SGMA in the News

CALIFORNIA WATER POLICY CONFERENCE: Tribal Groundwater Rights and SGMA: A New Underlying Tension?

May 15, 2019

Pauma Valley, North San Diego County. Photo by Michael Huey.

Panel discussion moderated by DWR Tribal Advisor Anecita Agustinez discusses tribal involvement in GSAs, the benefits of tribal participation in groundwater management, and tribal consultation

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (or SGMA), passed in 2014, set a course for sustainable management of the state’s groundwater aquifers by requiring Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) be formed for all high and medium priority basins in the state who then must develop and implement Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs).

The legislation provides that tribes “may voluntarily agree to participate in the preparation or administration of a groundwater sustainability plan” and are “eligible to participate fully in planning, financing, and management” – the first time this has been recognized in state law.  However, participation by tribes is voluntary; tribes are considered sovereign entities and their participation cannot be compelled.

Nonetheless, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires engagement with all stakeholders. Tribal interests are an important stakeholder in many basins, but most of the basins underlying tribal lands are exempt from SGMA as a consequence of relatively low intensity use of the groundwater. However, in those basins that are subject to SGMA that have tribal lands, the recent Aqua Caliente court decisions have put tribal interests front and center. What are the challenges for the tribes and non-tribe stakeholders in coming together to implement SGMA? Are tribal interests different than those of other stakeholders? How are financial inequities, if they exist, addressed?

At the 28thCalifornia Water Policy conference held in April of 2019, a panel discussed how tribal lands and tribal representatives, as independent nations, can be integrated into SGMA implementation, what some of the obstacles to doing so are, and how those hurdles might be transcended.

Seated on the panel:

The panel was moderated by Anecita Agustinez, Tribal Policy Advisor for the California Department of Water Resources.

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

OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Public Comment Period Opens for Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program

May 15, 2019

From the Department of Water Resources:

The California Department of Water Resources announced the opening of the 45-day public comment period for the Draft Proposition 68 2019 Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program Guidelines and the Planning – Round 3 Proposal Solicitation Package (PSP).

The public comment period began on May 3, 2019 and will close at 5 p.m. on June 17, 2019. Following the review of public comments, DWR will release the final guidelines and solicit proposals.

For more information on this solicitation and to view the full program schedule, visit the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program web page.

Comments can be submitted for the 2019 Draft PSP and Draft Guidelines by one of the following methods:

  1. Electronic Mail Transmitted comments should be sent to Electronic files should be Microsoft Word compatible or PDF. PDF is preferred.
  2. Hard Copy via U.S. MailCalifornia Department of Water Resources
    Division of Integrated Regional Water Management
    Financial Assistance Branch
    Post Office Box 942836
    Sacramento, CA 94236
    Attention: Kelley List
  3. Hard Copy via Hand Delivery901 P Street
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    Attention: Kelley List
  4. Public Meetings

A minimum of three public meetings will be held June 3 through June 11. The dates, times, and locations will be posted soon on the following website.

We also encourage you to subscribe to the SGM Grant Program’s mailing list for new solicitations, document releases, upcoming workshops, and other IRWM grant-related announcements.

If you have any questions during the public comment period, please contact us at (916) 651-9613 or at

Category: DWR Updates

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Bureau of Reclamation makes up to $3 million available for 2019 Water Marketing Strategy Grants

May 15, 2019

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

The 2019 Water Marketing Strategy Grants funding opportunity is now available from the Bureau of Reclamation. This funding opportunity is available to water entities to establish or expand water markets or water marketing activities. Reclamation will make available up to $200,000 for simple projects that can be completed within two years and up to $400,000 for more complex projects that can be completed in three years. Up to $3 million is available for this funding opportunity.

“The water marketing strategy grants provide entities an opportunity to leverage their money and resources with Reclamation to develop a water marketing strategy to increase water supply reliability,” program coordinator Avra Morgan said.

The funding opportunity is available at by searching for BOR-DO-19-F006. Applications will be due on July 31, 2019, at 4:00 p.m. MDT.

Those eligible to apply for these grants are states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts or other organizations with water or power delivery authority located in the western United States or United States territories. This includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands.

Water markets support the President’s memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West. They are between willing buyers and sellers and can be used to help water managers meet demands efficiently in times of shortage, helping prevent water conflicts. These planning efforts proactively address water supply reliability and increase water management flexibility. Learn more about water marketing at

The funding is part of WaterSMART. WaterSMART is a Department of the Interior initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit

Relevant Link:

Groundwater recharge in the SGMA era

May 15, 2019

Kathleen Miller writes,

“Implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was always going to be tricky. Part of the necessary growing pains of SGMA is determining how the revolutionary statute interacts with traditional tenets of water law.   As with any other sweeping legislative change, SGMA does not provide direct answers for every practical question which arises as the law is put into place.

Take SGMA’s so called “six deadly sins” – the undesirable results that newly formed groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) are tasked with avoiding, running the gamut from seawater intrusion to subsidence. One of the ways to combat undesirable results is to implement a more robust groundwater recharge program – diverting high surface water flows during wet years (as we just experienced) to aquifers. In fact, we’ve begun to see innovative projects, such as Recharge Net Metering andFlood-MAR, sprout up in the wake of SGMA to do exactly that. But how do we get water for those projects in the first place? … ”

Read more from the Legal Planet blog here:  Groundwater recharge in the SGMA era

Category: Legal Planet

Owens Valley groundwater basin goes low

May 14, 2019

“California’s Department of Water Resources came out with its latest prioritization of state groundwater basins and, tentatively, the Owens Valley basin is now low. Over the short life of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Owens Valley has gone from medium to high and now low priority.

That prioritization would have had an impact three years ago. Medium and high priority basins are required to form an agency and sustainability plan; low basins are not. The factor in the earlier ratings was water exports by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. LADWP’s portion of the basin is treated as adjudicated and not required to develop a plan. … ”

Read more from the Sierra Wave here:  Owens Valley groundwater basin goes low

Category: News Article

Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board meets Thursday

May 10, 2019

“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board of directors meets Thursday at 10 a.m. in the Ridgecrest City Council Chambers at Ridgecrest City Hall, 100 W. California Ave.

The board will hear an update from Steve Johnson, president of Stetson Engineers and the Water Resources Manager on the Plan of Action and Milestones, which outlines progress made on the IWVGA’s mandate to create a groundwater sustainability plan for the IWV basin. … ”

Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority board meets Thursday

Category: News Article

LA/Inyo Standing Committee covers a lot of ground

May 9, 2019

“Here are the positive take-aways from Monday’s Standing Committee meeting: Los Angeles’s Green New Deal outlines a pathway for the City to source 70-percent of its water locally by 2035; both members of the Committee, Los Angeles and Inyo County, are open to a second look at changes to the document managing the Lower Owens River Project.

And, finally this one may put an end to rumors, or not, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power isn’t planning on using Owens Valley water to solve Indian Wells’ sustainable water problems. Water spreading in Rose Valley during the heavy 2017 run-off was a one-off. … ”

Read more from the Sierra Wave here:  LA/Inyo Standing Committee covers a lot of ground

Category: News Article

Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority PAC talks water modeling

May 9, 2019

“The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority Policy Advisory Committee took a look at three water modeling scenarios currently being run for consideration by the groundwater authority and the Technical Advisory Committee on Thursday.

Specifically, the scenarios represent “straw man” hypothetical ways the GA could potentially meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act to form a Groundwater Sustainability Plan and bring the IWV groundwater basin closer to sustainability. … ”

Read more from the Ridgecrest Independent here:  Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority PAC talks water modeling

Category: News Article

DWR SGMA Newsletter: Draft basin prioritization for modified basins, Survey for next GSA Forum, Stakeholder engagement resources, and more …

May 1, 2019

DWR Announces Draft Basin Prioritization for Modified Basins

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced the draft results of Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) 2019 Basin Prioritization Phase 2 for the 57 modified basins affected by the 2018 Basin Boundary Modifications. Today’s announcement begins a 30-day public comment period to allow input from the public and local agencies. DWR will also hold a public meeting to explain the results and accept public comment.

Updated Frequently Asked Questions on Basin Prioritization

Answers to frequently asked questions are provided in the Frequently Asked Questions on Basin Prioritization document.

Public Comment

A public comment period on SGMA 2019 Basin Prioritization Phase 2 Draft results for modified basins is open now through May 30, 2019. All public comments received through the process will be reviewed and evaluated.

Submit public comments.

Public Meeting

Public comments can also be provided at the following public meeting:  Draft SGMA Basin Prioritization for Modified Basins Public Meeting

Monday, May 13, 2019, at 1 p.m.
Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board
11020 Sun Center Drive, Suite 200
Rancho Cordova, CA


Live webcast: On meeting day, click the link and scroll to “DWR Draft Basin Prioritization for Modified Basins Meeting.” You can view live video or listen to live audio.

RSVP: The meeting is free, but please let us know if you will be attending in person so we can have enough materials.

For questions, email

NEW Take a Survey to Help Plan the Next GSA Forum

DWR hosted a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) Forum on March 21, 2019, which brought together water planners and stakeholders from across the state to share experiences and strategies as they implement the SGMA. Based on the level of interest and comments received from attendees, the forum was a beneficial venue for building networks and sharing strategies associated with SGMA implementation. DWR plans to host additional GSA Forums to further communication among SGMA water managers and stakeholders. Please complete the survey so we can use your input to help plan and improve the next GSA Forum:

Take the GSA Forum Survey.

NEW DWR Releases IRWM Implementation Grants Proposal Solicitation Package

DWR released the final Guidelines and Proposal Solicitation Package (PSP) for the Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Implementation Grant Program, which provides funding for projects that help meet the long-term water needs of the state and incorporate integrated regional strategies. Approximately $222.3 million in Proposition 1 grant funding is available for IRWM implementation projects, with $23.6 million designated for projects that provide support to Disadvantaged Communities. GSAs and SGMA stakeholders interested in IRWM Implementation funding should coordinate with their respective IRWM Region. For more information, visit the IRWM Implementation Grant Program page.

NEW State Water Resources Control Board Fact Sheets Available

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) announced the release of new and updated fact sheets on SGMA which include Probationary Designation and Groundwater Regulation by the State Water Board, Stakeholder Inclusion, State and Regional Water Boards basics, Funding Opportunities for Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, and Beneficial Use and Underground Water Storage Projects. These fact sheets can be found on the SWRCB’s SGMA webpage.

REMINDER DWR’s Guidance Documents Can Help with SGMA Communication and Engagement

SGMA requires GSAs to consider all beneficial uses and users when preparing groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs). DWR has documents that provide clarification, guidance, and examples to help GSAs develop the essential communication and engagement elements of a GSP. These useful publications can be found on the Assistance and Engagement Webpage.

Guidance documents include: Stakeholder Communication and Engagement, Engagement with Tribal Governments, Stakeholder Engagement Requirements by Phase, and Communication and Engagement Plan Outline.

REMINDER Submit Your GSP Initial Notification

Before initiating development of a GSP, GSAs are required to notify DWR in writing. GSAs must submit all applicable GSP initial notification information to DWR using the SGMA Portal – GSP Initial Notification System. The SGMA Portal – GSP Initial Notification System also allows edits to be made to a previously submitted Initial Notification, including the ability to withdraw a submittal.

For more information, please see Frequently Asked Questions on GSP Initial Notification Requirements or contact the Regional Coordinators in DWR’s four Regional Offices.

For assistance with the system, please email

Connect with Your Basin Point of Contact

DWR has designated Basin Points of Contact to assist local agencies and GSAs as GSPs are developed and implemented and to assist with applications for Technical Support Services and Facilitation Support Services.

California groundwater management, science-policy interfaces, and the legacies of artificial legal distinctions

May 1, 2019

Dave Owen and Michael Kiparsky write,

“One of the many noteworthy features of California’s  Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is that it requires local government agencies to consider and address the effects of groundwater management upon interconnected surface water. That requirement is an important step towards rationalizing California water management, which has long treated groundwater and surface water as separate resources.

The requirement also is part of a larger story about evolving science and policy in a changing world. … ”

Read more from the Legal Planet here: California groundwater management, science-policy interfaces, and the legacies of artificial legal distinctions

Category: Legal Planet
Keywords: Governance