What is SGMA?
The California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“SGMA”) is a package of three bills (Assembly Bill 1739, Senate Bill 1168 and Senate Bill 1319) that were passed by State legislature and signed by the Governor in 2014. SGMA’s intent is to mandate that groundwater basins throughout the State are managed in a manner that provides long-term stability in groundwater levels while not degrading water quality or creating unreasonable land subsidence. In the California Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) Bulletin 118, 515 groundwater basins and subbasins were identified and associated boundaries for each were defined. Additionally, DWR analyzed the current groundwater conditions in each subbasin and determined which basins were in need of remedial actions to obtain a state of sustainability. This resulted in DWR’s rating of each basin with either a high, medium, or low-priority status designation, with a high-priority status resulting in the need for immediate action.
The overall intent of SGMA is for a local public agency to become a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (“GSA”) over each basin or subbasin described in Bulletin 118. Under SGMA, a GSA is then obligated to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (“GSP”) that provides a roadmap for managing each such basin on a sustainable basis. The timing of development and implementation of the GSPs is a function of the priority status.
SGMA defines sustainable groundwater management as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing “undesirable results”. Undesirable results are defined in SGMA and summarized as any of the following effects caused by groundwater conditions occurring throughout the basin:
- Chronic lowering of groundwater levels indicating a significant and unreasonable depletion of supply
- Significant and unreasonable reduction of groundwater storage
- Significant and unreasonable seawater intrusion
- Significant and unreasonable degraded water quality
- Significant and unreasonable land subsidence
- Surface water depletions that have significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses of the surface water
SGMA and the Root Creek Water District GSA
The Root Creek Water District GSA (“RCWD GSA”) is located within the Madera Subbasin (which is categorized as a high priority basin). All lands within the Madera Subbasin are required to comply with SGMA. The RCWD GSA filed to become a GSA in July 2016. The RCWD GSA is currently working collectively with the other GSAs in the Madera Subbasin to develop and implement a GSP in order to comply with SGMA requirements. A GSP for the Madera Subbasin must be adopted by January 31, 2020, and the GSP will need to include a roadmap to achieve sustainable groundwater management within a 20-year timeframe.