GSP Regulations Approved by Water Commission

The California Water Commission approved the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Emergency Regulations for Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) and Alternatives on May 18, 2016.  Following approval by the Office of Administrative Law, the regulations will go into effect in June 2016.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was intended to recognize that groundwater is best managed on the local level and that each groundwater basin has unique characteristics and challenges. An inherently technical and complex task, managing groundwater requires regulations that can address the goal of sustainability across such a geologically and hydrologically diverse State.

The GSP regulations recognize two key principles of SGMA. First, that groundwater is best managed at the local or regional level, and local agencies should have the tools they need to sustainably manage their resources. Second, when local or regional agencies cannot or will not manage their groundwater sustainably, the State will intervene until local agencies develop and implement GSPs.

Under SGMA, DWR is responsible for evaluating the development and implementation of GSPs, alternatives, and coordination agreements by local agencies.  The GSP regulations reflect this responsibility, and cover such provisions as data collection, reporting requirements, descriptions of current and historical groundwater conditions, the elements of the “water budgets” that each plan must include, and the criteria by which an agency defines conditions in its plan that constitute sustainable management.

The GSP regulations are the result of extensive public engagement and reflect the wide variety of perspectives provided by numerous advisory groups and statewide stakeholders, the general public, the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Water Commission. Throughout 2015 and 2016, DWR regularly met with multiple, conducted public meetings and webinars across the state, published issue papers to educate the public on the issues, prompt public discussion and gather feedback.

The California Water Commission approved GSP regulations and supporting information can be viewed on DWR’s website.

DWR will bring proposed GSP Emergency Regulations to California Water Commission on May 18, 2016

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) will present the proposed groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) emergency regulations to the California Water Commission on May 18, 2016, for consideration and adoption.  DWR released the proposed regulations, which are available at, on May 10, 2016.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires groundwater sustainability agencies to comply with the regulations in order to sustainably manage California’s groundwater basins.  The proposed regulations are the result of an extensive public engagement process and reflect the wide variety of perspectives provided by numerous advisory groups, statewide stakeholders, the general public, and other State agencies, including the California Water Commission and the State Water Resources Control Board.

Information on the California Water Commission’s May 18th meeting, including agenda, related materials, and webcast information, is available at

Sensible Measures: Writing SGMA’s Story

Guest Blog Post: Tina Cannon Leahy, Senior Staff Counsel, State Water Resources Control Board

My environmental law journal article on TinaHeadShot@CalEPAthe Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) called Desperate Times Call for Sensible Measures:  The Making of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was recently published.  The article was a follow up to a presentation I did in 2015 at the California Water Law Symposium on how SGMA was passed.  That year the symposium was hosted by Golden Gate University School of Law and afterwards they approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in making the story of how SGMA “happened” in to a law journal article.  I was chosen to present at the Symposium because during my time at the California Assembly I was fortunate enough to become the main technical drafter of Assemblymember Roger Dickinson’s groundwater legislation, Assembly Bill 1739.  That bill, together with Senator Fran Pavley’s Senate Bills 1168 and 1319, formed SGMA and its related statutory provisions.  It all started when Assemblymember Dickinson’s incredibly smart and capable Legislative Director, Les Spahnn, came to me in anticipation of introducing their bill and said, “Tell me about groundwater.”  Over an hour later he suggested, “Let’s work together on this!” and thus started one of the most rewarding professional partnerships of my career.  Continue reading

UC Santa Cruz Releases Evaluation on California’s Adjudicated Basins

ruthheadshotUC Santa Cruz researcher, Ruth Langridge, was the lead author on the recently released report “An Evaluation of California’s Adjudicated Groundwater Basins,” commissioned by the State Water Board. The comprehensive report assesses the past history and current condition of all of California’s adjudicated groundwater basins. The Water Board was interested in this study because the adjudicated basins underlie important regions in the state including much of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, as well as desert and coastal areas.  Local agencies can also learn from the experiences of the adjudicated basins as the local agencies implement SGMA. (Under SGMA, the basins that were adjudicated prior to 2015 are required to report data to the state, but they are not required to develop SGMA plans. Future adjudicated basins must comply with SGMA.)

Langridge was pleased at the chance to conduct this research stating, “I became interested in the adjudicated basins before SGMA was passed. Many had talked about adjudication being the best way to manage groundwater, but no one had followed up on whether that was the case. I was very excited about the opportunity to look at what was going on today in these basins.” Continue reading

Public Comment Meetings: Draft GSP Regs

NEW_DWR_LOGO_4inch (2)The Department of Water Resources (DWR) Sustainable Groundwater Management Program will host three required public meetings and a statewide webinar to solicit comments on the Draft GSP Emergency Regulations. Local agencies and interested parties are encouraged to attend, listen, and provide comments. The deadline to submit written comments has been extended to April 1, 2016. For more information and meeting dates, see flyer.

DWR Notification – SGMA Reporting for Adjudicated Areas

March 4, 2016

NEW_DWR_LOGO_4inch (2)Adjudicated Areas are required under SGMA to report groundwater-related information annually by April 1, beginning in 2016.  DWR has launched a new webpage that provides an online reporting tool for watermasters and water managers of adjudicated areas.

Information and web links are provided on this page to the Water Code language and the site for the reporting tool.  The reporting tool site also provides a link which enables the public to view the information that has been submitted by adjudicated area water managers. Water managers submitting information to the reporting tool require a pre-authorized login.  If you are a water manager of an adjudicated area and did not receive an authorization email, please contact Tim Ross at

DWR Newsletter: SGM Program News 3.3.16

NEW_DWR_LOGO_4inch (2)Sustainable groundwater management (Sgm) Program News

March 3, 2016

The California Department of Water Resources provides bi-weekly updates regarding SGM Program information to its stakeholders and interested parties.

Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plans Regulations Update

On February 18, Draft Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP) Emergency Regulations were released for review and public comment.

A guide to GSP Emergency Regulations is now available on the SGM Program website. The Draft GSP Emergency Regulations Guide provides information essential to understanding the Draft GSP Emergency Regulations, and explains the fundamental concepts through four phases of development and implementation. This guide does not serve as a substitute for the draft GSP regulations. Readers are strongly encouraged to read the Draft GSP Emergency Regulations Continue reading

Scott Valley Irrigation District Uses Expedited Permit to Benefit Fish

In January 2015, Scott Valley Irrigation District received the first expedited permit issued by the State Water Resources Control Board for a groundwater recharge project to benefit fish and wildlife. SVID President Jim Morris describes how the process worked and why SVID is doing groundwater recharge research.

Ranch SignTell us a little about yourself and your ranch operation.

When I married my wife Katie, I joined the multi-generational Bryan family ranch that’s been in business in Siskiyou County since the 1850s. My children are now the 6th generation and I’m the manager of the Bryan-Morris ranch that sits within the Scott Valley Irrigation District. We grow hay for retail, but we also keep cows and sheep, and board horses. My wife’s grandpa was the secretary of the original SVID Board and I currently sit as the president. Continue reading

DWR Includes Tribes in Public Outreach for SGMA

SGMA legislation aims to achieve sustainability for California’s groundwater and applies

anecita agustinez-0183
Anecita Agustinez, DWR Tribal Policy Advisor

to medium and high priority basins that are not adjudicated. The Act requires public participation during the GSA formation process and outreach that is as inclusive as possible.

There are about 50 separate tribes in the high and medium priority basins covered under SGMA. The federal government or any federally recognized Indian tribe is exempt from the legislation even if their land falls within basins that are required to form GSAs. While tribal government participation is voluntary, tribes are welcome to participate in the process through mutual agreements with local agencies that are required to comply. Continue reading

Water Board Includes Spanish Language Outreach for SGMA

Communication is a cornerstone of the successful implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The legislation requires public outreach and participation during the GSA formation process, and agencies are obligated to be as inclusive as possible.

Miryam Barajas, Information Officer, State Water Resources Control Board
Miryam Barajas, Information Officer, State Water Resources Control Board

The State Water Resources Control Board is helping to create more awareness and transparency about SGMA, drought and water conservation for Spanish speaking populations who may be greatly impacted or just interested in groundwater issues. And people in the Central Valley have been particularly hard hit in the last four years due to drought.

According to Miryam Barajas, Information Officer for State Water Resources Control Board, “In the Central Valley, there is an urgent need. You have communities that have run out of water, and private wells have gone dry. Some families are afraid their kids will be taken because they don’t have the ability to provide for the basic needs. There is a lot of fear, with the migrant and farming community, about government.” Continue reading