California reviews high, medium priority groundwater sustainability plans

Jan. 25, 2024
The California Department of Water Resources approved 10 groundwater sustainability plans and deemed seven basins’ plans incomplete.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that it has completed its review process for the groundwater sustainability plans for high and medium priority groundwater basins in the state.

In 2014, the state legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), establishing a statewide framework to help protect groundwater resources over time. For each high and medium priority basin, local groundwater sustainability agencies are tasked with preparing and implementing groundwater sustainability plans to help ensure current and long-term water supply resiliency.

Among other issues, the groundwater sustainability plans address overdraft, which is when the average annual amount of groundwater extraction exceeds the long-term average annual supply of water to the basin. Negative effects of overdraft can include seawater intrusion, land subsidence, groundwater depletion, and chronic lowering of groundwater levels. Some basins are at risk of critical overdraft, meaning that the continuation of present water management practices will likely result in significant adverse overdraft-related environmental, social, or economic impacts.

“It is remarkable that now, for the first time under SGMA, groundwater basins that make up 98% of the state’s groundwater use are being actively managed by local agencies with locally developed groundwater sustainability plans that have undergone initial review, said Paul Gosselin, deputy director of DWR’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Office. “Since 2014, local agencies, with state support, have met every ambitious milestone required by SGMA, and with today’s announcement, DWR has met the required deadline to review and issue determinations for all initial groundwater sustainability plans.”

In the final round of reviews for 17 plans released today, DWR has approved 10 plans, and deemed seven plans incomplete.

DWR approved plans for the following 10 basins:

  • Anderson
  • Enterprise
  • San Antonio Creek Valley
  • Santa Clara River Valley East
  • Santa Ynez River Valley
  • Solano
  • Temescal
  • Tracy
  • Upper San Luis Rey Valley
  • Yucaipa

DWR deemed the following seven basin plans incomplete:

  • Butte Valley
  • Fillmore
  • Modesto
  • Pleasant Valley (Basin No. 5-022.10)
  • Piru
  • Tulelake
  • Turlock

For those basins that have been deemed incomplete, groundwater sustainability agencies have 180 days to revise and resubmit their plans. After evaluating the resubmitted plans, DWR will determine that the basin is either approved or inadequate. An inadequate determination will begin consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board.