SGMA in the News

NOW AVAILABLE: Local Government Commission’s New Virtual Engagement Best Practices Guide

May 14, 2020

From the Local Government Commission:

The current COVID-19 shelter-in-place conditions are shifting much of our work and engagement to virtual settings.

To help you and your community adapt to these new circumstances, LGC has developed the following guide to Virtual Engagement Best Practices.

This 12-page guidebook walks you through some of the most important considerations in developing your virtual engagement event, highlighting some of LGC’s lessons learned through our 35+ years experiencing connecting leaders and engaging communities.

We hope this guide will help you and your community develop more effective, interactive virtual events during this unprecedented time. Please share this resource broadly with your networks.

Click here for the Guide to Virtual Engagement Best Practices.

Category: Announcement

ONLINE COURSE: Introduction to Groundwater, Watersheds, and Groundwater Sustainability Plans

May 13, 2020

Registration just $100 and includes textbook; reduced rates for state agency employees, GSAs, and those attending GRA’s GSA Summit

Understanding groundwater and watersheds and how we monitor, assess, and sustainably manage these resources is critical and integral to California Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) and other water management programs.  Private citizens, professionals, decision makers, executives, agency employees, and stakeholders with diverse backgrounds and in a wide variety of private, non-profit, and government responsibilities are increasingly engaged in the sustainable management and assessment of groundwater and surface water.

This online short course will review the fundamental principles of groundwater and watershed hydrology, water budgets, water quality, and water law and regulation in an intuitive, highly accessible fashion. Through real world examples, participants learn about the most common tools for measuring, monitoring, and assessing groundwater and surface water resources. We then review the key steps and elements of planning for groundwater sustainability.  Case studies are used so participants learn about

  • development of conceptual models, water budgets, and GSP sustainability criteria;
  • designing minimum thresholds and operating targets (measureable objectives) for GSPs and how to link those to monitoring networks;
  • methods for addressing climate variability and climate change;
  • recharge as a tool to enhance groundwater supplies;
  • local Groundwater Sustainability Agency governance; and
  • available online planning resources.

Click here to register.

Who Should Attend?

The course is specifically geared towards an audience that is or will be involved in the management, assessment, and protection of groundwater and surface water resources under California’s SGMA or similar programs.  The course will also be useful for those who engage with, e.g., source water assessments, urban water management plans, and integrated regional water management plans. Course attendees, who may have some experience with but no formal training in hydrology or related engineering or science fields, will benefit from the basic and intuitive, yet comprehensive approach of this course.


May 21 and 28, June 4, 18, and 25
9 a.m. – 12 p.m.  PDT (GMT-0700)
This shortcourse will be provided online using Zoom.

Cost:  $100 / $60

Reduced fees ($60) are available to state agency employees, members of California Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (board, staff, advisory committees) and to participants of the GRA Groundwater Sustainability Planning Summit, June 10-11, 2020.

Scholarships are available for attendees in financial need.

Click here for more information and to register.

Category: News Article


May 13, 2020

2020 marks the beginning of a new decade – and the five year anniversary of SGMA implementation!

The Third Annual GSA Summit, now a virtual event held June 10-11, is an opportunity to celebrate a significant milestone with the first round of GSP submittals (due at the end of January) and to exchange information, ideas and best practices for successful GSP development and implementation.

This year’s discussion sessions will include new information and approaches to topics such as:

  • Lessons learned from 2020 GSPs
  • Best approaches for effective stakeholder engagement
  • How to coordinate GSA governance with other government agencies
  • Different ways to establish sustainable management criteria
  • Input on GSP development from various stakeholder groups
  • Data gap assessment and GSP implementation

Keynote speakers from State Board and DWR will provide reflections on the SGMA legislation development and implementation and provide insights on future program developments.

Don’t miss this opportunity for SGMA practitioners to learn from each other, identify best practices, and reflect on past SGMA successes and prepare for future implementation opportunities.

Join us for this event over 1 or 2 days, from the comfort of your home, and feel connected to the SGMA and professional groundwater community in this challenging time.

Funding available for GSA board, staff and committee members, as well as community members and not-for-profit organizations involved in GSP development.

Click here for more information and to register.

Category: Announcement

DWR SGMO NEWS: GSP public comment period ending soon; Draft report on drought and water shortage vulnerability released; SVSim beta model released

May 13, 2020

From the Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Office

GSP Public Comment Period Ending Soon

Public comments on the first set of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) are due May 15, 2020. The next comment period closes June 3, 2020.

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) extended public comment periods for submitted GSPs by 30 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Comment periods vary based on when a plan was posted to the DWR website.

DWR encourages public review and comment on submitted plans which show how local water agencies plan to manage groundwater basins for long-term sustainability. Comments can be posted and viewed 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

Draft Report on Drought and Water Shortage Vulnerability Released

DWR recently released the draft Small Water Suppliers and Rural Communities at Risk of Drought and Water Shortage Vulnerability and Recommendations and Guidance to Address the Planning Needs of these Communities report. The report provides information for GSAs to consider and incorporate into future updates to GSPs and will help inform management decisions as these plans are implemented.

DWR created a new online Water Shortage Risk tool that can be used to explore the relative risk assessment of small water suppliers and rural communities in groundwater basins.

The public comment period ends June 19, 2020. Two webinars will be scheduled to discuss the report recommendations and the Water Shortage Risk tool.

Comments can be submitted online or emailed to

More information is available on the Countywide Drought and Water Shortage Contingency Plans webpage.

SVSim Beta Model Released

DWR has released the beta version of the Sacramento Valley Groundwater-Surface Water Simulation Model (SVSim) that can be used during GSP development. Instructions for use are included in the Roadmap to Running SVSim document. A calibrated version of SVSim is expected in fall 2020.

For questions or more information, please email Linda Bond at or Chris Bonds at

View Video on Draft Water Budget Development Handbook Webinar

The April 21 webinar for the Handbook for Water Budget Development: With or Without Models is now available online. The webinar focuses on challenging water budget topics. The handbook presents existing information on various methods and data sources for developing water budgets and can help in the development of water budgets for any geographic area and time period.

The public comment period for the handbook was extended by 30 days because of the pandemic and closes May 7, 2020. Email comments to, attention Abdul Khan.

For more information, view Frequently Asked Questions on the Water Budget Handbook or visit the Reports tab on the Data and Tools 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 groundwater sustainability agencies and others involved in the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

REMINDER Written Translation Service 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.

Visit the Written Translation tab on the Assistance and Engagement webpage for details.

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: Drought resiliency, SGMA watershed coordinator, project accelerator

May 13, 2020

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Funding opportunity available to build drought resiliency through WaterSMART

The Bureau of Reclamation has released a funding opportunity for communities to take a proactive approach to drought through building projects that increase water supply reliability, improve water management, or provide benefits for fish, wildlife and the environment. The drought resiliency projects funding opportunity is available at by searching funding opportunity number BOR-DO-20-F002.“We are looking for applicants that are working to implement projects that are identified in their drought response plans to avoid future crises and reduce the need for emergency response actions,” said Reclamation’s Acting Drought Response Program Manager John Whitler.Eligible applicants for funding include states, tribes, irrigation districts, water districts or other organizations with water or power delivery authority located in the western United States or U.S. territories. It also includes Alaska and Hawaii, which are now eligible.

Up to $300,000 per agreement is available for a project that can be completed within two years. Up to $750,000 per agreement is available for a project that can be completed within three years. Recipients must match the funding with a minimum of 50% non-federal cost-share.

Applications are due on July 8, 2020, at 4 p.m. MDT.

Visit Reclamation’s WaterSMART program at and the Drought Response Program at to learn more about this and other opportunities.

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY: New Department of Conservation SGMA Watershed Coordinator Grant Program

A new 2020 Sustainable Groundwater Management Watershed Coordinator (SGMA) Grant Program is being launched at the Department of Conservation.  Grants are being offered for watershed coordinators in parts of the state impacted by implementation of SGMA.  Information about the program can be found at public review draft solicitation and application has been posted at contact Department of Conservation watershed program staff with questions or comments via email at​ ​​or phone at (916) 324-0850.

FUNDING ASSISTANCE OPPORTUNITY: WaterNow accepting project accelerator applications for Spring 2020

WaterNow is pleased to announced that we are now accepting applications for the spring 2020 cycle of Project Accelerator! Project Accelerator offers cities and water agencies the opportunity to jumpstart a sustainable water project with free program and technical assistance.Project Accelerator awardees receive:
  • Tailored support for your program, including research, program design, evaluation metrics and training
  • Access to a broad network of water sector experts for your program and financing needs
  • Up to 250 hours of professional support for 6-9 months (valued at $25,000)

Do you need help advancing an innovative water program or project that could provide real benefits for your community? Complete an application today! Two projects will be selected to receive Project Accelerator support, and the deadline to apply is June 19, 2020.

Apply Now and Realize Your Water Innovation!.

If you’ve applied for Project Accelerator in the past, we encourage you to apply again. We were thrilled by the quality of projects and proposals we received last fall, and we hope you consider this round.

For more information about past projects, visit our website.

Keywords: Funding

SGMA in the news

May 13, 2020


Supervisors agree to form groundwater agency for Eel River Basin:  “The last item on the agenda, following a lengthy closed session, was a public hearing to consider forming a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for the Eel River basin.  Hank Seemann, the county’s deputy director of environmental services, explained that local officials don’t really want to form such an agency because they don’t believe one is really necessary. County staff had submitted a Groundwater Sustainability Plan Alternative, in lieu of a full plan, to the California Department of Water Resources, arguing that the precious groundwater in that basin is not at risk of drying up under the current uses and conditions. … ”  Read more from the Lost Coast Outpost here: Supervisors agree to form groundwater agency for Eel River Basin


How reliable are Groundwater Sustainability Plans? Earlier this year, the first local Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) were submitted to California’s Department of Water Resources for basins with the most severe groundwater overdraft.  To comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, these plans must address any “significant and unreasonable” impacts of groundwater overdraft that occurred after January 1, 2015, including lowering groundwater levels and other “undesirable results.” The math for ending overdraft is simple: groundwater basins must balance their budgets, by increasing groundwater recharge and reducing pumping.  In principle, evaluating the adequacy of these plans to achieve sustainability should also be simple: Does the anticipated reduction in pumping plus increase in recharge equal or exceed the basin’s long-term rate of overdraft? ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here: How reliable are Groundwater Sustainability Plans?

Farmers hijack community water access despite groundwater act, activists say:  “When a fire started on the property next door to Ray Cano’s home, the neighbors used Cano’s hose and well to fight the flames. Running the pump at full throttle, they managed to control the blaze until the fire department arrived. Then, the well’s pump sputtered to a stop.  Cano later called a well inspector, who did some basic probing and discovered the problem: The well had run dry, causing the pump’s motor to overheat. Cano had the man install a new pump and run the line about 40 feet deeper.  “He said that would last me another three or four years,” said Cano, a mailman who lives with his wife in Tombstone Territory, a cluster of homes in central Fresno County surrounded by orchards.  That was in May 2015 ... ”  Read more from KCET here:  Farmers hijack community water access despite groundwater act, activists say

Tulare County: Deadline extended for second round of GSP comments:  “As Groundwater Sustainability Agencies continue implementing their plans, the state has extended the deadline for the second round of public comments, citing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Eric Osterling, the general manager of the Greater Kaweah GSA, said that despite the pandemic, GSAs are continuing to work and implement their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP).  We can’t stop. It seems like so much has stopped, but we don’t have the luxury to stop,” Osterling said. “We have deadlines that we still have to meet and we have to show what work we’ve put in during our annual report.” … ”  Read more from the Foothills Sun-Gazette here: Deadline extended for second round of GSP comments


The Fox Canyon water market: a market-based tool for groundwater conservation goes live:  “Ventura County, California, is an agricultural powerhouse. In 2017, its revenues from agriculture were an estimated $2.1 billion. It also faces extraordinary population pressure, with nearly 450 people per square mile – about five times the average population density of the United States. Both agriculture and infrastructure are dependent on, and impacted by, the availability of water – which has itself been impacted by California’s rapidly-diminishing groundwater reserves. … Following passage of SGMA, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) applied for and received a $1.8 million Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop the Fox Canyon Water Market. ... ” Read more from the Department of Agriculture here: The Fox Canyon water market: a market-based tool for groundwater conservation goes live


Resource governance in the American West: Institutions, information, and incentives: “The American West is a peculiar place. Depending on the location, the West can be drier, wetter, hotter, colder, or more rugged than the eastern United States. Much of the West receives only five to fifteen inches of precipitation each year, compared to thirty to fifty inches in eastern states. Regional variation is also much greater in the West. … Drawing from the insights of Ostrom and others, this chapter explores the emergence of various institutions governing the management of natural resources in the American West, both past and present, and discusses modern challenges associated with natural resource governance. It concludes by exploring policy reforms that would enable more cooperative, bottom-up solutions to today’s resource management challenges in the American West. … ”  Read more from PERC here:  Resource governance in the American West: Institutions, information, and incentives

Category: News Article

Fair Water: Researchers look at the perception of fairness in SGMA implementation

April 30, 2020

Fairness – or at least the perception of fairness – could play a determining role in the future of California’s groundwater, according to new research. The study, published in Society and Natural Resources, evaluated 137 surveys of Yolo County farmers to gauge their perceptions of fairness for groundwater allocation strategies and dispute resolution options. As required by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in January of 2020, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) of critically over-drafted water basins submitted plans to sustainably manage groundwater pumping and allow for basin recharge within the next 20 years. These plans, which inevitably include stricter allocation of groundwater and pumping limits, directly impact farmers of the nation’s largest agricultural state.

Below, the paper’s lead author, Courtney Hammond Wagner, and senior author, Meredith Niles, discuss their research examining what farmers identify as fair water allocation and how these perceptions can ultimately impact successful SGMA execution. Hammond Wagner is a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford’s Water in the West program, and Niles is an assistant professor at the University of Vermont.

Click here to read this article.

Utilizing excess winter stormwater flows for groundwater recharge

April 30, 2020

Kristin Sicke is the Assistant General Manager for Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, which manages water supplies for 200,000 acres in western Yolo County, which encompasses Woodland, Davis, and the surrounding area.  The District manages a small hydroelectric plant, two reservoirs, more than a 150 miles of canals and laterals, and three dams including the world’s longest inflatable rubber dam.  In this presentation from the 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Ms. Sicke describes the District’s efforts to use winter stormwater flows for groundwater recharge in the Yolo subbasin.

Click here to read this article.