Alternatives to Groundwater Sustainability Plans

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires local agencies throughout California to sustainably manage groundwater basins. Basins ranked as medium- or high-priority are required to develop groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) or submit an alternative to a GSP by the applicable statutory deadline. Alternatives should demonstrate how water managers have already achieved or will achieve sustainable groundwater management.

An alternative, per Water Code Section 10733.6 (b), may be any of the following:

  1. An existing groundwater management plan.
  2. Groundwater management pursuant to an adjudication.
  3. An analysis of basin conditions that demonstrates that the basin has operated within its sustainable yield over a period of at least 10 years.

Submitting an Alternative

Agencies submitting an alternative should visit the SGMA Portal’s Alternatives Reporting System for information.

2022 Alternative Periodic Evaluation Submittal Workshop

The California Department of Water Resources oversees the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), including Alternatives to groundwater sustainability plans that are submitted for periodic evaluations every five years for review and assessment by the Department. The following video highlights the submittal process on the SGMA portal.

Viewing and Commenting on Submitted Alternatives

All submitted alternatives are available for viewing on the SGMA Portal’s Alternatives Reporting System. Once an alternative is submitted, it will be open for a public comment period and public comments can be submitted within the Alternatives Reporting System.

Requirements for Approval

Evaluated alternatives underwent extensive technical review by Department staff to confirm they met the following standards:

  • Alternatives must achieve the same outcome as a GSP, which is sustainable groundwater management for the basin.
  • Alternatives must have been submitted by January 1, 2017, cover the entire basin, and be complete. Basins covered by an alternative must also comply with existing groundwater monitoring law.
  • Alternatives based on a 10-year sustainable yield analysis must demonstrate the absence of undesirable results.
  • Alternatives based on an existing groundwater management plan must demonstrate that implementation of the plan is likely to achieve sustainability within 20 years.

Alternative assessments are listed below and link to documents associated with the decisions.

Next Steps

Basins with approved alternatives are required to continue implementing plans and provide annual reports and five-year progress updates.

Basins in which the submitted alternative is not approved must comply with the same deadlines applicable to other high- and medium-priority basins defined by SGMA. Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) in these basins must submit a GSP by January 31, 2022.

Alternative Assessments

Frequently Asked Questions

Contact Us

Inquiries on Alternatives:

Document Accessibility:
If you have difficulty accessing any documents on this web page, please contact us and we will correct the problem or work to provide the information in an alternate format. Direct your request to: