SGMA in the News

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

July 9, 2020

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.

GSA SUMMIT: Reflections on the 2020 GSP process

July 9, 2020

At the end of January of this year, the state’s critically overdrafted groundwater basins submitted their adopted groundwater sustainability plans (or GSPs), meeting an important deadline in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act; the remaining basins subject to SGMA will be submitting their plans in January of 2022.  The Department of Water Resources will now have two years to review the plans to determine their adequacy.

At the Third Annual GSA Summit, Craig Altare, chief of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan section at the Department of Water Resources’ Sustainable Groundwater Management Office or SGMO, reflected on the GSPs and how the implementation of SGMA is playing out.

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

What’s new at the Groundwater Exchange?

July 9, 2020

Have you checked out your basin page recently?  We have reformatted the page and integrated it with the California Water Library so if there are documents in the library pertaining to your basin, they will be displayed at the bottom of the page.   Find your basin on this page. 

Curious about coordination agreements?  Check out this page where they are all collected for you to look at.  It’s curious to note that the agreements you think would be most complex, such as the San Luis Delta Mendota Basin with 24 basins preparing 6 GSPs is only 55 pages, while the Kaweah Subbasin with 3 GSAs and 3 GSPs has a coordination agreement that’s 609 pages long.  Check out the coordination agreement page by clicking here.

Resources on water budgets: Water budgets are a key requirement of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan.  Learn more about water budgets on the the All About Water Budgets page.

SGMA 101:  If you are new to SGMA or just need a refresher, check out our Intro to SGMA pageIt’s also available in Spanish.

STAY TUNED!  There are more changes on the way.  We’re working on a new main page, an easier forum to navigate, and other changes.  In the meantime, if you have a comment or a suggestion on how this website could be more useful to you, please send me an email.

Category: This week

UPDATED TOOL: New features added to Water Tracker, a tool that displays the distribution of surface water across the Central Valley

July 9, 2020

From Point Blue Conservation Service:

With summer in full swing, it may be time to begin evaluating plans for the coming fall and winter seasons. If you are interested in learning more about the distribution of surface water across the Central Valley both in the past and in near real-time, we invite you to explore some exciting new features at Water Tracker –

Explore wetland vegetation. Recent work by USGS provides annual maps of wetland vegetation across the Central Valley.

Two layers are available:

Wetland vegetation type, aka moist soil seed plants (swamp timothy, watergrass, cocklebur, etc.)
Habitat structure (tall emergent, open water, bare ground, etc.)

These data (2007-2017) are now available for viewing and downloading from the Map Viewer in Water Tracker. Learn more about from a recent publication led by Kristin Byrd at USGS.

Summaries of water from custom areas. You can now upload a shapefile or draw a custom spatial area and then, both download the data, AND get a summary of water in that area over time with interactive time-series plots. See an example here.

Coming soon. In the next several months we plan to make more data layers available including fallow fields (2000-2017), bird distribution/suitability (4 shorebirds, 4 waterfowl), giant garter snake distribution/suitability, groundwater recharge (based on Basin Characterization Model) and more!

What do managers need?

At the Central Valley Wetland Managers meeting in March, we shared spatial data we are currently developing, including fallow fields, wetland vegetation and types, groundwater recharge potential, bird and snake distribution/suitability maps, as well as some of the forecasting tools (within-year and long-term) in development.

A survey of participants in the meeting resulted in helpful feedback:

(1) most wetland managers’ first priority is their wetland complex
(2) for data to be most helpful for decision-making it should be made available in February/March and July/August, and
(3) visualizations and semi-custom summaries and/or reports appear to be the most appealing at this point.

We want these data and technologies to be useful and help wetland managers do their jobs, so we will be working to make sure that Water Tracker can deliver on these needs for wetland managers. Any feedback from the community is welcome. Email us at to let us know what you need.

How is 2020 looking so far?

Overall, based on data from Water Tracker, the first 5 months of 2020 had, on average, 10% lower open water than the 2013-2019 average for these months. Only April had more open on the landscape water than the previous 7-year average and February had the lowest with a 17% reduction from average conditions. This is not surprising given the dry spell this winter. The estimated extent of open water in seasonal wetlands was also lower (-5%) across the first 5 months of 2020 compared to the recent 7-year average.

What is Water Tracker?

As a reminder, Water Tracker uses Landsat satellite imagery to update the distribution of open surface water in the Central Valley. It’s refreshed every 16 days. Water Tracker displays where open surface water is in the Central Valley in map form and also provides data summaries.

Anyone can quickly and easily get a picture of where the water is and isn’t, now and in the recent past. Data are available starting in 2013 (as far back as 2000 can be requested). Data can also be downloaded directly from Water Tracker.

There are a multitude of ways these data can inform decisions. Recent examples include 1) using the tool to decide on the best places to add water for the millions of waterbirds that rely on the Central Valley, and 2) to better understand the impacts of extreme drought on waterbird habitat availability.

Tell us how you are using Water Tracker

Please share your stories with us about how you are using Water Tracker at The best way for us to support this free, open-source resource is through understanding and highlighting how it is most useful.

Thank you for using and sharing Water Tracker in an effort to work towards meeting the water needs of both wildlife and people.

Click here for the Water Tracker Tool.

Category: News Article

SGMA in the News

July 9, 2020

Farmland values hinge on future water availability:  “Availability of water and the impact of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act continue to be a main focus when California agricultural appraisers determine land values, particularly in water-short regions.  During a business conference held virtually last week, the California Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers also touched on other issues affecting land values, including supply-and-demand dynamics for various crops and market conditions, especially under COVID-19. … ”  Read more from Ag Alert here: Farmland values hinge on future water availability

Dairy’s shrinking water footprint: a key piece of the SGMA puzzle:  “The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and other anticipated water restrictions pose major challenges for California agriculture. Without effective solutions, economists have estimated that up to one million acres of farmland will be fallowed, resulting in a revenue loss of $7.2 billion per year. As the state’s top agricultural commodity, dairy farming is an important part of the SGMA challenge. Fortunately, dairy farmers have an excellent track record for water savings and are continuing to adopt innovative strategies to advance environmental sustainability and help meet the water conservation challenges ahead. … ”  Read more from Water Wrights here: Dairy’s shrinking water footprint: a key piece of the SGMA puzzle

Sacramento region plans to store water underground as a climate change adaptation strategy:  “The Sacramento region is preparing for the long term impacts of the climate crisis when it comes to water supply. Central to the plan is a groundwater storage program with two to three times the space of Folsom Lake.  As the climate warms it’ll likely become harder to fill up reservoirs, because the snowpack could be small for multiple years. Think of the nearly empty reservoirs across California during the most recent drought.  “We’re expecting in the future to have more severe droughts and potential for Folsom Reservoir to not fill up with the frequency that it does,” said James Peifer, executive director of the Regional Water Authority.  ... ” Read more from Capital Public Radio here:  Sacramento region plans to store water underground as a climate change adaptation strategy

Proposed changes to Paso Robles Groundwater Basin boundaries draw anger and skepticism from landowners:  “After seven years of water restrictions over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, San Luis Obispo County is redrawing the basin’s boundaries, which will subject hundreds of new property owners to a moratorium on irrigating and other rules.   The revised map is part of a package of changes to the county ordinance that regulates the 684-square-mile aquifer in North County. Passed in 2013 amid an ongoing drought, the ordinance was recently extended to 2022 to buy time for the Paso Groundwater Sustainability Plan—which is currently being reviewed by the state—to get implemented. … ”  Read more from New Times SLO here:  Proposed changes to Paso Robles Groundwater Basin boundaries draw anger and skepticism from landowners

Fillmore: Groundwater recharge capturing project completed:  “According to the state, this year is the 11th driest snowpack on record since 1950 and with the State Water Project announcing it will deliver only 20% of requested water supplies in 2020, projects like the Piru Stormwater Capture for Groundwater Recharge Project are critical to Ventura County’s important water supplies. This project will provide a sustainable source for recharge of the Piru Groundwater Basin and improve water quality in Piru Creek. … ”  Read more from the Fillmore Gazette here: Groundwater recharge capturing project completed

Category: News Article

GROUNDWATER 101: The basics

June 24, 2020
Dr. Thomas Harter provides a basic understanding of groundwater – what it is, how much groundwater is out there, how fast groundwater moves, and where it comes from and where it goes

Groundwater is an important part of California’s – and the nation’s water supply.   Nationwide, groundwater makes up on average 26% of the water supply.  In California, that number is significantly higher – groundwater provides nearly 40% of the water used by California’s farms and cities, and significantly more in dry years.  But what is groundwater?  In this post based on the first segment of the UC Davis shortcourse on groundwater, Dr. Thomas Harter, who is the Robert M. Hagan Endowed Chair for Water Resources Management and Policy at the University of California, Davis as well as Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources (among many other things), provides a basic understanding of groundwater – what it is, how much groundwater is out there, how fast groundwater moves, and where it comes from and where it goes.

Click here to read this article.

Groundwater management and safe drinking water in the San Joaquin Valley

June 24, 2020

To support the state’s implementation of SGMA and its continued progress on the human right to water, the Water Foundation commissioned an analysis of 26 GSPs in the San Joaquin Valley to understand how private domestic drinking water wells in the region will be affected on the path to sustainability. Among its key findings, the analysis estimates that the goals in these San Joaquin Valley GSPs, if not proactively addressed, will result in:

  • Between roughly 4,000 and 12,000 partially or completely dry drinking water wells by 2040
  • Between roughly 46,000 and 127,000 people who lose some or all of their primary water supply by 2040
  • Between $88 million to $359 million in costs to restore access to drinking water

State regulatory agencies must now work with these GSAs over the next two years to implement SGMA in a manner that avoids these impacts or finds suitable replacement for lost water supplies to ensure the right to water for all California residents.

Click here to read more and download report.

Category: New reports
Keywords: Domestic wells

How to Address Groundwater Planning Gaps

June 24, 2020

Ellen Hanak and Jelena Jezdimirovic write:

In these extraordinary times, managing groundwater for long-term sustainability may not seem like a top priority. But in the San Joaquin Valley—where groundwater supplies have been declining for decades—excess pumping is a critical problem, with major implications for public health, jobs, the environment, and local economies.

The state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires groundwater planning and actions to sustain this vital resource. Agencies from California’s 21 “critically overdrafted” basins—including 11 large basins that span most of the San Joaquin Valley floor—submitted their first groundwater plans in January.

As part of our long-term work to build shared understanding of water challenges and solutions in the valley, the Public Policy Institute of California reviewed the 36 plans developed for these basins to see how well they tackle some key issues.

Click here to continue reading at the PPIC.

Category: PPIC Blog

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Reclamation launches WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant funding opportunity and extends drought resiliency project deadline; Webinar tomorrow

June 24, 2020

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

The Bureau of Reclamation is launching the 2021 WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant funding opportunity that support water management organizations developing projects that result in quantifiable and sustained water savings, increase the production of hydropower and support broader water reliability benefits. Applications for these grants are due on Sept. 17, 2020, at 4 p.m. MDT. Reclamation is also extending the deadline for the 2021 Drought Resiliency Projects funding opportunity while raising the maximum federal award for each of the two groups of projects.

These Reclamation grant programs support the Department of the Interior’s commitment to meeting the President’s Memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West.

For the Water and Energy Efficiency Grants, funding is available in two groups. This program provides up to $500,000 per agreement for projects that can be completed in two years and up to $2 million per agreement for projects that can be completed in three years. Recipients must match the funding with a minimum 50% cost-share. Learn more about this available grant at by searching for grant number BOR-DO-21-F001. Learn more about the Water and Energy Efficiency Grants at

The Drought Resiliency Projects funding opportunity announced on May 4, 2020, is being extended until August 5, 2020, at 4 p.m. MDT. The funding available for each project has been increased up to $500,000 for projects that can be completed in two years and up to $1.5 million for projects that can be completed in three years. The funding opportunity is available at by searching funding opportunity number BOR-DO-20-F002. Learn more about the Drought Program at

Eligible applicants for funding include states, tribes, irrigation districts, water districts or other organizations with water and power delivery authority located in the western United States or territories. Alaska and Hawaii are also eligible to apply.

Through WaterSMART, Reclamation works cooperatively with states, tribes and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to increase water supply reliability through investments to modernize existing infrastructure and attention to local water conflicts. Visit to learn more.


On Thursday, June 25, 2020 at 10:00 A.M. MDT/9:00 A.M. PST, Reclamation will be hosting a webinar for the Water Energy and Efficiency Grant and the Drought Resiliency Program funding opportunities. You may learn more about these funding opportunities at

The following is the link for the live event: