the deficiencies. The goal is to avoid duplication between DWR and the State Water Board. DWR and SWCRB have related but different roles for evaluating the GSP issues. The point was made that an extensible framework was more important at this point than defining all exact data elements. DWR is providing facilitation services for GSA’s in the process of formation.

Topic 10

Trevor Joseph presented topic 10. Adaptive Management is an old technique which is applicable to SGMA. As in all cases, focus is on the areas of the most need. Periodic assessment and measurement may warrant updating of the plan itself, which is part of the iterative adaptive process. A member of the audience suggested using triggers to provide a way to adapt the measurable objectives.


Watch the webinar here.

Please send questions or comments to [email protected] about any of the ten topic papers.

Additional Meetings in Public Session Format

The State Water Resources Control Board and the Department of Water Resources have added an additional informational meeting to discuss implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and to answer questions from the public.  The additional meeting will be held on November 5th in Redding, CA at the Redding City Hall (City Council Chambers, 777 Cypress Ave, Redding, CA 96001).  The November 5th meeting will have a 1-4pm combined technical session and public forum that is open to Local Public Agencies, organizations, groundwater users and the general public.

The November 5th meeting is in addition to previously noticed SGMA Information meetings on:

  •  October 21st – Valley Glen, CA: Los Angeles Valley College Campus Center Building Monarch Hall, 5800 Fulton Ave, Valley Glen, CA 91401
  • October 22nd – Visalia, CA: 210Life, 210 W. Center Ave, Visalia, CA 93291
  • October 27th – Sacramento, CA: CalEPA Building, Coastal Hearing Room, 1001 I St, Sacramento, CA 95814 (meeting will also be available via Webcast)

The October 21st, 22nd, and 27th meetings will have sessions from:

  • 1-4 pm: Technical session for Local Public Agencies and organizations
  • 6-8 pm: Public forum for groundwater users and the general public


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