California's Department of Water Resources (DWR) has announced the approval of groundwater sustainability plans for 10 non-critically overdrafted groundwater basins located across California. The approved basins are East Bay Plain, East Contra Costa, Ukiah Valley, Sierra Valley, North San Benito, North American, South American, Butte, Vina, and Wyandotte Creek. These basins provide a significant portion of water supply for 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,” said DWR Deputy Director of Groundwater Management Paul Gosselin. “These approved plans will continue to address the impacts of ongoing weather extremes associated with climate change to ensure that communities remain safe and resilient to the challenges of a hotter, drier future in California.”
Groundwater agencies have been implementing their plans since they were adopted locally in mid- to late-2021. DWR expects all plans to be updated over time as basin conditions change and new data and information becomes available.
Progress toward a sustainable groundwater future is helping communities become resilient against long-term climate-driven extremes like extended periods of drought and this year’s intense storms. Sustainable groundwater conditions and targeted recharge help protect communities that are vulnerable to wells going dry, and these groundwater plans are addressing current issues and long-term solutions toward resiliency for communities, households, industries and the environment that are all dependent on groundwater.
The cornerstone of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) is local management with state regulatory oversight. The release of these approved assessments provides direction to the local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs), including recommended actions, to ensure the basins remain on a path to long-term sustainability. DWR will also review annual reports from the GSAs and assess progress towards the basin sustainability goals every five years.
DWR has now made determinations for 46 groundwater basins. Of the 46, a total of 40 basins are approved, including the 10 basins released today. Six basins are deemed inadequate and have transitioned to the State Water Resources Control Board intervention process. Additionally, DWR approved nine basins with alternatives to groundwater sustainability plans in July 2017. The 10 basins approved today are among the non-critically overdrafted basins that submitted their plans to DWR in January 2022. The GSAs in 37 basins that were required to submit plans in 2022 and currently have plans under review by DWR should anticipate additional determination releases throughout 2023.
DWR will continue to support GSAs as they move forward in the SGMA implementation process. This historic water year has been a stark reminder of the importance of long-term groundwater management planning, which includes being project-ready and able to capture runoff from periodic heavy storms to recharge groundwater basins for use during future dry years. DWR took quick action this year to help local agencies expedite and expand the capture of floodwaters for groundwater recharge. DWR coordinated directly with local agencies, and introduced a new effort to provide access to temporary diversion equipment to maximize diversions of high river flows to protect communities from potential flood risk and move that water to lands for groundwater recharge.
Through state and local actions this year, DWR has been able to track an estimated 3.8 million acre-feet of recharge potential from recharge projects. This includes actions resulting from the Governor’s Executive Orders related to floodwater recharge, the State Water Board’s expedited streamlined temporary recharge permits, known active projects and planned recharge projects funded through DWR’s Sustainable Groundwater Management grant program.
All of these actions are helping to replenish depleted groundwater basins from drought effects, and they have created a new momentum toward expanding groundwater recharge programs. In addition to this year’s activities, local agencies are working with the state now to be prepared to capture water for recharge when future storms come.
DWR provides extensive planning as well as technical and financial assistance to support GSAs and local communities during SGMA implementation. In May 2022, DWR awarded $150 million in grant funding for projects to improve water supply security, water quality, and groundwater supply reliability. In the coming weeks, DWR will announce final awards for nearly $200 million in additional grant funding for SGMA implementation. 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.