In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) into law. This law aims to improve groundwater management to ensure groundwater is a reliable source that is available long term. SGMA applies to areas in California with known groundwater challenges. These areas are known as critically over drafted basins or high- and medium-priority basins (see yellow and orange areas in map). Most of the San Joaquin Valley basins are in critical overdraft.
SGMA requires the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) – a new local agency or multiple agencies formed with authority and responsibility to sustainably manage their respective groundwater basin. A GSA’s key task is to prepare a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), detailed roadmap for how groundwater basins will reach long-term groundwater sustainability. Once the plan is developed, GSAs have a twenty-year time frame to implement that plan and achieve sustainability by 2024.
Common groundwater uses include the provision of drinking water and household use through community water systems and domestic wells, crop irrigation, and industrial and commercial activity. Over the past decades, groundwater levels have declined due to a reduction of imported water into the area related to environmental preservation efforts, increased agricultural use, and increased municipal and industrial use, combined with less rain and snow runoff to replenish groundwater extraction causing a condition referred to as overdraft. This decline has become even more dramatic due to recent drought conditions.
The state’s most recent drought led to unprecedented increased groundwater pumping resulting in dry wells, fallowed cropland, and vulnerable environmental conditions throughout the state. Historically, groundwater management has been voluntary in California. However, unless effective groundwater management is implemented, declining groundwater levels will continue to severely impact all San Joaquin Valley residents, including unincorporated rural communities who rely on groundwater.
Self-Help Enterprises is providing a multi-disciplinary technical assistance program to assist severely disadvantaged communities (SDACs) to engage in groundwater sustainability planning to become viable partners in regional groundwater projects. SHE is currently assisting SDACs located within the boundaries of the following Groundwater Water Sustainability Agencies (GSAs):
Turner Island Water District Groundwater Sustainability Agency 1
Alpaugh Irrigation District Groundwater Sustainability Agency // Get to Know Your GSA Factsheet
Madera County Groundwater Sustainability Agency (Chowchilla, Madera and Delta-Mendota)
- Get to Know Your GSA Factsheet – Chowchilla
- Get to Know Your GSA Factsheet – Madera
- Get to Know Your GSA Factsheet – Delta-Mendota
SDACs or GSAs seeking to serve SDACs within their boundaries, may request technical assistance by completing a simple one-page technical assistance request form below.
Self-Help Enterprises recently established a multi-disciplinary technical assistance (TA) program to assist Severely Disadvantaged Communities (SDACs) to engage in groundwater sustainability planning and become viable partners in projects that enhance groundwater quality and quantity. Eligible Technical Assistance activities include but are not limited to outreach, education, facilitation, translation and procurement of Professional Services for planning and project development.
SDACs or GSAs seeking to serve SDACs within their boundaries, may request technical assistance by completing the technical assistance form below. If you would like to obtain technical assistance for your community or communities within your GSA, please contact Maria Herrera at SGMA@selfhelpenterprises.org or (559) 802-1676.
The sustainable management of groundwater is extremely important for the long-term prosperity of subbasins throughout the San Joaquin Valley.
This includes all the communities and industries it supports, but is especially important for disadvantaged communities that are largely reliant on groundwater for water supply and have very limited financial resources, making them particularly vulnerable to changes in groundwater levels and quality resulting from groundwater management actions.
The “Rural Communiteis and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)” video below, informs SDAC residents of the importance of getting involved in groundwater planning to ensure those on private wells and small water systems have enough water for their needs.
Additionally, the “SGMA and Groundwater Users Working Together” video below focuses on the importance of stakeholders working together to implement SGMA.
The videos above are also available in Spanish:
- Comunidades Rurales y La Ley del Manejo Sostenible del Agua Subterránea (SGMA)
- SGMA y Trabajando Juntos con los Usuarios de la Agua Subterránea
Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) are currently in the process of developing their Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).
There are several ways to get involved:
- Find your GSA at https://sgma.water.ca.gov/portal/#gsa. Select the “GSA Map Viewer” and enter your address in the search bar. Click on the blue pinpoint to reveal information about your GSA.
- Put your name on the “interested parties” list. Contact your GSA to be added to the list. You will receive information about meetings and the planning progress.
- Attend public meetings. Public meetings are opportunities to share your vision for sustainability and ask questions. This can help shape the planning process.
- Join an advisory committee. Advisory committees, like technical advisory committees or stakeholder outreach committees are part of most GSAs, and have influence on the GSP development. Ask your GSA what working groups they have to discuss details of the plan.
- Obtain technical assistance from local organizations. Support may be obtained from local organizations like Self-Help Enterprises who support community participation in groundwater sustainability planning.
- Visit your local GSA’s website. Your GSA’s website will house critical information and updates.
- After the GSP is submitted, stay engaged. GSAs are required to prepare annual reports. Every five years the state will evaluate the progress of a region towards the achievement of sustainability and can intervene if significant deficiencies are identified. Stay updated on the progress toward your GSA’s sustainability goals.
Getting Involved in Groundwater Guide (developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists)
Manual de Manejo de Aguas Subterráneas (desarrollado por Union of Concerned Scientists)
Measuring What Matters Report (developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists)
Troubled Waters: Preparing for Climate Threats to California’s Water System (developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists)
Climate Change in the San Joaquin Valley: A Household and Community Guide to Taking Action (developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists)
Cambio Climático en el Valley de San Joaquín: Una Guía para Tomar Medidas en el Hogar y las Communidades (desarrollado por Union of Concerned Scientists)
Groundwater Management and Safe Drinking Water in the San Joaquin Valley (developed by The Water Foundation)
Groundwater Constituent Impacts and Trends in Domestic Wells and Public Water Systems in California (developed by The Water Foundation)
Summary Analysis of 31 Groundwater Sustainability Plans in Critically Overdrafted Basins (developed by the Groundwater Leadership Forum)
SGMA and the Human Right to Water (developed by Kristin Dobbin at the University of California, Davis)
SGMA y el Derecho Humano al Agua (desarrollado por Kristin Dobbin en la Universidad de California, Davis)
How to Comment on Groundwater Sustainability Plans (developed by the Department of Water Resources)
Cómo Comentar Sobre un Plan de Sostenibilidad de las Aguas Subterráneas (desarrollado por el Departamento de Recursos Hídricos)
Critically Overdrafted Basin: A groundwater basin in which the continuation of present practices of withdrawing water would likely results in significant negative environmental, social, or economic impacts.
Groundwater Basin: an alluvial aquifer or a stacked series of alluvial aquifers with reasonably well-defined boundaries in a lateral direction and having a definable bottom.
Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA): A local water authority, or cooperating collection of local authorities,
managing a basin’s shared resources under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to develop and execute a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).
Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP): A detailed road map for how groundwater basins will reach long term
Overdraft: A situation that occurs when more water is pumped from a groundwater basin than is replaced from all sources, not measured annually but rather over a period of years.
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA): Law that aims to improve groundwater management to ensure groundwater is a reliable source that is available long term.
Sustainable Yield: The maximum quantity of water that can be withdrawn annually from a groundwater supply without causing undesirable results.
Sustainability Goal: The objective of operating a basin within its sustainable yield.
Undesirable Results: One of six groundwater conditions that must be avoided in order to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA): 1) significant and unreasonable reduction of groundwater storage, 2) significant and unreasonable lowering of groundwater levels, 3) significant and unreasonable seawater intrusion, 4) significant and unreasonable degraded water quality, 5) significant and unreasonable land subsidence, and 6) unreasonable depletions of interconnected surface water.
Community Engagement and Planning
Community Development Specialist
Community Development Specialist
Funding for this project has been provided in full or in part from the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 and through an agreement with the State Department of Water Resources.