SGMA in the News

Consultants share their top 10 lessons learned from 5 years of SGMA implementation

September 3, 2020

From Montgomery & Associates:

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is a complex program with a new language that must be mastered by consultants, basin managers, and stakeholders alike. When California first embarked upon the SGMA journey five years ago, there was a lot of trepidation about implementing this bold and untested groundwater management program.

M&A’s SGMA team has worked on 13 Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs), including three GSPs submitted in January 2020. It hasn’t always been easy, and there have been plenty of bumps along the way, but we’ve learned a lot in those five years, and we are happy to share some of what we learned. …

Click here to read this article from Montgomery & Associates.

Rebalancing Agricultural and Natural Land

September 3, 2020

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

Over the next 20 years, San Joaquin Valley farmers may need to temporarily fallow or permanently retire over half a million acres of cropland as California pushes towards sustainable groundwater use.

But, according to new research led by Stanford University and The Nature Conservancy, using an informed approach to land management that engages and compensates landowners for dedicating land to habitat can spur recovery of biodiversity in local ecosystems and provide other environmental benefits for people.

While California’s San Joaquin Valley produces crops totaling over $35 billion a year on five million acres of land, expanding irrigated agriculture has led to significant challenges such as groundwater overdraft and drinking water contamination, along with major losses of biodiversity and habitat.

Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) – which limits groundwater withdrawal to bring water use into balance with supplies in California – provides an opportunity for conservation actors to work with farmers and re-envision the balance between agricultural and natural land. …

Click here to continue reading this article from Stanford’s Water in the West.

Research Briefs: CA Farmer Perspectives on Groundwater Management

September 3, 2020

From the Water Foundation:

Producing food requires large water resources, and in California, thousands of farms are mostly or solely reliant on groundwater sources. While farmers are integral stakeholders in sustainable groundwater management, the perceptions of individual farmers regarding water policy and management are not well understood.

Food system and natural resources researchers at the University of Vermont surveyed Yolo County farmers in 2017 to understand their perspectives on SGMA, water management practices, and policy preferences. In 2019, with support from the Water Foundation, Meredith Niles at the University of Vermont and Courtney Hammond Wagner at Stanford University expanded their survey and analysis to farmers in Fresno, Madera, and San Luis Obispo counties, in partnership with local county farm bureaus.

Together, these four county-level surveys of 690 farmers revealed many similarities in farmers’ perspectives, despite agricultural and sociocultural differences. …

Click here to continue reading at the Water Foundation.

See also: To Achieve Sustainable Groundwater Management, CA Needs a Bigger, Inclusive Table, commentary by Alesandra Nájera and Mike Myatt

Category: New reports

Sustainable for Whom? The Impact of Groundwater Sustainability Plans on Domestic Wells

September 3, 2020

From UC Davis Center for Regional Change:

Studies estimate that 1.5 – 2.5 million Californians rely on domestic wells to meet their household water needs (Johnson and Belitz 2015; Dieter et al. 2018; Pace et al. 2020). But because domestic wells are often shallow, they are also often sensitive to changes in groundwater levels. As such, sustainable groundwater management has an important role to play in safeguarding the health and safety of residents and the achievement of California’s recognized Human Right to Water. 

This report analyzes 41 Groundwater Sustainability Plans in 19 critical priority subbasins in California (in the San Joaquin Valley, Central California, and the Central Coast) to assess monitoring network coverage and the vulnerability of domestic wells to minimum thresholds (MTs), or the lowest groundwater level considered sustainable. …

Click here to read this article and download the report.

Category: New reports

LEGAL ALERT: Supreme Court of California Weighs In on Blanket Categorization of Well Construction Permit Approvals as Ministerial

September 3, 2020


Key points in this legal brief:

      • A permitting agency’s blanket designation of an entire category of permit decisions as ministerial for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) may be held to be improper if the agency has the ability to modify or deny the permit based on any concern that may be examined under CEQA review.
      • Courts will afford a larger degree of deference to an agency’s designation of a single permit decision as ministerial on a case-by-case basis.”

Click here to read the full legal brief.

Category: News Article

UPCOMING CALENDAR EVENTS on Integrated Regional Water Management, SGMA, Fees for GSP development, Equitable involvement in water planning

September 3, 2020

FREE WEBINAR: What is Integrated Regional Water Management?

September 10, 10am to 12:15pm

As a preview to the Statewide Virtual Summit, “Ensuring Equitable Engagement in Regional Water Planning” scheduled for October 8th, 13th and 14th, the Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Roundtable of Regions invites you to join us to learn more about:

    • Integrated Regional Water Management: the benefits of regional planning and who should participate in IRWM;
    • How to participate in your region’s IRWM; and
    • The role of the IRWM Roundtable of Regions and their “Disadvantaged Communities Working Group”

The webinar will also feature local representatives from three IRWM regions who will share their perspectives on the benefits, successes, and challenges of participating in their region’s IRWM program.

Who Should Attend this Webinar?

    • Community Members
    • Tribal Representatives
    • Water and Wastewater Service Providers
    • Local and State Elected Officials and staff
    • State Agencies
    • Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)
    • Anyone interested in regional water management

Click here to register.

VIRTUAL CONFERENCE: Western Groundwater Congress

September 14-17

In 2020, join your community of geologists, engineers and other groundwater thrill seekers for the third annual Western Groundwater Congress hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association of California.

You’ll find four half-day sessions dedicated to Water Resources, SGMA, Contaminants and a myriad of Hot Topics  related to the furtherance of GRA’s vision of Sustainable Groundwater for All.

Technical sessions will run from 8:30am to 12:30pm each day of the event. The Virtual Exhibit Hall will be available for attendees to explore and make contact with exhibitors for the entirety of the event and there will be wellness activities and networking opportunities throughout the week!

Click here for more information.

FREE WEBINAR: Financing Options and Strategies for Groundwater Sustainability Plan Development

September 17, 11am

Join BB&K Partner Lutfi Kharuf as he discusses structuring fees for initial planning and GSP implementation, rate-setting issues under Propositions 26 and 218, and other funding strategies.

Click here to register.

FREE WEBINAR: Successful Collaboration between IRWM and SGMA

September 23, 12pm to 1:30pm

Can IRWM and SGMA work together collaboratively to their mutual benefit? Join the webinar on September 23 from noon – 1:30 p.m. to hear three practitioners share their experience on the benefits of successful collaboration between Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) programs. This is the first in a series of webinars hosted by Maven’s Notebook exploring a range of topics relevant to IRWM and SGMA.

Lance Eckhart, General Manager, San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency, will moderate a panel of IRWM/SGMA practitioners including Rob Swartz, Manager of Technical Services, Regional Water Authority; David Orth, Principal, New Current Water and Land, LLC; and Angela Islas, Community Development Specialist, Self-Help Enterprises. They will share their experiences of successful partnerships between IRWM and SGMA.

This webinar will be of interest to:

  • IRWM Practitioners
  • SGMA/Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) Practitioners
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Community members
  • Tribal members
  • Local and State elected officials and their staff
  • State agencies
  • Anyone interested in regional water management

In addition to Maven’s Notebook, the webinar is being sponsored by the IRWM Roundtable of Regions, the California Department of Water Resources, the Local Government Commission, and the NGO Groundwater Collaborative.

Click here to register.

FREE ONLINE CONFERENCE: Ensuring equitable involvement in regional water planning

October 8, 13, and 14

The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority and the Local Government Commission are sponsoring a no-cost statewide summit, with support by the Department of Water Resources to share strategies for engaging marginalized communities in regional water management as learned through local implementation of the Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Disadvantaged Communities and Tribal Involvement Program.

The 3-day summit will highlight best practices and resources developed through this program, and elevate how lessons learned from IRWM underrepresented community engagement can be shared across other water planning efforts.

Who Should Attend? 

    • IRWM Practitioners
    • Community Members
    • Tribal Representatives
    • State Agencies
    • Local Leaders

Click here to register.

NOTICE: Department of Conservation SGMA Watershed Coordinator Grant Program Application Deadline Extended

September 3, 2020

From the Department of Conservation:

On August 18, 2020, Governor Newsom declared a statewide emergency due to wildfires burning throughout California. The Department of Conservation recognizes that some Watershed Coordinator grant applicants may be adversely impacted by the 7,175 fires being reported by CALFIRE.

Due to the nature and extent of these fires, the Department of Conservation is extending the SGMA Watershed Coordinator grant application deadline to October 15, 2020.

All applications must now be submitted to by 11:59pm on October 15. If you have any questions about this extension, please contact Department of Conservation watershed program staff at​​​ or (916) 324-0850.

Information about the SGMA Watershed Coordinator grant program can be found at

SGMA in the news

September 3, 2020

Why conserving water today means more groundwater for tomorrow

Groundwater is California’s water savings bank account that can be tapped during dry years when water in lakes and rivers are low. Conserving water helps preserve groundwater, which is important for plants, animals and people.  Groundwater comes from rain and melting snow that seeps down into the ground and is stored in aquifers. An aquifer is a body of porous rock or sediment saturated with groundwater. Groundwater can move through the aquifer and resurface through springs or be pumped to the surface using manmade wells. … ”  Read more from DWR News here:  Why conserving water today means more groundwater for tomorrow

Paso Robles subbasin stands to lose up to $458 million annually if water use is reduced, says economic impact study

A new study released by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is projecting the potential economic impact of water reductions in the Paso Robles region resulting from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.  The study, The Economic Impact on the Local Economy of Irrigated Agriculture in the Paso Robles Area and Potential Impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, performed by Lynn Hamilton, Ph.D. and Michael McCollough, Ph.D. of CalPoly, estimates that reductions to irrigated agriculture could potentially cost the local economy hundreds of millions of dollars and the loss of more than 1,000 jobs. … ”  Read more from Wine Business here: Paso Robles subbasin stands to lose up to $458 million annually if water use is reduced, says economic impact study

Tainted valley groundwater could stymie banking deals

The big kahuna of California water — Metropolitan Water District of Southern California — has stopped taking supplies from one Kern County groundwater bank because the water is heavily tainted with a cancer-causing agent that is pervasive in Central Valley’s aquifers.  While only one banking program has been affected so far, the emergence of this issue could have huge implications for water storage and movement in the Central Valley.  Increased underground storage has been key for agricultural water districts scrambling to comply with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which mandates balanced aquifers by 2040. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Tainted valley groundwater could stymie banking deals

Ridgecrest Groundwater Replenishment Fee

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority wrestles 7,000-percent cost increase or state takeover

The long-awaited conflict between California’s ambitious laws to limit groundwater use and the people of California has arrived.  The front: the Mojave Desert.  Friday, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority is set to hold a protest vote of its water users to determine if it will adopt a “basin replenishment fee.”  The fee is an element of the Authority’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan, a key guiding document required under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). … ”  Read more from the San Joaquin Valley Sun here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority wrestles 7,000-percent cost increase or state takeover

Ridgecrest: What if the state takes over the water basin?

What would state intervention with local water management look like?  Well, for a start, local groundwater extractors can likely look forward to forced reduction of water use and forced monitoring courtesy of the state water board. And state control would be exerted directly, rather than through the groundwater authority. New fees would also be assessed, since local users would be expected to foot the bill to pay for the temporary government oversight. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  What if the state takes over the water basin?

Ridgecrest: Groundwater basin replenishment fee passed

The basin replenishment fee was passed by the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority with a vote of four to one Friday afternoon. IWV Water District Director Ron Kicinski was the sole no vote.  The IWVGA voted after the basin replenishment fee protest hearing Friday failed. The IWVGA did not announce the number of protest votes received, although County counsel Phil Hall said it would take roughly 9,900 protest votes for the protest hearing to be successful. IWV Water District Director/IWVGA Vice Chair Ron Kincinski mentioned 4,000 votes, but it was not clear if this was the number received or just a figure of speech. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Basin replenishment fee passed

Desert water basin hopes to dive into California water market

If you’ve got water for sale, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority has $50 million to spend.  Or, it will once it starts collecting a controversial, five-year, $2,000-per-acre-foot pumping fee that was approved by the authority last week.  Specifically, the desert groundwater basin about 100 miles northeast of Bakersfield in the Mojave Desert, is looking to buy rights to 5,000 acre feet a year from an as-yet-to-be-determined Central Valley source.  How it will get the water from the valley over the Sierra Nevadas is another question without any answers so far. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Desert water basin hopes to dive into California water market

Ridgecrest: Replenishment fee passed. Now what?

The four-to-one approval Friday of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority basin replenishment fee has left many wondering what comes next. The fee was approved by a majority vote of the IWVGA after a protest hearing against the controversial fee failed. IWV Water District Director Ron Kincinski was the lone no vote on the groundwater authority.  In a delay from the original timetable, the new fee will be assessed starting January 2021. The estimated fee would be $24 a month for the average residential user presuming a five-year repayment period, according to Gleason.  The fee would reportedly collect some $50 million which would be used to purchase water rights for imported water, presuming the same users continue using the water at roughly the same rate. … ” Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Replenishment fee passed. Now what?

Ridgecrest: Groundwater Authority approves transient pool, fallowing program

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority last week voted unanimously to adopt a transient pool and fallowing program and also approve findings that the programs are exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (or CEQA) review — meaning the programs are not considered to have a significant impact on the environment.  The decision came down after an intense two-day meeting Aug. 20 and 21 culminating with an unsuccessful protest hearing against the IWVGA’s basin replenishment fee and the authority’s subsequent four to one approval of the fee. IWV Water District Director Ron Kicinski was the lone no vote on the replenishment fee. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here: Groundwater Authority approves transient pool, fallowing program

Category: News Article

GSA SUMMIT: Addressing environment, disadvantaged communities, and domestic wells in the 2022 Groundwater Sustainability Plans

August 20, 2020

The groundwater sustainability plans that were submitted to the Department of Water Resources in January of 2020 were the first of the groundwater sustainability plans to be completed.  Public review of these plans has revealed some important lessons to be learned to be considered for those preparing the plans that will be due in January of 2022.  At the 3rd Annual Groundwater Sustainability Agency Summit hosted by the Groundwater Resources Association online in June, a panel of NGOs that had completed a review of the plans summarized their findings from the perspective of underrepresented beneficial users and with respect to stakeholder engagement, providing insights and recommendations for the upcoming plans.

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

NOTICE: DWR Sustainable Groundwater Management Office announces updates for translation services

August 20, 2020

From the Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Office:

DWR’s Written Translation Service is available to help groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs), or other groups assisting in local SGMA implementation efforts, communicate groundwater management activities with their non-English speaking constituents.

GSAs, or other groups, can submit written notices, letters, forms, presentations, fact sheets, pamphlets, and other materials to DWR for translation into one or more of the following languages: Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Laotian, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.  

A couple updates have been made to the Service:

  • The word limit has increased from 1,500 words to 5,000 words per groundwater basin/subbasin.
  • Applicants can now submit Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint files that include formatting. Please note that content spacing and formatting may be affected through the translation process and should be checked prior to finalization by the applicant.

For details, visit the Written Translation tab on the Assistance and Engagement webpage and to submit a request, fill out the short online application.  

Category: DWR Updates