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Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which establishes a framework for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans.

SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.” Under SGMA, groundwater basins that have been designated by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) as medium or high priority must be managed by one or more Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), which are made up of one or more local agencies in the basin.  Once formed, the GSAs are required to develop and adopt Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for submittal to DWR.  For high priority basins the GSPs were due in January 2020.  For medium priority basins the GSPs must be submitted by January 2022.  A GSP must comprehensively describe the subject basin under historic, current, and future conditions, and demonstrate how the basin will be operated within its “sustainable yield,” defined as “the maximum amount of water calculated over a base period representative of long-term conditions in the basin and including any temporary surplus that can be withdrawn annually from a groundwater supply without causing an undesirable result.”  SGMA defines several undesirable results, including:  chronic lowering of groundwater levels indicating a significant and unreasonable depletion of supply if continued over the planning and implementation period (50-year time period); significant and unreasonable reduction of groundwater storage; significant and unreasonable seawater intrusion (in coastal basins); significant and unreasonable degraded water quality; significant and unreasonable land subsidence that substantially interferes with surface land uses; and depletions of interconnected surface water that have significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses of the surface water.  GSPs must also include measurable objectives and interim milestones to meet on the way to achieving sustainability.  

Three Management Areas and three GSAs have been established in the Santa Ynez River Valley Groundwater Basin (Basin): the Western Management Area, the Central Management Area, and the Eastern Management Area.  ID No.1 is located in the Eastern Management Area (EMA) and is one of the agencies that formed the EMA GSA.  Other members of the EMA GSA are the City of Solvang, the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, and the Santa Barbara County Water Agency.  Each of the three GSAs will prepare its own GSP, and the three GSPs will be submitted to DWR under a coordination agreement.  Because the Basin is designated as medium priority, the GSPs must be submitted to DWR by January 2022.    

For maps and additional information regarding SGMA, the Santa Ynez River Valley Groundwater Basin, and the EMA, please visit the Santa Ynez River Valley Groundwater Basin website at: https://www.santaynezwater.org/