Sustainable Ground Water

Sustainable Groundwater Act passed and not a moment too soon


Not a moment too soon

Groundwater is a critical element of the state of California’s water system, making up more than one-third of state’s water supply and up to 60 percent of the state’s water depending on climatic conditions.

Historically, groundwater use in California was largely unregulated meaning a systematic method of withdrawing the groundwater from its sources was nonexistent. The recent drought resulted in increased use of groundwater sources as reservoir levels gradually lowered as result of decreased rainfall levels. The unconstrained use of our ground water supplies has led to widespread lowering of water tables, drying of domestic wells, land subsidence, and increased energy costs from pumping from greater depth.

The California legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 after three years of severe drought, which created a statewide framework for groundwater regulation in California.

The Sustainable Groundwater Act mandates

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires all 127 high and medium priority groundwater basins in California to develop groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) which achieve sustainability within 20 years of implementation. A groundwater basin is defined as an area underlain by permeable materials capable of furnishing a significant supply of groundwater to wells or storing a significant amount of water. There are currently 431 groundwater basins delineated, underlying about 40 percent of the surface area of the state.

The Act permits the election of groundwater sustainability agencies (GSA) for all basins and requires the adoption of groundwater sustainability plans (Plan) for basins designated as medium- or high-priority by the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Plans must be developed to eliminate overdraft conditions in aquifers and to return them to a condition that assures their long-term sustainability within twenty years of plan implementation.

Groundwater – The future

The act should provide protection against severe overdrawing our ground water resources during future droughts as well as ensuring the availability of water to the current and future residents of the state.

I find it hard to believe California, which is proud of its reputation for being an innovator and being ahead of the curve, took such a long time to regulate withdrawals from its groundwater supplies. Better late than never.