New report identifies major gaps in SGMA, provides recommendations

In 2014, California’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) promised comprehensive management of California’s groundwater. The report, based on joint analysis by Stanford University’s Water in the West and The Nature Conservancy, finds that SGMA actually suffers from several major gaps in its coverage.

Indeed, SGMA currently protects less than two percent of California’s groundwater. While SGMA covers those groundwater basins where the vast majority of pumping today occurs, it does not protect many other important groundwater sources, leaving that groundwater at risk of over-pumping, now and in the future, with no state oversight to safeguard rural domestic wells, sensitive habitats, and other beneficial uses of water. 

This report, Mind the Gaps: The Case for Truly Comprehensive Sustainable Groundwater Management, details SGMA’s gaps and their consequences and recommends several ways to remedy these gaps. The gaps largely stem from the ways in which the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) defines and prioritizes groundwater basins in Bulletin 118 (California’s Groundwater). … ”

Read the report here: Mind the Gaps: The Case for Truly Comprehensive Sustainable Groundwater Management

Report provides guidance on repurposing California farmland to benefit water, landowners, communities and wildlife

Over the coming decades, California’s San Joaquin Valley will transition to sustainable groundwater management under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), ensuring reliable groundwater supplies for generations to come. Sustainable groundwater management and a changing climate will inevitably affect how land is used on a sweeping scale. …

To help groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs), local governments, rural communities and land use planners facing these challenges, Environmental Defense Fund worked with a broad group of stakeholders to develop a new guide, Advancing Strategic Land Repurposing and Groundwater Sustainability in California. …

Read more from the Environmental Defense Fund here:  Report provides guidance on repurposing California farmland to benefit water, landowners, communities and wildlife

California regions submitted their first Groundwater Sustainability Plans in 2020. How did they do?

” … With support from the Water Foundation, a collaborative effort among California nonprofits and community groups has been leading statewide advocacy to ensure public agencies and elected officials implement the legislation fairly, effectively, and equitably.

This month, the group marked an important milestone.  Over the past year, researchers and advocates at Ag Innovations, Audubon California, Clean Water Fund, Local Government Commission, The Nature Conservancy, and Union of Concerned Scientists, among others, have been pouring over thousands upon thousands of pages of local groundwater sustainability plans.  While often hard to decipher and full of technical jargon, these plans reveal more about California’s groundwater health than we’ve ever seen publicly available before. …

Continue reading at the Water Foundation here:  California Regions Submitted Their First Groundwater Sustainability Plans in 2020. How Did They Do?

The Basin Characterization Model—A Regional Water Balance Software Package

This report documents the computer software package, Basin Characterization Model, version 8 (BCMv8)—a monthly, gridded, regional water-balance model—and provides detailed operational instructions and example applications. After several years of many applications and uses of a previous version, CA-BCM, published in 2014, the BCMv8 was refined to improve the accuracy of the water-balance components, particularly the recharge estimate, which is the most difficult to accurately assess.

The improvement of the various water-balance components targeted the actual evapotranspiration component, which, in turn, reduced the uncertainty of the recharge estimate. The improvement of this component was enabled by the availability of a national, gridded actual-evapotranspiration product from the U.S. Geological Survey that was unique in its scope to combine remotely sensed spatial variability and ground-based long-term water-balance constraints.

This dataset provided the ability to assess monthly actual evapotranspiration for 62 vegetation types and to perform regional calibration in watersheds throughout California with the objective of closing the water balance using improved estimates for each component. The refinements, including vegetation-specific evapotranspiration, enabled the development of applications that could explore various aspects of landscape disturbance, such as wildfire, forest management, or urbanization.

The improvements to BCMv8 also provided the ability to assess long-term sustainability of water resources under a variety of management applications or future climate projections.

For more information, click here.

DWR Releases Draft California’s Groundwater – Update 2020, Seeks Public Comment

From the Department of Water Resources:

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today released the draft California’s Groundwater – Update 2020 (Bulletin-118), containing information on the condition of the State’s groundwater, which is especially important as California faces a critically dry water year. DWR encourages community members and water managers to review the publication and provide input.

This version of California’s Groundwater provides a comprehensive look at statewide groundwater activities, compiling technical information and data from 2003 to 2020. This bulletin recognizes the historic passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 and builds a statewide framework to share new information and progress made by locals who are managing groundwater basins across the state. It also highlights emerging topics such as water markets and the impacts of climate change on groundwater and summarizes groundwater information for each of the State’s 10 hydrologic regions.

The publication contains a Highlights overview section in English and Spanish, and a detailed Statewide Report, which features current knowledge of groundwater resources including information on the location, characteristics, use, management status, and conditions of the state’s groundwater. The publication also presents findings and recommendations that support the future management and protection of groundwater.

This information can help communities and local water managers work together to find unique ways to manage their groundwater basins for long-term reliability and support actions being implemented as part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020 California Water Resilience Portfolio.

California’s Groundwater is organized to share the growing body of groundwater data that is available now and will continue to be submitted by local agencies in the future as part of the implementation of SGMA.

DWR is developing a companion California’s Groundwater web-based dashboard leveraging the California Natural Resources Agency Open Data Platform to improve the access and timeliness of statewide groundwater information, making it easily available for water managers and the public to use.

California’s Groundwater Information 

Public Webinar Meeting

 DWR will present an overview of California’s Groundwater at a public webinar meeting on March 30, 2021, from noon to 1:30 p.m. RSVP here.

Public Comment Period

 A 45-day public comment period is now open on the draft report and companion California’s Groundwater Online application. All comments will be reviewed and will provide valuable feedback to DWR to improve the analysis, reporting, and access to California’s groundwater information.

Public comments can be emailed to and will be accepted through April 26, 2021.

To review submitted public comments, email

California’s Groundwater – Update 2020

The final version of California’s Groundwater is expected to be released in summer 2021.

For more information, visit the updated California’s Groundwater webpage.

Combined Well Standards Reposted to DWR Website

The Combined Well Standards, DWR Bulletin 74-81 and 74-90 are once again available for use. This web-based document was remediated to meet accessibility requirements.

The publication is an informal compilation of Bulletin 74-81 and the draft supplemental, Bulletin 74-90. Although Bulletin 74-90 was not finalized by DWR nor officially adopted into the Model Well Ordinance by the State Water Resources Control Board, it has been adopted into local ordinances around the state.

To facilitate its use, DWR has combined the contents according to Table 1 (B74-90) of Bulletin 74-90 and made minor modifications in wording and formatting to improve readability.

DWR is no longer able to post the PDF versions of the original DWR Bulletin 74-81 and Bulletin 74-90 on their webpage since they do not meet accessibility standards. They are available on the Internet Archive: Bulletin 74-81 and Bulletin 74-90.

Until the Bulletin 74 Update is completed, DWR’s project team hopes these Combined Well Standards serve as a useful resource for you in your work. For questions or more information, email

New at the Groundwater Exchange

New tool on GSPs and dry wells

This tool was created to show you, the user, how groundwater management decisions will impact homes with domestic wells in the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (“GSAs”), created following the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, are in charge of how groundwater is used and managed. Policy decisions made by GSAs, and codified in Groundwater Sustainability Plans (“GSPs”), will either protect domestic wells or allow them to go dry.

Click here to view the tool.

For more data sources and tools, visit the Directory of Data and Tools at the Groundwater Exchange.

DWR/SWRCB Joint SGMA Webinar

On February 18, 2021, the Department of Water Resources and the State Water Resources Control Board hosted a webinar on groundwater sustainability planning, which included an update on how the State is moving forward with groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) evaluations, the timeline and approach to releasing assessments for GSPs submitted to DWR by January 31, 2020, and an overview of state assistance to support locals moving forward with SGMA implementation.

Click here to watch the webinar.
The webinar slides are available here.

For more videos on everything from IRWM to groundwater recharge,  visit the Groundwater Exchange’s video gallery.

Fact sheets available from the California Farm Bureau Federation

FACT SHEET: Lowering groundwater levels:  Chronic lowering of groundwater levels can occur when the volume of groundwater pumped exceeds the volume of recharge, year over year. SGMA requires that Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) set forth actions to stabilize and/or improve groundwater levels. Prepared by the California Farm Bureau Federation.  Click here for the fact sheet.

FACT SHEET: Reduction of storage: Reductions in groundwater storage are reflected in falling groundwater levels and can occur when the volume of groundwater pumped exceeds the volume replenished, year over year. SGMA requires that Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) address significant and unreasonable reductions of groundwater storage.  Prepared by the California Farm Bureau Federation.  Click here for the fact sheet.

FACT SHEET: Degraded Water Quality:  Managing groundwater quality is critical to ensure that all beneficial users have access to safe and reliable
groundwater supply that meets current and future demands. SGMA requires that Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) set forth actions to avoid or mitigate degradation of groundwater quality as a result of projects or management actions implemented as part of the GSP.  Brochure by the California Farm Bureau Federation.  Click here for the fact sheet.

FACT SHEET: Surface water depletions: Natural variability is common in streamflow and wetland areas in California. Groundwater may play an important role in surface water ecosystems such as streams, springs, seeps and wetlands. In those cases, groundwater pumping can exacerbate stream depletion and impact wetland ecosystems. In turn, surface water depletion can unreasonably impact fish and other beneficial aquatic uses. Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) must establish threshold values and set forth actions to avoid this undesirable result.  Fact sheet produced by the California Farm Bureau Federation.  Click here for the fact sheet.

NEW Video Gallery at the Groundwater Exchange

At the Groundwater Exchange, we’re working to update the website and adding new features.

One of those is the new Video Gallery, where you can find introductory videos on SGMA, SGMA videos in Spanish, and special topic videos on groundwater recharge, Integrated Regional Water Management, and more!

Check out the new video gallery by clicking here.

The Groundwater Exchange video gallery can link to videos posted on YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook, so if you have a video to add, send the link to


WEBINAR: Regulating Groundwater Quality Across SGMA, CV-Salts, and ILRP

Join Maven’s Notebook and the Local Government Commission on October 28th from 12:00-1:30pm for a panel discussion on how the Irrigated Lands Program (ILRP), the Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long-Term Sustainability (CV-Salts) initiative, and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) can work together to support water quality improvements across the San Joaquin Valley.

Our panelists are:

  • Theresa “Tess” Dunham, Attorney with Kahn, Soares, & Conway LLP
  • Natalie Stork, Chief, Groundwater Management Program at State Water Resources Control Board
  • Jennifer Clary, California Director, Clean Water Action

The panel will be moderated by Daniel Cozad, Executive Director of the Central Valley Salinity Coalition.

The webinar is scheduled from 12:00pm to 1:30pm.

Click here to register.

Other upcoming groundwater events …

Water Markets, SGMA & California’s First Open-Source Water Accounting and Trading Platform, October 28th, 12-1:30pm*Presented by the Environmental Defense Fund.  Click here to register.

Virtual Conference: Building a Water-Resilient California, November 12, 17, 19 from 11am to 12pm.  Presented by the PPIC.  November 17 focuses on collaborative approaches to foster groundwater sustainability.  Click here to register.

*Both the water accounting platform webinar and the CV-SALTS webinar will be recorded and made available on the Groundwater Exchange platform.