SGMA in the News

WESTERN GROUNDWATER CONGRESS: Depletion of interconnected surface waters: Not that simple

March 26, 2020

Sierra Ryan is a water resources planner with the County of Santa Cruz.  In this presentation from the Groundwater Resources Association‘s 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Ms. Ryan tells the story of how the Santa Cruz Mid-County Groundwater Agency balanced the various perspectives, authorities, and interpretations of the DWR regulations in writing the portion of their Groundwater Sustainability Plan that pertained to the depletion of interconnected surface water (sustainability indicator or undesirable result #6).

I promise you that it was not as simple as we thought it was to begin with, so for those of you in the medium and high priority basins that have the 2022 deadlines, I hope you’re thinking about this now,” Ms. Ryan advised.

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

How water managers can build recharge basins to boost resilience for farmers and birds alike

March 26, 2020

Anna Schiller writes,

I wasn’t expecting to see egrets, herons and pelicans on my first trip to the San Joaquin Valley — a region in the southern part of California’s Central Valley known for its impressive agricultural production and scorching summer heat. I didn’t find these birds at one of the valley’s few wildlife refuges, but at a groundwater recharge facility designed to spread and infiltrate surface water into the ground below.

Recharge basins are becoming increasingly popular in overdrafted regions in California, where water managers are seeking solutions to balance groundwater supply and demand to comply with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). …

Continue reading at the Environmental Defense Fund’s Growing Returns blog.

SGMA IMPLEMENTATION: David Orth gives his observations on how sustainable groundwater management is playing out in the San Joaquin Valley

March 26, 2020

David Orth is the principal of New Current Water and Land, which offers strategic planning, program implementation, and water resource development services.  At the California Irrigation Institute’s 2020 Annual Conference, he gave his observations on how implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is progressing, having watched Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) form and develop their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) since the passage of the SGMA in 2014.

New Current Water and Land is a small strategic planning shop that combines experience in water engineering, finance, district management, and water law to create a strategic planning platform.  Their clients are from the farming community, the investment community, and the lending community.  They also work with one environmental NGO.  Over the last several years, they have monitored over 60 GSAs on behalf on that client base in over 40 subbasins, including about 15 of the 21 subbasins that are considered critically overdrafted.

Through the course of that, we’ve provided a general risk assessment for our clients by area so they can understand where they really need to pay attention as GSPs are developed in the policy engagement arena,” he said.  “Then we extrapolated that into long-term forecasting of what individual ranch water budgets are going to look like upon full implementation of SGMA.  This has assisted our ag clients in making decisions about redevelopment or acquisition or disposition in how to deal with the new variable that SGMA creates.”

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

GUEST COMMENTARY: Significant progress being made in implementing the state’s groundwater law

March 26, 2020

Guest commentary by Geoff Vanden Heuvel, Director of Regulatory and Economic Affairs, Milk Producers Council:

“I remember being surprised when attending a local Groundwater Sustainability Agency meeting and I first saw a schematic that visually depicted the various levels of groundwater underneath one of the Central Valley’s numerous subbasins. There was a horizontal line going across the chart that said “base of freshwater”.  Beneath the freshwater line there was another line labeled “top of basement”.  I asked the subbasin hydrologist about what occupied the space between those lines and he explained that it was ancient salt water that occupied the lowest depths of the aquifer.  He said a study done decades ago had identified that the salt water was there, but they were now guessing about exactly where, because other than that one study done many years ago, no one had a reason to drill down into it to attempt to characterize it.  Why does this matter? If you are going to estimate how much fresh water is contained in a groundwater basin, you need to know how deep it is.

This story is just one example of what has been going on in the Central Valley over the past few years since the adoption of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) by California in 2014. … ”

Click here to continue reading this guest commentary at Maven’s Notebook.

Category: News Article

STUDY: Agricultural water use accounting provides path for surface water use solutions

March 26, 2020

Study: Agricultural water use accounting provides path for surface water use solutions:

Agricultural water demands can conflict with habitat needs in many North Coast watersheds. Understanding different water use patterns can help reduce conflict over limited supplies.

We measured on-farm crop water use and conducted grower interviews to estimate the agricultural water demand in the upper Russian River and Navarro River watersheds. Annual agricultural water demand was less than 11% in the Russian River, and 2% in Navarro River, of the total annual discharge in each watershed. However, because demands are concentrated in the dry season when instream flows are at a minimum, these relatively small amounts can represent a significant constraint to stream habitat conditions.

We have shared our study results in broad basin and community water resource planning efforts, including flow management of the Russian and Navarro rivers and implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in the Ukiah Basin.

Findings and recommendations from this study have influenced on-the-ground solutions to meet water demand in these watersheds, including construction of off-stream wintertime storage capacity to replace summertime stream diversions, and use of a municipal recycled water conveyance system as a replacement for summer diversions.”

Read the study from California Agriculture here: Study: Agricultural water use accounting provides path for surface water use solutions

Category: Journal article

DWR GROUNDWATER REPORT: Groundwater Levels Continue to Rebound from Last Drought

March 26, 2020

From the Department of Water Resources:

California’s climate is the most variable of any state, historically swinging from dry to flood conditions with climate change intensifying these swings. Although three of the last four water years have been above normal with 2017 and 2019 standing out as some of the wettest on record, the last decade has had a majority of the years below normal precipitation and include the timeframe of the state’s most recent drought.

Although Spring 2019 groundwater levels have mostly recovered from the past one to three years, they have not fully recovered to pre-drought conditions throughout the state as shown in the five- and 10-year time periods. At this time, there is insufficient data coverage to determine the long-term effects of the drought in some subbasins throughout the state; however, since CASGEM reporting requirements began in 2011, statewide data coverage has improved in most areas except for data gaps in Tulare, Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial counties.

Click here to read the full report.

Category: New reports

YOUR INPUT WANTED: Groundwater resilience survey

March 26, 2020

Water UCI, an interdisciplinary center at the University of California, Irvine, has organized a survey of California water and groundwater agencies and stakeholders. This information will be used to help inform the preparation of a workshop on “Strengthening California’s Groundwater Resilience in the context of Climate Change: Governance, Policy, and Economics” to be held by Water UCI in June 2021. The June 2021 workshop will be a follow-up to the June 2019 California-European Union workshop on Sustainable Groundwater Management and Conflict Resolution.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Office assisted in the development of this survey and looks forward to using the results to inform its implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Program.

Category: Announcement

DWR’S SGMO NEWS: DWR operations continue; SGMA data viewer updated with subsidence information; GSP public comment period extended; Update on annual report submittals; and more …

March 26, 2020
From the Department of Water Resources, Sustainable Groundwater Management Office:

DWR Operations Continue

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is focused on ensuring continued operations while modifying the way we work in the face of the coronavirus to maintain critical functions and protect our staff. DWR staff supporting the Sustainable Groundwater Management Program continue to work and are available to answer questions and provide assistance via email, phone, and web-based meetings.

Fall 2019 Statewide Groundwater Level Change Maps Available

Groundwater level change maps for fall 2019 are available on the DWR website. These maps present a summary of groundwater level trends with multi-year comparisons.

SGMA Data Viewer Updated with Subsidence Information

New subsidence information covering the period of June 2018 to September 2019 has been added to the SGMA Data Viewer under land subsidence. This information can help groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs), water managers and the public implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

For more information and additional SGMA related data and tools, visit DWR’s Groundwater Data and Tools webpage and the California Natural Resources Open Data Platform.

For questions, email

Public Comment Opens for Draft Upper and Lower San Luis Rey Basin Prioritization

DWR today announced draft Basin Prioritization results for the Upper and Lower San Luis Rey Basins in San Diego County. The prioritization was conducted in response to Senate Bill 779, effective January 1, 2020, which changed the Bulletin 118 basin boundaries of these two groundwater basins. DWR is required to reassess basin prioritization any time Bulletin 118 basin boundaries change.

The Department will hold a 15-day public comment period on the draft Basin Prioritization for these two basins. Email comments to by April 8, 2020.

For more information, visit the SGMA Basin Prioritization webpage or California Natural Resources Agency’s Open Data.

REMINDER: GSP Public Comment Period Extended

Due to ongoing health and safety concerns, DWR is extending its original GSP public comment periods by 30 days. The new deadlines are May 15, 2020, and June 3, 2020.

DWR encourages public comment on recently submitted plans that show how local water agencies plan to manage groundwater basins for long-term sustainability. Comments can be posted online on the DWR SGMA Portal and a SGMA Portal account is not necessary.

Information about how to comment on a plan can be found in fact sheets in English and Spanish.

For questions, email

Update on Annual Report Submittals

Due to ongoing health and safety concerns, DWR will accept annual reports for the prior water year after the April 1, 2020 deadline from basins with adopted GSPs, approved and pending alternatives to GSPs, and adjudicated areas. The reports can be viewed by the public once they are submitted on the SGMA Portal. The reports provide information on groundwater conditions and management activities for the prior water year.

GSP Annual Reports

Downloadable templates for basin-wide data are available on the GSP Reporting System webpage and must be submitted with the annual report. For questions or more information, email

Additional resources are also available:

Alternative to GSP Annual Reports

Alternative Annual Reports will be submitted the same as previous years using the Alternative Reporting System. For questions or more information, email

Adjudicated Area Annual Reports

Adjudicated area annual reports will be submitted the same as previous years using the Adjudicated Basins Annual Reporting System. For questions or more information, email

Connect with Your Basin Point of Contact

DWR has designated Basin Points of Contact to assist local agencies and GSAs as they develop and implement their plans and to assist with applications for Technical Support Services and Facilitation Support Services.

For regional inquiries, contact

For general inquiries, contact

Category: DWR Updates

SGMA News from around the state

March 26, 2020


DWR awards $47 million in grants for groundwater sustainability:  “The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today awarded $47 million in grant funding to 53 applicants to support local agencies in development of plans to manage groundwater basins for long-term sustainability. These grants will support various projects including facilitating community outreach efforts, preparing feasibility studies for proposed actions to restore groundwater supplies, and installing monitoring wells to oversee groundwater levels.  This funding will provide important assistance in successful local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which establishes a framework for managing the state’s groundwater resources. ... ”  Read more from DWR here: DWR awards $47 million in grants for groundwater sustainability

Groundwater management is a team effort at DWR:  “In California, groundwater is a precious resource that supports the health of our communities, the economy, and the environment.  Groundwater is critical to ensuring a more resilient water future for California, explained Taryn Ravazzini, Deputy Director, Statewide Groundwater Management, with the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Not only does it represent more than half of the state’s water supply in dry years, it is the only source of drinking and irrigation water for many communities, she added. … ”  Read more from DWR News here: Groundwater management is a team effort at DWR


Central Valley groundwater markets emerging under SGMA:  “Central Valley farmers may soon have another crop to sell along with almonds, tomatoes and peppers — the groundwater beneath their land.  Proposed groundwater markets have popped up in just about every groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) filed with the state Jan. 31.  One such market is about to launch its first phase within the next a week in Kern County.  The proposed markets are being touted by some as a way to limit groundwater pumping while still allowing farmers the flexibility to optimize their resources. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here: Central Valley groundwater markets emerging under SGMA

SGMA to dry up one-fifth of irrigated SJ Valley farmland:  “The cost of fallowing upwards of one million acres of farmland across California will be measured in the billions of dollars to the state’s economy as an estimated 85,000 jobs are lost and farm income declines by more than $7 billion annually, according to a university report.  An economic analysis of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a law passed by the Legislature in 2014 to make groundwater supplies sustainable after decades of over-pumping, paints a grim economic picture for California as the first hurdle towards groundwater sustainability was reached earlier this year. … ” Read more from the Western Farm Press here:  SGMA to dry up one-fifth of irrigated SJ Valley farmland

San Joaquin Valley: District sues to stop salty water exchange:  “The James Irrigation District in western Fresno County has sued the Westlands Water District over its plan to let farmers pump salty groundwater into the Mendota Pool in exchange for water from the San Luis Reservoir.  The lawsuit could scuttle Westlands’ plans to create a certain supply for its farmers as they, and farmers throughout the Central Valley, adapt to new water uncertainties under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a measure to restrict groundwater pumping. … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  San Joaquin Valley: District sues to stop salty water exchange


Owens Valley Groundwater Authority board grows, learns parameters of “sustainability”:  “The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority board took the bulk of last week’s meeting discussing the addition of members within a format established in the Joint Powers Agreement that all members signed nearly three years ago.  The thorny topic: adding a representatives from area tribes, mutual water companies and what are defined as interested parties.  ... ”  Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley Groundwater Authority board grows, learns parameters of “sustainability”

Owens Valley Groundwater Authority shrinks, major players pick up the financial slack:  “The Owens Valley Groundwater Authority board will need a much smaller table to seat the six remaining members when it meets this afternoon in the Bishop City Council chambers. But, that number could change with the addition of organizations that have been eager for a place at the table.  Tri-Valley Groundwater Management District and Wheeler Crest Community Service District were the latest to drop out of the Authority. The districts won’t participate in the OVGA, but will still have to comply with the sustainability plan. … ”  Read more from the Sierra Wave here: Owens Valley Groundwater Authority shrinks, major players pick up the financial slack

Ridgecrest: Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority approves metering standards, requirements:  “The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority signed off on an ordinance and related resolution officially requiring all major pumpers needing metering on all groundwater extraction facilities and pumps during a board meeting on Thursday.  The board met in mostly empty council chambers, fielding questions and comments from a small crowd or remotely due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak to help curb the outbreak. … ”  Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority approves metering standards, requirements


Sustaining Pajaro Valley’s Water:  “The Pajaro Valley enjoys a temperate microclimate, in part because it is situated at the hip of Monterey Bay. It lays like an east-west-oriented horseshoe, with the open end settling around the coastal plains of Elkhorn Slough and its various tributaries and side sloughs. Rimmed by the Santa Cruz Mountains to the north, the Gabilan Range to the south, and the San Andreas Fault at its head, the Pajaro Valley is a unique place in California.  Marks from the state’s past — traces of the indigenous creekside camps to the Mission landmarks and Gold Rush-era place-names — tell part of the valley’s story. Unlike in neighboring areas that have embraced the commuting car culture, the endless lines of perfectly aligned row crops reveal that this valley is still very much a working landscape. … ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Sustaining Pajaro Valley’s Water


Casitas pulls out of mediation talks over Ventura River water adjudication:  “An Ojai Valley water district has pulled out of mediation talks with the city of Ventura and others after months of negotiation over water rights.  Those talks started after the city of Ventura filed a cross-complaint in response to a 2014 lawsuit over its own pumping from the Ventura River. Santa Barbara Channelkeeper had filed the lawsuit, alleging the city of Ventura was taking too much water from the river, hurting habitat for steelhead trout and other wildlife. ... ”  Read more from the Ventura County Star here: Casitas pulls out of mediation talks over Ventura River water adjudication

Category: News Article