SGMA in the News

Stanislaus County appeals ruling that would make it harder for farmers to dig wells

September 22, 2018

From the Modesto Bee:

“Stanislaus County will ask the state Supreme Court for a ruling on whether environmental review is a necessary step for a new water well.

In August, a state appeals court overturned the Stanislaus Superior Court’s decision in the Protecting Our Water lawsuit, which sought an injunction against county well permit approvals. The plaintiffs claimed the county was violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in approving well permits without considering environmental harm.  … “

Read more from the Modesto Bee here:  Stanislaus County appeals ruling that would make it harder for farmers to dig wells

Category: News Article
Keywords: Governance

Guest Commentary: SGMA – What’s a Farmer to Do?

September 22, 2018

Guest commentary by Don A. Wright at

“Just when things are starting to get back to normal after the recent drought, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 has sucked all the oxygen out of the room. It’s common for irrigation and water district general managers to spend at least half their time and talent on dealing with the requirements of this law. Many have said this is the most impactful piece of water legislation since 1914 when the Water Commission Act formalized the appropriation system and centralized appropriative water right records at the state level (now the State Water Resources Control Board). Under the act, the state required new appropriators to obtain a permit from the state prior to diverting water but left groundwater alone.

The Valley’s aquifer is showing the stress of over pumping and some very real dangers lie ahead if this trend isn’t reversed. While there is plenty of room to blame misguided water policy from Sacramento – the blame won’t correct the problem. In fact most experts and laymen alike don’t see a way for business to return to usual. …

I asked some people whose opinions I respect; what can a farmer do to protect his assets? Here are some of the answers.

To read the full commentary, click here: GUEST COMMENTARY: SGMA – What’s a Farmer to Do?

Category: Water Wrights

Avoiding ‘Adverse Impacts’ of Groundwater Pumping on Surface Waters

September 21, 2018

From Stanford’s Water in the West:

“Local agencies in critically overdrafted groundwater basins in California have less than a year and a half to draft their plans to achieve sustainable groundwater management. These Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), formed under California’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), will need to avoid six specified “undesirable results” ranging from seawater intrusion and degraded water quality to land subsidence.

A new report by Water in the West visiting scholar Letty Belin guides these agencies through how to understand and comply with the requirement that GSAs must not cause “significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses of surface water.” … “

Read more from Stanford’s Water in the West here: Avoiding ‘Adverse Impacts’ of Groundwater Pumping on Surface Waters.

Public input needed for future of Paso Robles groundwater basin

September 21, 2018

From KSBY:

“The Paso Robles Groundwater Basin is critically over-drafted and county leaders continue to work on a plan to fix that.

So far, water experts and district leaders have drafted 5 out of 13 chapters of the state-mandated Groundwater Sustainability Plan. They need to submit the full plan to the state by Jan. 31, 2020.

In the meantime, they’re looking for public comment. … “

Read more from KSBY here:  Public input needed for future of Paso Robles groundwater basin

Category: News Article

Report: An Assessment of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act for Municipal Water Suppliers

September 21, 2018

From Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck:

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“SGMA”) is now in its fourth year of operation. Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (“GSAs”) have been formed throughout the medium- and high-priority basins across California, and those GSAs are now developing Groundwater Sustainability Plans (“GSP”). The GSPs will ultimately afford greater long-term groundwater supply reliability by avoiding chronic groundwaer depletion and other “undesirable results,” such as signficant loss of storage, water quality degradation, subsidence, and seawater intrusion.

To achieve sustainable management in basins experiencing pronounced overdraft conditions, either augmented recharge will be necessary or groundwater extractions will need to be reduced over time. This process will affect municipal water suppliers that rely on groundwater basins that are subject to SGMA’s provision. It is, thus, important that municipal water suppliers understand the requirements of SGMA, the potential impacts to their groundwater supplies, and the procedural and substantive options and strategies that should be considered throughout the process.

To that effect, this paper will cover:

1. An overview of SGMA and its essential provisions;
2. The issues that will need to be resolved to implement SGMA, including the potential
division of available water supplies within a basin;
3. A summary of key groundwater rights laws;
4. A discussion of groundwater basin adjudications and new laws designed to streamline future adjudications and harmonize their results with SGMA; and
5. Strategies that municipal water providers may employ to optimize outcomes from the SGMA/adjudication process.

Read the report from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck here: Report: An Assessment of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act for Municipal Water Suppliers.

Category: New reports

Paso Robles quiet title trial nears end in Santa Clara

September 21, 2018

From New Times SLO:

“A jury trial to determine whose groundwater rights should win out in a 5-year-old clash between public water purveyors and private landowners near Paso Robles approached a conclusion in Santa Clara County Superior Court the week of Sept. 20.

In 2013, a small group of North County property owners, led by vintner Cindy Steinbeck, filed a quiet title water rights lawsuit in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, amid anxiety about the drought, its impact on the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, and the regulations set to curb water pumping. … ”

Read more from New Times SLO here:  Paso Robles quiet title trial nears end in Santa Clara

Category: News Article
Keywords: Water Rights

Paso Robles groundwater talks to heat up as state deadline looms

September 21, 2018

From New Times SLO:

“One chapter at a time. That’s how scientists, water officials, and the public are writing the 20-year sustainability plan for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.  Five out of the plan’s 13 total chapters are drafted thus far, covering introductions, basin boundaries, and hydrology.

But that was the easy part.  Sustainability discussions are about to get a lot more complicated and challenging as the meat of the plan—future groundwater level targets, well monitoring programs, recharge projects, and financing questions—start to take center stage. … ”

Read more from New Times SLO here:  Paso Robles groundwater talks to heat up as state deadline looms

Category: News Article

Santa Cruz, Soquel Creek Water District anticipate water exchange kickoff

September 21, 2018

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

“A water-sharing project opening a pipeline between Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District may be underway as early as November, serving as a partial solution for the region’s chronic water supply shortage.  The two utilities have spent more than a decade researching options for water supply expansion as their populations continue to grow.

Santa Cruz, dependent on river and stream water supplies, does not have enough storage space for its customers’ long-term needs, while Soquel Creek Water District, as with other water agencies in the county, is dependent on underground aquifers that are not refilling as quickly as they are being depleted by well pumping. … ”

Read more from the Santa Cruz Sentinel here: Santa Cruz, Soquel Creek Water District anticipate water exchange kickoff

Category: News Article

California’s Plan to Store Water Underground Could Risk Contamination

September 21, 2018

From KQED:

“As California begins handing out $2.5 billion in state funds for several new water management projects, a shift is taking place in the ways officials are considering storing water. To contend with the likelihood of future extreme droughts, some of these new strategies rely on underground aquifers — an approach far removed from traditional dam-based water storage.

While diversifying the toolbelt of water management strategies will likely help insulate the state against loss, a group of researchers at Stanford University are drawing attention to a risk they say has long ridden under the radar of public consciousness: the introduction of dangerous chemicals into California groundwater, both through industrial and natural pathways. … “

Read more from KQED here: California’s Plan to Store Water Underground Could Risk Contamination.

Category: News Article
Keywords: Water Quality

SURVEY: SGMA and water quality issues

September 21, 2018

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is seeking input via a survey on water quality as it relates to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP) Regulations. The purpose of this survey is for DWR’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Program (SGMP) to obtain feedback on water quality concerns, which will inform DWR’s continued assistance and guidance to Groundwater Sustainability Agencies as they prepare and implement GSPs with support from interested parties.

The survey will be available until October 10, 2018, and can be accessed here:

Your participation in this water quality survey is greatly appreciated. If you have any questions or comments, please email

Category: DWR Updates