Groundwater Sustainability Agencies
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) established a new structure for managing California’s groundwater resources at the local level by local agencies. SGMA required Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to form in the State’s high- and medium-priority basins and subbasins by June 30, 2017. Over 260 GSAs in over 140 basins were formed by SGMA’s initial planning milestone. However, as SGMA continues to be implemented and the priorities and boundaries of some basins change, new GSAs will be formed, and existing GSAs may want to reorganize, consolidate, or withdraw from managing in all or part of a basin. All GSA formation notifications are managed on DWR’s SGMA Portal.
For basins that received a new high- or medium-priority designation in 2019, local agencies overlying those basins will have two years from the date of reprioritization to either establish a GSA or submit an Alternative plan. The Water Code states that a GSA shall have five years from the date of reprioritization to be managed under a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). The planning deadline for California’s first round of GSPs is January 31, 2020, for basins subject to critical conditions of overlap, and January 31, 2022, for all other high- and medium-priority basins.
DWR revised its GSA Frequently Asked Questions and GSA Formation Notification Guidelines documents in May 2019 to address updates to SGMA and the modification of basin boundaries. The revised documents are included below in the Publications section of this webpage. A list of GSAs that have been affected by a basin boundary modification is also included below.
A legislative intent of SGMA is to recognize and preserve the authority of cities and counties to manage groundwater according to their existing powers. As a result, local governments play an important land-use and water-management role in California. SGMA assigns different roles to DWR, the State Water Resources Control Board, local agencies, and counties related to GSA formation. Those roles are summarized below.
Local agencies are expected to collaborate and coordinate their GSA formations on a basin-wide scale to sustainably manage groundwater at a local level. A local agency that decides to become a GSA will be required to perform the duties, and exercise the necessary powers, of a GSA when developing, implementing, and enforcing a basin's groundwater sustainability program.
- Before deciding to become a GSA, and after publication of notice pursuant to Section 6066 of the Government Code, the local agency or agencies shall hold a public hearing in the county or counties overlying the basin. (Water Code § 10723(b))
- A GSA may be formed by a single local agency or a combination of local agencies by using a joint powers agreement, a memorandum of agreement, or other legal agreement. (Water Code § 10723.6)
- Within 30 days of deciding to become or form a GSA, the local agency or combination of local agencies shall inform DWR of its decision and its intent to undertake sustainable groundwater management and provide the information required by SGMA. (Water Code § 10723.8(a))
- The decision to become a GSA shall take effect 90 days after DWR posts the initial notice unless another local agency has filed an overlapping notice, in which case the decision to become a GSA shall not take effect until any overlap is resolved. (Water Code § 10723.8(c) and (d))
- GSAs develop and implement GSPs to manage groundwater in a basin, using either as a single plan or coordinated multiple plans, and submit those GSPs to DWR for review. Because the decision to become a GSA does not take effect if notices overlap, DWR is not able to accept GSPs submitted by local agencies from a basin in which an overlap situation remains unresolved.
- If a basin is to be managed by multiple GSPs, the GSAs must adopt a coordination agreement and submit all GSPs together to DWR for evaluation. (Water Code § 10733.4)
- A GSA may withdraw from managing a basin by notifying DWR in writing of its intent to withdraw. (Water Code § 10723.8(e))
- A GSA may notify DWR by withdrawing its notification in the SGMA Portal. GSA notifications that have been withdrawn are included on the SGMA Portal’s Withdrawn GSA Notices list. The entities included on the withdrawn list may have submitted additional GSA notifications or may have coordinated governance into a single GSA in the basin through a legal agreement.
- In the event that there is an area within a high- or medium-priority basin that is not within the management area of a GSA, the county within which that unmanaged area lies will be presumed to be the GSA for that area. (Water Code § 10724(a))
- A county shall provide notification to DWR of its intent to manage the unmanaged area pursuant to Water Code §10723.8 unless the county notifies DWR in writing that it will not be the GSA for the area. (Water Code § 10724(b))
|Name of Local Agency||Type of Action||Date Action Requested|
|County of Riverside||Opted out of GSA role within Riverside County.||06/30/2017|
|San Benito County||Opted out of presumed GSA role in the Delta-Mendota Subbasin.||05/23/2017|
|County of San Bernardino||Opted out of presumed GSA role in the following basins or subbasins: San Gabriel Valley; Mission Creek; San Gorgonio Pass; Coastal Plain of Orange County; Cucamonga; Riverside-Arlington; Rialto-Colton; Bunker Hill; Yucaipa; San Timoteo; Bear Valley||03/28/2017|
|County of San Bernardino||Opted out of presumed GSA role in the following basins: Antelope Valley; El Mirage Valley; Lower Mojave River Valley; Upper Mojave River Valley; and Warren Valley.||02/27/2017|
|Monterey Peninsula Water Management District||Opted out of being the exclusive groundwater management agency within a portion of its statutory boundary.||09/28/2016|
- DWR posts complete GSA formation notices on its website within 15 days of receipt. DWR’s GSA website is the GSA Formation Notification System located in the SGMA Portal. (Water Code § 10723.8(b))
- A complete GSA formation notice includes (Water Code § 10723.8(a)):
- Information that clearly shows the GSA formation notice was submitted to DWR within 30 days of the decision to become or form a GSA.
- A description of the local agency’s service area boundaries, the boundaries of the basin or portion of the basin the local agency intends to manage, and identification of any other agencies managing or proposing to manage groundwater within the basin.
- A copy of the resolution forming the GSA.
- A copy of the legal agreement forming the GSA, if applicable.
- A copy of any new bylaws, ordinances, or new authorities adopted by the local agency.
- A list of interested parties developed pursuant to Water Code § 10723.2 and an explanation of how their interests will be considered in the development and operation of the GSA and the development and implementation of the agency’s sustainability plan.
- DWR will notify an agency if the initial GSA notice is incomplete. Incomplete notices will not be posted. If a GSA notice was posted in error then DWR will coordinate with affected local agencies to resolve the error.
- DWR has a Facilitation Support Services program that helps local agencies work through challenging institutional and technical situations.
The State Water Resources Control Board's (SWRCB) Groundwater Management Program, after notice and a public hearing, may designate a basin as a probationary basin if it finds that after June 30, 2017, none of the following has occurred (Water Code § 10735.2(a)):
- A local agency has decided to become a GSA that intends to develop a GSP for the entire basin.
- A collection of local agencies has formed a GSA or prepared agreements to develop one or more GSPs that will collectively serve as a GSP for the entire basin.
- A local agency has submitted an Alternative that has been approved or is pending approval pursuant to Water Code Section 10733.6.
If unmanaged areas of a basin exist on or after July 1, 2017, those areas may be subject to groundwater extraction reporting in accordance with Part 5.2 (commencing with § 5200) of Division 2 of the Water Code and could be subject to fees listed in § 1529.5. The SWRCB has Frequently Asked Questions on GSAs posted on its Groundwater Management Program website as well as an interactive map identifying unmanaged areas of a basin.