The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is State law requiring that groundwater basins are made sustainable. This essentially means maintaining balanced levels of pumping and recharge, and assuring reliable water quality. Everyone who uses groundwater should recognize the vast importance of basin sustainability for today, and for our children, their children, and the generations beyond. SGMA provides a comprehensive framework for basin sustainability, additional technical analysis and quantification of many aspects of basin sustainability and management, extensive and more detailed descriptions of basin setting and conditions, and more comprehensive monitoring of groundwater use, groundwater quality, and groundwater levels, including metering of groundwater usage.
SGMA enables eligible local agencies to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for designated basins in their jurisdiction, and achieve groundwater sustainability within 20 years of GSP implementation. It provides for assistance by State agencies such as the Department of Water Resources (DWR), and also mandates State intervention if local agencies fail to meet SGMA’s requirements. SGMA is required by State law, but it’s also simply a good idea for water and land use planning agencies and their communities, as it:
- Offers tools for managing and sustaining our groundwater supplies
- Supports agriculture and rural communities
- Supports urban water use and helps meet the challenges of urban growth
- Supports groundwater-dependent habitats and offers environmental benefits
- Helps prepare local agencies to address climate change/weather variability challenges
- Provides an opportunity for agencies to actively manage groundwater resources to best accommodate changing circumstances, conditions, populations, and land uses
SGMA Groundwater Management Tools
SGMA’s rigorous, required processes will build on SBCWD’s solid foundation of management practices, with additional information and analyses, review of basin conditions considering new sustainability criteria, update of basin modeling, and renewal of the planning process. SGMA also broadens the scope of groundwater management to relatively extensive basin areas, requiring expansion of data collection, monitoring, and management to a wider area.
SGMA enables a GSA to adopt regulations requiring the installation of water-measuring devices on all groundwater wells producing/pumping more than two acre-feet a year within the basin boundaries at the expense of the operator or owner.
Under SGMA, a GSA may also adopt other tools (many of which SBCWD already uses) including:
- Conduct investigations of water rights
- Acquire property and water rights
- Adopt rules, regulations, and ordinances
- Require the registration of wells
- Utilize recycled water as a supply source