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As New Deadline Looms, Groundwater Managers Rework ‘Incomplete’ Plans to Meet California’s Sustainability Goals

Managers of California’s most overdrawn aquifers were given a monumental task under the state’s landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act: Craft viable, detailed plans on a 20-year timeline to bring their beleaguered basins into balance.

It was a task that required more than 250 newly formed local groundwater agencies – many of them in the drought-stressed San Joaquin Valley – to set up shop, gather data, hear from the public and collaborate with neighbors on multiple complex plans, often covering just portions of a groundwater basin.

Altogether, they submitted plans for 20 basins for review by the California Department of Water Resources in January 2020. Earlier this year, DWR rendered its verdict: Most of the basin plans were incomplete.

Earlier this year, DWR rendered its verdict: Most of the basin plans were incomplete. Now groundwater agencies responsible for 12 of the 20 basins are racing to meet a late July deadline to submit revised plans that meet SGMA’s requirements or risk the state stepping in to manage their groundwater basins.

California Enacted a Groundwater Law 7 Years Ago. But Wells Are Still Drying Up — and the Threat is Spreading

Kelly O’Brien’s drinking water well had been in its death throes for days before its pump finally gave out over Memorial Day weekend.

It wasn’t a quiet death at O’Brien’s home in Glenn County, about 100 miles north of Sacramento.

Spigots rattled. Faucets sputtered. The drinking water turned rusty with sediment. In the end, two houses, three adults, three children, two horses, four dogs and a couple of cats on her five acres of land were all left with no water for their sinks, showers, laundry, troughs and water bowls.

As extreme drought spread across the state, O’Brien feared that the water underneath her property had sunk so low that it was out of the reach of her well.

State Releases Its First Reviews of Local SGMA Plans

Against the backdrop of what’s shaping up as a devastating drought year, the California Department of Water Resources has released its first assessments of groundwater sustainability plans developed by local agencies to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The department released reviews of four local plans, approving two but sending the other two back to local groundwater sustainability agencies, saying the plans need more work. Under SGMA, the local groundwater sustainability agencies must develop plans to guide management of groundwater in basins and subbasins statewide. This first round of assessments pertains to agencies overseeing critically overdrafted basins and that were required to submit plans by Jan. 31.

Local Leaders Discuss Impacts of Water Conservation Laws

Four elected officials representing area water districts expressed frustration with state laws aimed at water conservation during an American Liberty Forum of Ramona informational meeting Saturday, June 27.

Roughly 50 attendees gathered at Ramona Mainstage to hear the “Water Regulations Today and Tomorrow” presenters discuss the pending impacts of Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668, which were signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown in May 2018.

Under New Groundwater Plans, Report Estimates 12,000 Domestic Wells Could Run Dry

The goal of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA, is to better regulate the state’s water reserves. But as the law rolls out, a new study predicts tens of thousands of people could lose their drinking water.

Opinion: Beyond COVID and Social Unrest, Valley’s Big Problem Remains Declining Groundwater

In these extraordinary times, managing groundwater for long-term sustainability may not seem like a top priority. But in the San Joaquin Valley — where groundwater supplies have been declining for decades — excess pumping is a critical problem, with major implications for public health, jobs, the environment and local economies.

The state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires groundwater planning and actions to sustain this vital resource. Agencies from California’s 21 “critically overdrafted” basins — including 11 large basins that span most of the San Joaquin Valley floor — submitted their first groundwater plans in January.

The Past, Present and Future of California’s Groundwater

A century after the state began overseeing surface water, the California legislature enacted a set of three laws regulating water below the surface. The passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, granted the state official oversight authority of groundwater. However, its involvement existed long before SGMA and continues to influence current policies and regulation of the resource. A new paper published in Society and Natural Resources, examines how the state’s ongoing involvement helped shape current policies by looking at the 120-year history of California’s role in groundwater management and policy development.

Could the Answer to Groundwater Resources Come From High in the Sky?

Groundwater makes up 30 to 50 percent of California’s water supply, but until recently there were few restrictions placed on its retrieval. Then in 2014 California became the last Western state to require regulation of its groundwater. With deadlines starting this year, for the first time water managers in the nation’s premier agricultural region – the state’s Central Valley – are tasked with estimating available groundwater. It’s a daunting technological challenge.

Budget Cuts for SGMA Funding Could Hurt Farmers Later

The pandemic-induced recession has come at a critical time for water planning in the state. The governor’s administration in January pitched ambitious proposals to help fund the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and cushion its impacts on farmers and local communities. In the May Revision of the budget proposal, however, all but one funding allocation from an earlier proposition have been withdrawn.

SGMA To Dry Up One-Fifth of Irrigated SJ Valley Farmland