California approves ten groundwater sustainability plans

Stream in California's Yolo County
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July 28, 2023 — Yesterday, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR)Opens in a new tab. announced that it gave the green light to groundwater sustainability plans for 10 non-critically overdrafted groundwater basins across the state. These basins – East Bay Plain, East Contra Costa, Ukiah Valley, Sierra Valley, North San Benito, North American, South American, Butte, Vina, and Wyandotte Creek – supply a considerable portion of water to nearly three million Californians.

“Local groundwater sustainability agencies have put a tremendous amount of work into these plans that will have long-term benefits for communities, agriculture, and the environment across California,” commented DWR Deputy Director of Groundwater Management Paul Gosselin.

These plans, which have been locally implemented since 2021, aim to manage the impacts of climate-induced weather extremes. They aim to ensure that communities remain safe and resilient against the challenges of a hotter, drier future in California. DWR anticipates these plans will adapt and evolve over time, as conditions shift and new data becomes available.

Resilience Against Climate Extremes.

The advancement of sustainable groundwater management is vital in building resilience against long-term climate-driven extremes such as droughts and intense storms. These groundwater plans are essential in protecting vulnerable communities from wells going dry and providing resiliency for all dependent on groundwater.

Local Management and State Oversight.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) combines local management and state regulatory oversight. DWR’s release of the approved assessments guides local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) by suggesting actions to ensure the basins stay on track towards long-term sustainability. DWR will review annual reports from the GSAs and assess progress towards sustainability goals every five years.

Out of 46 basins evaluated by DWR, 40 have been approved, which includes the 10 released yesterday. However, six basins were found to be inadequate and have transitioned to the State Water Resources Control Board intervention process.

Looking Forward.

DWR will continue to support GSAs as they carry out the SGMA implementation process. The importance of long-term groundwater management planning has been underscored by this historic water year. Rapid actions were taken by the DWR to help local agencies expedite and expand the capture of floodwaters for groundwater recharge.

DWR’s efforts this year enabled tracking an estimated 3.8 million acre-feet of recharge potential from recharge projects, effectively replenishing depleted groundwater basins and setting a new course for expanding groundwater recharge programs.

Financial Assistance and Future Steps.

DWR also provides substantial planning, technical, and financial assistance to support GSAs and local communities during SGMA implementation. As recently as May 2022, the DWR awarded $150 million in grant funding for projects aiming to improve water supply security, water quality, and groundwater supply reliability. An additional nearly $200 million in grant funding for SGMA implementation will be announced in the coming weeks.

These efforts to support sustainable groundwater management at the local level align with the Newsom Administration’s work to create climate-ready communities resilient against climate-driven extremes like drought, flooding, heatwaves, and wildfire.

More information is available at the California Department of Water Resources’ website.

Image Credit:

Stream in the Dunnigan area of Yolo County. Photo taken January 18, 2023 by California Department of Water Resources.


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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