THIS JUST IN … DWR Releases Additional “Incomplete” Groundwater Sustainability Plan Assessments to Agencies, Initiating 180-day Timeline to Correct Deficiencies

From the Department of Water Resources:

Today, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) released eight determinations on groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) developed by local agencies to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

DWR has found in its technical review that the GSPs in eight basins contain deficiencies that preclude approval and the plans are determined to be Incomplete. The eight basins include the Eastern San Joaquin Subbasin, Merced Subbasin, Chowchilla Subbasin, Kings Subbasin, Kaweah Subbasin, Tulare Lake Subbasin, Tule Subbasin, and Kern County Subbasin, primarily located in the San Joaquin Valley.

The basins with GSPs that are determined Incomplete have 180 days from today’s release of DWR’s determination to address deficiencies and resubmit their corrected GSPs to the Department for review.

The determinations can be found on the Department’s SGMA Portal. For more information related to these GSP Assessments, please find the Frequently Asked Questions: Incomplete Determinations & Next Steps on our website. For questions, please contact the Sustainable Groundwater Management Office by emailing sgmps@water.ca.gov.

 

THIS JUST IN … DWR Releases Additional Groundwater Sustainability Plan Assessments to Agencies

From the Department of Water Resources:

Today, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) released two additional determinations on groundwater sustainability plans developed by local agencies to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

DWR has approved plans for the Los Posas Valley Basin in Ventura County and the Indian Wells Valley Basin, primarily located in northeast Kern County. These two plans are approved with recommended corrective actions that the groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) will need to address in their next plan update, due in January 2025. The GSAs for these basins will continue implementing their plans to achieve SGMA’s goal of groundwater sustainability within 20 years.

The determinations can be found on the Department’s SGMA Portal. For questions, please contact the Sustainable Groundwater Management Office by emailing sgmps@water.ca.gov.

KERN COUNTY WATER SUMMIT: SGMA Implementation Update

At the Kern County Water Summit held last week, hosted by the Water Association of Kern County, Acting Deputy Director of the Department of Water Resources Statewide Groundwater Management Program Steven Springhorn provided an update on the Department’s progress on SGMA implementation, including the Department’s review of the submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plans and the existing and proposed SGMA-related assistance.

He began by noting the considerable amount of work that has been done the past six years since the law went into effect, includes establishing regulations for the forming Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (or GSAs) and for developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans (or GSPs).

We are right now at a point where SGMA is hitting its full stride,” said Mr. Springhorn.  “There is still a lot of work ahead of us in this next phase, which is full-scale plan implementation over the next 20 years.  The local efforts of implementing plans and adaptively managing the groundwater basins will allow us to find solutions to the tough challenges that are out there in order to reach sustainability in 20 years and make measurable progress along the way.

Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.

DWR Releases First Assessments of Initial Groundwater Sustainability Plans

From the Department of Water Resources:
 
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today released its first assessments of groundwater sustainability plans developed by local agencies to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
 
DWR has completed its assessment and approved plans for the Santa Cruz Mid-County Basin in Santa Cruz County and 180/400 Foot Aquifer Subbasin in Monterey County. The groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) for these critically over-drafted basins will continue implementing their plans to achieve SGMA’s goal of groundwater sustainability within 20 years.
 
DWR has notified GSAs for the Cuyama Valley Basin and Paso Robles Subbasin that their plans lack specific details and are not yet approved. DWR is requesting a consultation meeting with the GSAs to discuss actions necessary to improve the plans. DWR is committed to working with local agencies and providing technical and financial support to help them bring their basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge.
 
“Local management, including development of solutions for the long-term reliability of groundwater, is the cornerstone of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “DWR’s evaluation and assessment of groundwater sustainability plans is an important step in the long process of bringing our critical groundwater basins into sustainability, helping to ensure Californians have a reliable water source during drought years and for generations to come.”
 
DWR is releasing plan assessments as they are completed, rather than waiting to release the assessments at the end of the two-year review period in January 2022, to provide early feedback and guidance that can inform other GSAs as they develop their plans.
 
SGMA initiated a new era of local groundwater management. For the first time in California’s water history, local agencies and groundwater users are required to form GSAs and develop and implement plans to guide how they will achieve groundwater basin sustainability goals over the next 20 years. SGMA lays out a process designed for continuous improvement – gathering information to fill data gaps, updating plans, and promoting science-based adaptation. Plans will be updated as new information becomes available and as conditions change in groundwater basins. DWR will review annual reports and also assess each plan every five years to determine if the GSAs are on track to meet their basin’s goal.
 
Despite the long-term timeline, SGMA requires near-term actions that will help the state manage water resources during dry and drought years. For example, GSAs have been required to submit annual progress reports since 2020 with the most up-to-date monitoring and plan implementation information for their groundwater basins, including groundwater levels and use. This data can be accessed on the SGMA Portal. By tracking conditions and implementation performance, the state and local agencies can better manage water resources during average and wet years to ensure groundwater will be available as a buffer during dry years.
 
In addition to and aligned with plan evaluation, DWR continues to support GSAs by providing planning, technical and financial assistance. Recently, DWR announced $26 million in grant funding for project investments to improve water supply security, water quality and the reliability of groundwater. These efforts align with the Administration’s budget proposal for significant additional funding for projects to improve groundwater conditions and advance safe drinking water efforts for groundwater-dependent communities.
 
For more information about DWR’s available assistance, watch this video and visit the assistance and engagement webpage.
 
Additional information, including a video message from DWR on the assessments, is available at this website.

Analysis of 31 GSPs in Critically Overdrafted Basins

One of the key criteria that the Department of Water Resources (DWR) must consider when evaluating whether a GSP is likely to achieve the sustainability goal for the basin is “Whether the interests of the beneficial uses and users of groundwater in the basin, and the land uses and property interests potentially affected by the use of groundwater in the basin, have been considered” (23 California Code of Regulations [CCR] § 355.4(b)(4)).

In regard to this and other statutory requirements to consider and address the needs of all beneficial users in GSPs, a group of NGOs, with the support of Water Foundation, collectively reviewed 31 GSPs in 16 critically overdrafted basins and subbasins.

The organizations collectively submitted detailed formal comment letters to each GSA on the public draft GSPs as well as detailed formal comment letters to DWR on the final GSP documents, within the formal public review period.

The reviews were prioritized towards those GSPs that were considered to be of high priority by our organizations due to the presence of: (1) small drinking water systems, (2) groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs), and (3) DACs. Prioritization also considered coverage and interest by the respective organizations, with the goal of selecting at least one GSP per critically overdrafted basin.

Although we did not review all 46 submitted GSPs, the findings from our analysis are both valuable to inform GSP implementation and updates in critically overdrafted basins, and to inform the development and review of GSPs currently being drafted for the remaining high- and medium-priority basins. For each of the five key elements, the following sections discuss: (1) the regulatory basis for consideration of beneficial users, (2) a summary of our review findings, (3) a discussion of how the GSPs should have more adequately addressed the key issues, and (4) a selection of “Model GSP Elements” from reviewed GSPs.

It is the goal of this analysis to share our findings in order to help inform and improve the development of GSPs for non-critically overdrafted basins, as well as to inform opportunities for improvement of GSPs for critically overdrafted basins.

For more analysis on the 2020 GSPs, visit the 2020 GSP page at the Groundwater Exchange.

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?

GSA SUMMIT: Lessons learned from the 2020 GSPs: Perspectives from the critically overdrafted basins

The implementation phase of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act has now begun for the basins designated as critically-overdrafted. Getting to this point has been an unparalleled journey as communities, farmers, water suppliers, and others navigated through uncharted territory to develop local solutions for sustainable groundwater management. At the Groundwater Resources Association Third Annual Groundwater Sustainability Agency Summit held online in June, a panel of managers from four of the critically overdrafted basins reflected on the hard work of developing and adopting a groundwater sustainability plan.

Seated on the panel were Gary Petersen from the Salinas Valley Basin GSA; Eric Osterling from the Mid Kaweah GSA; Deanna Jackson from TriCounty GSA; and Patricia Poire from the Kern Groundwater Authority.  Collectively, these GSAs are having to deal with all six of the undesirable results, from subsidence to groundwater levels to seawater intrusion, and they overly five of the 21 critically overdrafted basins.

Each panelist then discussed the process that they went through in developing their plans, the lessons they learned, and their advice for those developing the plans that will be due in January of 2022.

Click here to read this article.