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.

Requirements for Approval

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. Original submissions and public comments can be viewed on the SGMA Portal.

Next Steps

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

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

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: