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.

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