The Association of California Water Agencies has produced the following resources clarifying the provisions of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Sustainable Groundwater Management
In September of 2014, the California Legislature enacted comprehensive legislation aimed at strengthening local control and management of groundwater basins throughout the state. Known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, the legislation provides a framework for sustainable management of groundwater supplies by local authorities, with a limited role for state intervention when necessary to protect the resource.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (“SGMA”) requires that all groundwater basins in California be managed sustainably. (Water Code §§ 10720.1(a).) 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.” (Water Code §§ 10721(v).)
SGMA uses the term “sustainability goal,” defined as the “implementation of measures targeted to ensure that the applicable basin is operated within its sustainable yield.” (Water Code § 10721(u).) A basin’s “sustainable yield” is calculated as “the maximum quantity of water . . . that can be withdrawn annually from a groundwater supply without causing an undesirable result.” (Water Code § 10721(w).) SGMA defines “undesirable result” as any of the following effects:
- Chronic lowering of groundwater levels (not including overdraft during a drought, if a basin is otherwise managed properly);
- Significant and unreasonable reductions in groundwater storage;
- Significant and unreasonable seawater intrusion;
- Significant and unreasonable degradation of water quality;
- Significant and unreasonable land subsidence; and
- Surface water depletions that have significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses. (Water Code § 10721(x).)
OBGMA Compliance The Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency (“OBGMA”) is one of fifteen (15) special act districts created by statute to manage groundwater within its statutory boundaries. Pursuant to its enabling legislation, the OBGMA has been managing the quantity and quality of groundwater in the Ojai Groundwater Basin since 1991. These management efforts have resulted in protection and maintenance of the long-term water supply for the common benefit of all water users in the Basin. As a result, the Ojai Basin has been operated within its “sustainable yield” for the past several decades with no evidence of “undesirable results.”
SGMA identifies OBGMA as an “exclusive local agency” within its statutory boundaries for purposes of implementing the requirements of the Act. (Water Code § 10723(c)(1).) This affords OBGMA the opportunity to demonstrate to the California Department of Water Resources (“DWR” or “Department”) that the Ojai Basin is already being sustainably managed and has been operating within its “sustainable yield” for a period of at least 10 years. SGMA authorizes OBGMA to make this demonstration as an alternative to and in lieu of preparing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. (Water Code §§ 10723(c)(3); 10733.6(b)(3).) OBGMA has elected to proceed with such a demonstration, and has presented the key elements and received verbal comments on its proposed approach at four (4) public forums:
- Association of Water Agencies of Ventura County – Water Issues Committee, October 18, 2016
- OBMGA Board Meeting, October 27, 2016
- Ventura Watershed Council, November 3, 2016
- City of Ojai City Council Meeting, November 17, 2016
Report Prepared Supporting Alternative Demonstration
Water Code § 10733.6(b)(3) requires an analysis of Ojai Basin conditions that demonstrates the Basin has operated within its “sustainable yield” over a period of at least 10 years. The analysis must include a report prepared by a registered professional engineer or geologist who is licensed by the state. In compliance with Section 10733.6(b)(3), OBGMA has sanctioned such a report. (Report Supporting Alternative Demonstration Pursuant to Water Code § 10733.6(b)(3) ) OBGMA Draft Red Line Alternative Demonstration 12/13/16 The Report demonstrates the Ojai Basin has operated within its “sustainable yield” for the past several decades with no evidence of “undesirable results.”
The OBGMA intends to approve the Report for submittal to DWR at its Board meeting scheduled for December 8, 2016. Any person desiring to comment on the Report prior to the Board meeting may submit comments to OBGMA in writing. An opportunity to provide oral or written comments on the Report will be provided at the Board meeting on December 8, 2016. The deadline for OBGMA to submit the Report to DWR for review and evaluation is January 1, 2017.
DWR Public Comment Period
Following submission, DWR must post OBGMA’s Report Supporting Alternative Demonstration Pursuant to Water Code § 10733.6(b)(3) and any additional materials submitted with the Report on its website within 20 days of receipt. DWR has developed an online “Alternative Reporting System” that allows local agencies such as OBGMA to submit Alternatives. The online “Alternative Reporting System” also allows the public to review and comment on Alternatives. Any person may provide comments to DWR regarding OBGMA’s Report after it is posted to DWR’s website. Click here go to DWR website.
Pursuant to Water Code § 10733.4, the DWR public comment period must remain open for a period of no less than 60 days.
Comments must be submitted to DWR in writing, with a duplicate copy of the comment provided to OBGMA. Organizations or government entities providing comments must include the name, address, and electronic mail address, if available, of the person or entity providing the comments and information. All comments received by DWR will be posted on the Department’s website. DWR is not required to respond to comments, but will consider comments as part of its evaluation of OBGMA’s Report Supporting Alternative Demonstration. (23 CCR §§ 353.8 and 355.2.)
DWR is required to complete its evaluation of OBGMA’s Report Supporting Alternative Demonstration Pursuant to Water Code § 10733.6(b)(3), and issue a written assessment either approving or disapproving the Report, within two years of its submittal date. The written assessment will be posted on the Department’s website. (23 CCR § 355.2.)