All of California is undergoing a sharp change in how groundwater is managed. In January of 2015, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act went into effect. Known as SGMA, this comprehensive statewide groundwater legislation requires for the first time sustainable groundwater management throughout California. The legislation allows local agencies to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans specific to local conditions, however, if local agencies cannot or will not manage groundwater sustainably, the state will step in.
SGMA mandates that all high and medium priority groundwater basins in California must be managed sustainably over a 20-year implementation period. Kern County water interests are curently working towards compliance with SGMA, so that Kern manages its own groundwater and implements its own plans.
According to the California Department of Water Resources, sustainabiltiy is judged on several key parameters; It is defined as the management and use of groundwater without causing undesirable results. DWR has developed Groundwater Sustainability Plan Regulations which define six “Sustainability Indicators” for undesirable results. These conditions must be avoided for a basin to be considered sustainable:
1. Significant and Unreasonable reductions in Groundwater Levels
2. Significant and Unreasonable reductions in Groundwater Storage
3. Significant and Unreasonable Land Subsidence
4. Significant and Unreasonable reductions in Groundwater Quality
5. Significant and Unreasonable reductions in Groundwater-Surface Water Interaction
6. Significant and Unreasonable Seawater Intrusion (we do not have to address this criteria in Colusa County)
Since groundwater conditions vary greatly throughout the state, “significant and unreasonable” is defined at the basin level by local agencies.
For more information about Kern County’s participation in SGMA, go to:
• June 30, 2017: GSAs must be formed in all high and medium priority groundwater basins
• Jan. 31, 2022: Groundwater Sustainability Plans must be completed for all high and medium priority basins that are not in overdraft (Jan. 31, 2020 for basins in overdraft).