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Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

In September 2014, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed a three-bill package known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The legislation allows local agencies to customize groundwater sustainability plans to their regional economic and environmental needs. SGMA creates a framework for sustainable, local groundwater management for the first time in California history.

The three bills that make up SGMA are AB 1739 by Assembly Member Roger Dickinson, and SB 1319 and SB 1168 by Senator Fran Pavley.

In September 2015, Governor Brown signed SB 13, by Senator Fran Pavley. The Bill makes various technical, clarifying changes to SGMA including requirements for groundwater sustainability agency formation, the process for State Water Board intervention if no responsible agency is specified for a basin, guidelines for high- and medium-priority basins, and participation of mutual water companies in a groundwater sustainability agency.

“A central feature of these bills is the recognition that groundwater management in California is best accomplished locally. Local agencies will now have the power to assess the conditions of their local groundwater basins and take the necessary steps to bring those basins in a state of chronic long-term overdraft into balance.” –Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act:

  • Provides for sustainable management of groundwater basins
  • Enhances local management of groundwater consistent with rights to use or store groundwater
  • Establishes minimum standards for effective, continuous management of groundwater
  • Provides local groundwater agencies with the authority, technical, and financial assistance needed to maintain groundwater supplies
  • Avoids or minimizes impacts for land subsidence
  • Improves data collection and understanding of groundwater resources and management
  • Increases groundwater storage and removes impediments to recharge
  • Empowers local agencies to manage groundwater basins, while minimizing state intervention

SGMA requires local agencies to establish a new governance structure, known as Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, prior to developing groundwater sustainability plans for groundwater basins or sub-basins that are designated as medium or high priority.

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