SGMA in the News

NOTICE: Update to Bulletin 74, California Well Standards: DWR Convenes Technical Advisory Committee for Update of Well Standards

October 5, 2020

From the Department of Water Resources:

The Department of Water Resources will be updating DWR Bulletin 74, California Well Standards and is convening a Technical Advisory Committee to guide the update.

Technical Advisory Committee

Committee members will represent a wide range of stakeholders and will convene from March 2021 to March 2022. The committee will break out in smaller groups to focus on specific topics. Those topics include the four well types included in the standards: Water, monitoring, cathodic protection, and geothermal heat exchange. DWR’s technical team will consider recommendations from the committee when updating the standards.

If you are interested in joining the committee, please email Sharon Hu, Kearns & West, at, by October 9, 2020. Kearns & West is collecting the candidate list for the committee on behalf of DWR.

Public Review Process

Once the standards have been updated, DWR will release a public review draft and will hold public workshops to collect and consider public comments before finalizing the standards. DWR will submit the final standards to the Water Boards for adoption into the Model Well Ordinance. Following submission, DWR will train well designers, installers, inspectors, and regulators in the updated standards.

Engagement Opportunities

You can get involved in the update of the well standards in the following ways:

Category: DWR Updates

DWR UPDATES: Submit fall groundwater level data to CASGEM in October; Members wanted for Well Standards Technical Advisory Committee; Application deadline extended for SGMA Watershed Coordinator Grant Program; and more …

October 5, 2020

NEW Submit Fall Groundwater Level Data to CASGEM in October

Monitoring Entities for the California Statewide Groundwater Elevation Monitoring (CASGEM) Program are asked to submit fall 2020 groundwater level measurements to the CASGEM Online System (OS) in October. The data is due within 30 days of collection, and no later than December 31.

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) understands the COVID-19 pandemic and state emergency declarations may interfere with timely data collection. If fall data cannot be collected in a timely manner, then a “no measurement code” should be submitted.

Monitoring wells in a basin/subbasin that are not transferred to a groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) remain associated with the original agency and have automatically been designated as voluntary wells in the CASGEM OS. DWR encourages the continued monitoring of these wells because groundwater level data is important for understanding conditions within the basin.

For technical issues or questions, please connect with your Region Office CASGEM contact found on the CASGEM webpage.

NEW Members Wanted for Well Standards Technical Advisory Committee

DWR is forming a Technical Advisory Committee for the update to DWR Bulletin 74, California Well Standards. The committee will convene from March 2021 to March 2022 and members will break out into smaller groups to focus on specific issues.

If you’re interested in joining the committee, please email Julie Haas by October 9, 2020, at

Submit ideas or comments related to California Well Standards on the Bulletin 74 comment portal and sign up to receive emailed updates and announcements.

NEW Application Deadline Extended for SGMA Watershed Coordinator Grant Program

The application deadline for the California Department of Conservation SGMA Watershed Coordinator Grant Program has been extended to October 15, 2020, because of the statewide fire emergency.

The grant provides funds for watershed coordinator positions and projects in high- and medium-priority basins. Special districts, GSAs, GSAs with approved alternatives, nonprofit groups, local governments, and tribes may apply.

For questions, email or call (916) 324-0850.

NEW DWR Publishes Article on Community Member Involvement in Groundwater Planning

A new digital article Clean, Reliable Water: How to Get a Seat at the Table for Groundwater Planning is available on the DWR website. The article explains how community members can be involved in groundwater planning.

Additional articles can be viewed on the DWR Updates webpage.

REMINDER Written Translation Services Available

DWR’s written translation service is available to help with communication to non-English speaking constituents. Translation services for materials are available in Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Laotian, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Applicants can submit up to 5,000 words per basin/subbasin.

For details, visit the Written Translation tab on the Assistance and Engagement webpage.

REMINDER Public Meetings Can Be Held Remotely During Pandemic

Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-25-20 encourages elected officials to conduct public meetings by teleconference or other electronic venue during the pandemic. The order temporarily waives requirements in the Bagley-Keene Act and Brown Act as long as specific requirements are met. The order applies to GSAs and others involved in the implementation of SGMA.

REMINDER Submit Your GSP Initial Notification

Before starting a GSP, agencies are required to notify DWR in writing using the SGMA Portal – GSP Initial Notification System. The portal allows edits to be made to previously submitted Initial Notifications, including the ability to withdraw a submittal.

For more information, contact the regional coordinators in DWR’s four Regional Offices. For assistance with the system, email

Connect with Your Basin Point of Contact

DWR has designated basin points of contact to assist local agencies 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

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES: Watershed management, Water quality, Nonpoint source grant program

October 5, 2020

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Cooperative Watershed Management Program Phase II

From the Bureau of Reclamation:

The Bureau of Reclamation has published a funding opportunity for the WaterSMART Cooperative Watershed Management Program Phase II.

Established watershed management groups may apply to this funding opportunity to implement on-the-ground watershed management projects. Eligible projects may address critical water supply needs, water quality concerns, or restoration needs, helping water users meet competing demands and avoid conflicts over water.

Applicants may request up to $300,000 for projects to be completed within two years. A 50% non-federal cost share is required. Applications are due on Nov. 17, 2020

Click here to access all the documents.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: NRCS Announces 2021 Priority Planning Watershed Areas for Water Quality

From the Natural Resources Conservation Service:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has named five priority watershed areas to help agricultural producers improve water quality across California. Producers in these targeted watersheds will receive focused financial and technical resources through NRCS’s successful landscape-level water-quality efforts, the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).

“We see a positive impact – both here in California and across the country – when we partner with producers to deliver conservation practices to critical watersheds,” said Carlos Suarez, NRCS state conservationist in California. “These focused partnerships allow us to maximize the delivery of our conservation efforts and achieve greater improvements to water quality, which benefits the participating producers, the public, and our nation’s natural resources.”

Click here to learn more.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: 2021 Nonpoint Source Grant Program

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

This is a request for proposals for the 2021 Nonpoint Source (NPS) Grant Program – Clean Water Act section 319(h). The 2021 Nonpoint Source Grant Program Guidelines (Guidelines) are posted on the NPS Grant Program website ( The Guidelines describe program preferences, eligibility requirements, application process and instructions, project selection criteria, and the grant award process.

Learn more by clicking here.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: 2020 California Financing Coordinating Committee Virtual Funding Fair

The California Financing Coordinating Committee (CFCC) is pleased to invite you to attend a free virtual funding fair on October 22, 2020 (see attached flyer for more information). The funding fair will provide the opportunity to learn more about available grant, loan and bond financing options for infrastructure projects from federal, state, and local agencies.

 Representatives from water industry professionals, public works, local governments, and California Native American Tribes should attend. This includes city managers and planners, economic development and engineering professionals, officials from privately owned facilities, water and irrigation district managers, financial advisors, and project consultants.

We look forward to your attendance at the virtual funding fair. For more information about CFCCC, please visit the website at 

SGMA in the news

October 5, 2020

Small Farmers Shortchanged by SGMA

“When Governor Jerry Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) into law in September 2014, he said that “groundwater management in California is best accomplished locally.” With the first round of plans made available for public comment this year, it appears that, while the state certainly ceded control to local management agencies, those same agencies have prioritized the interests of big agriculture and industry over small farmers and disadvantaged communities.

A June 2020 paper from UC Davis published in the international journal Society & Natural Resources, as well as work done by the Fresno nonprofit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, have shed light on the procedural inequities. … ”

Read more from Estuary News here:  Small Farmers Shortchanged by SGMA

Citizens group begins deep dive in Napa Valley groundwater issues

A large citizens group has begun shaping a state-required plan to make certain Napa Valley groundwater serving world-famous vineyards and wineries is never sucked dry.  The Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee — 25 people appointed by the Board of Supervisors representing such interests as farming, wineries and the environment — was in action last Thursday with a Zoom meeting. …

Read more from the Napa Register here:  Citizens group begins deep dive in Napa Valley groundwater issues

Sonoma County: Healthy groundwater?

“Sonoma Valley has a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) that is working to produce a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) by January 1, 2022. The GSA is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) agency made up of the Sonoma County, the City of Sonoma, Sonoma Water, Valley of the Moon, Water District, North Bay Water District, and the Sonoma Resource Conservation District.  The GSA process was mandated by state law in 2015, by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA. Sonoma Valley is a SGMA-defined high priority groundwater basin for multiple reasons, large dependence on groundwater, possible seawater intrusion, and that in some areas, withdrawals are exceeding recharge. … ”

Read more from the Sonoma Sun here: Sonoma County: Healthy groundwater?

All invited to Solano Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency Collaborative’s town hall

The Solano Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency Collaborative (Solano Collaborative) will host its first Virtual Town Hall, where updates will be given on the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in the Solano Subbasin.  Also offered will be background on SGMA; progress in developing the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP); information about groundwater science; and how the public can stay involved.  A question and answer session will be part of the program. …

Read more from the Vacaville Reporter here:  All invited to Solano Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency Collaborative’s town hall

East Tule GSA to charge farmers for pumping water

Farmers whose only access to water is pumping from their own well will get their first glimpse at what the state’s new groundwater management law will cost them next month.  On Oct. 1, the East Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency (ETGSA) will hold a public hearing to discuss a groundwater extraction fee for property owners who rely on groundwater to irrigate their crops. The meeting is open to the public, not just those affected by the fee or those within the boundaries of the GSA

Read more from the Sun-Gazette here: East Tule GSA to charge farmers for pumping water

“Madness and arrogance” blamed for one lawsuit against desert groundwater agency

Two lawsuits accusing the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority of ramming through a plan that ignores water rights and, according to one plaintiff, is intended to “destroy agriculture” were filed this week.  At issue is a controversial $2,000-per-acre-foot fee approved by the authority last month that would be charged to certain groundwater users over a five-year period. That money is intended to raise $50 million to buy Central Valley water and, somehow, bring it over the Sierra Nevadas to replenish the overdrafted desert aquifer. …

Read more from SJV Water here:  “Madness and arrogance” blamed for one lawsuit against desert groundwater agency

Category: News Article

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.