California issues determinations for 17 groundwater sustainability plans

Nov. 3, 2023
In DWR’s ongoing work to evaluate groundwater sustainability plans for groundwater basins across the state, the organization approved plans for 11 basins and deemed plans for six basins incomplete.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced its decisions on the groundwater sustainability plans in 17 non-critically overdrafted groundwater basins.

The determinations mark DWR’s ongoing work in reaching long-term sustainability for the state’s groundwater basins, which act as a critical water supply for millions of Californians.

“DWR is committed to supporting these local agencies as we work toward the common goal of protecting California’s groundwater infrastructure, which is critical to a resilient water supply that can withstand the weather extremes of drought and flood.” said Paul Gosselin, DWR Deputy Director of Sustainable Groundwater Management.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) directs DWR to evaluate groundwater sustainability plans to determine if the plans are based on the best available science and information and will reasonably achieve the sustainability goal for each groundwater basin. The groundwater plans address current issues and long-term solutions toward water resiliency for communities, households, industries, and the environment.

Criteria for plan evaluation is specified in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan regulations. Each of the 17 basins in the latest decision submitted a single basin plan.

DWR approved plans for11 basins: Cosumnes, Eel River Valley, Elsinore Valley, Mound, Ojai Valley, San Gorgonio Pass, San Pasqual Valley, Santa Monica, Sutter, White Wolf, and Yolo.

DWR deemed the following six basin plans incomplete: Antelope, Big Valley (5-004), Colusa, Corning, Los Molinos, and Red Bluff.

DWR said that the common deficiencies in the basins deemed incomplete include lack of a clear plan to eliminate overdraft, manage groundwater levels, and manage land subsidence.

The incomplete basins, primarily located north of Sacramento, historically have not experienced land subsidence, but over the last decade there has been a notable increase in rates of subsidence and dry wells in this region. Failure to establish sustainable management criteria for groundwater levels and land subsidence as required by the GSP Regulations could result in significant impacts to beneficial uses and users of groundwater, particularly affecting domestic well users and critical infrastructure.

Under the GSP regulations, once DWR determines a basin incomplete, the groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) have 180 days to correct the deficiencies and revise and resubmit their plans. Upon evaluation of resubmitted plans, DWR will either make the determination that the basin is approved or inadequate. An inadequate determination will initiate consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board for possible State intervention.

Out of a total of 94 groundwater basins required to submit plans under SGMA, DWR has provided determinations for 72 basins and is currently reviewing an additional 19 plans from 17 of the state’s high- and medium- priority basins that were submitted to DWR in January 2022. DWR anticipates issuing determinations for the remaining basins by January 2024.

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