DWR Approves Nine Alternatives to Groundwater Sustainability Plans

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Groundwater used to flood rice fields in an agriculture region in Yuba County.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced approval of nine alternatives to groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) submitted by water agencies to meet requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

SGMA requires local agencies throughout the state to sustainably manage groundwater basins. Basins ranked as medium- or high-priority are required to develop GSPs or submit an alternative.

An alternative may be an existing groundwater management plan that demonstrates a reasonable expectation of achieving sustainability within 20 years. It may also be a basin adjudication with existing governance and oversight, or a 10-year analysis of basin conditions showing sustainable operations with no undesirable results such as subsidence, saltwater intrusion, or degraded water quality.

“It is clear that a number of local agencies have been addressing groundwater issues in their basins for many years,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “Their continued commitment to sustainably manage their basins will help protect California’s groundwater reserves as the state confronts critical water challenges.”

Following extensive technical review, DWR approved seven existing groundwater management plans and two 10-year sustainable yield analyses as alternatives under SGMA. One existing groundwater management plan and five 10-year sustainable yield analyses were not recommended for approval as alternatives.

Basins with approved alternatives are required to provide annual reports and five-year updates on their progress. Agencies submitting GSPs have the same reporting requirements.

For alternatives that were not recommended for approval, submitting agencies have 30 days to let DWR know if they believe information in their original submittal was overlooked. New information or data cannot be submitted during this time. DWR will evaluate agency responses and finalize the assessments within 60 days of receiving comments.

If DWR’s disapproval of the alternative is finalized, basins without a groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) are subject to extraction reporting requirements. The State Water Board, which has the authority under SGMA to intervene where no GSA has been formed, intends to coordinate with affected county governments to support the immediate formation of GSAs in unmanaged basins to avoid mandatory extraction reporting requirements. GSAs in basins without an approved alternative must submit a GSP by January 31, 2022. 

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Contact:

Joyia Emard, Information Officer, Public Affairs, Department of Water Resources

916-651-9258 | joyia.emard@water.ca.gov