SGMA is the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which was enacted in 2014 and became effective January 1, 2015. SGMA is important because it requires the regulation of groundwater for the first time in California’s history and provides new authority to local agencies to implement these requirements. The intent of SGMA is to strengthen local management of specified groundwater basins that are most critical to the state’s water needs by regulating groundwater use.
Yes. The State has identified MGWB as “Medium Priority,” which means compliance with SGMA is required.
Local public agencies with water supply, water management, and / or land use responsibility within a basin may form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to manage groundwater. Montecito Water District initiated formation of a GSA for the Montecito Groundwater Basin.
The State Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) are the state agencies in charge of ensuring that SGMA is implemented. The State Water Board will take over groundwater management in medium or high priority basins if local agencies are unable or unwilling to implement SGMA.
A groundwater basin is an area underlain by permeable materials (e.g., sand) that is capable of storing and providing a significant supply of groundwater to wells. DWR has ranked 127 basins throughout the state as medium or high priority and, thus, subject to SGMA.
Simply put, sustainable groundwater management means managing our water supply, while balancing the needs of our economy, environment and health and safety. Specifically, 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 as any of the following:
- Chronic lowering of Groundwater levels
- Significant and unreasonable reduction in Groundwater Storage
- Significant and unreasonable degradation of water quality
- Land subsidence due to collapsing of aquifer pore space
- Surface water depletions that have significant and unreasonable impacts on beneficial uses
- Seawater Intrusion
Groundwater is an essential part of the local water supply portfolio, and a critical part of drought and emergency response. Prudent groundwater management will provide a safeguard against prolonged drought and climate change and contribute to a reliable source of water supplies for future generations. Lack of proactive management could result in failure of public and/or private water wells, and jeopardize supply.
The primary purpose of a GSA under SGMA is to develop and implement a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) to achieve long-term groundwater sustainability. GSAs are empowered to utilize a number of new management tools to achieve the sustainability goal, such as: implement projects including those related to data collection to understand basin characteristics and community needs, register and meter groundwater wells, mitigate against overdrafts, implement rules and regulations, and assess fees to support creation and implementation of a GSP.
A Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) is the state-mandated plan to sustainably manage groundwater. Each GSP will contain an assessment of each basin under past and future conditions, and will also include any necessary monitoring, management, enforcement, and other requirements to achieve sustainability
GSAs are ultimately responsible for developing GSPs, but SGMA is clear that GSAs must involve stakeholders in developing GSPs. The GSA maintains an interested parties list for the Montecito Groundwater Basin, and there are many opportunities for public participation and input from stakeholders as the GSP is developed. See also the Advisory Committees page for more information.
SGMA took effect on January 1, 2015. A GSP must be adopted by 2020 for critically over-drafted basins, and 2022 for other medium and high priority basins. Montecito Groundwater Basin was designated as medium priority in 2019 and has five years from that date to submit a GSP. SGMA provides time (20 years from the time a GSP is implemented) to take the actions necessary to achieve sustainability. See also the Schedules and Timelines Sections of this web site.
There are costs to develop a GSP, and possibly, to implement the changes in water use that may be required by SGMA. Evaluating and providing for these costs is among of the responsibilities of the GSA. State grants are available and that the GSA is actively applying for the funding during the GSP development process.