Formation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA) outlines a process and procedures for achieving groundwater sustainability. For those agencies that will be responsible for its implementation, the requirements and objectives of SGMA are significant and will take decades to accomplish.

The first step for local agencies was the formation of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) or Agencies (GSAs). Eligible agencies to form a GSA include irrigation districts, cities, counties, flood and water storage districts, and community service and public utility districts. After roughly two years, GSAs in high priority basins were formed by the State mandated deadline June 30, 2017.

GSAs are given both a mandate and broad array of tool to regulate groundwater in a groundwater basin or subbasin. Those tools include the ability to limit groundwater extractions and to impose fees related to groundwater use.

Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Development

The second step in SGMA implementation is the development of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan or Plans (GSPs). Developing a GSP is a significant and costly undertaking, and in most cases takes two to three years. GSPs must include measurable objectives, as well as interim milestones to achieve the sustainability goal for a basin.

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) are responsible for developing several regulations and guidance documents to advise local agencies on how GSAs may develop and implement GSPs. These include but are not limited to:

Triggering State Intervention

While every effort is being made to retain local control of SGMA implementation, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) may intervene in a basin or subbasin if local agencies do not form GSAs before the deadline of June 30, 2017 and/or fail to adopt and implement an acceptable GSP by January 31, 2020.

In the case of State Intervention, the SWRCB would impose a fee structure on groundwater pumpers many times more costly than what will likely be proposed by GSAs over the course of implementing SGMA. State Intervention is likely to result in unfavorable restrictions without the provision of local provisions, like project development.

Kings and Tulare Lake Subbasin GSAs

Use the map below for an understanding of the GSAs formed within the Kings River region’s two subbasins: Kings and Tulare Lake.

Clicking on a GSA sub-area will link you to related contact information and websites (if available) for each.