Groundwater Management

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How is Groundwater Managed in the State of California?

There are three basic methods available for managing groundwater in California:

  1. Local Groundwater Ordinances (police powers);

  2. Judicial Oversight (adjudications); and

  3. Legislation (local agencies, including water districts).

When Are These Methods Applied?

Historically, basin or sub-basin management has been instituted after local agencies or landowners recognize a specific groundwater problem, and the specific methods of groundwater management in any basin or sub-basin is often dependent on water availability and demand. However, in 2014, the State Legislature established a three-bill package known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) that changes groundwater management in California. SGMA requires formation of local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) in all basins by mid-2017. These GSAs will look at basin conditions and develop groundwater management plans within 5 to 7 years. Furthermore, GSAs in all high and medium priority groundwater basins must implement groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) and achieve sustainability within 20 years, (basin prioritization established by the State DWR). Whereas Low and very low priority basins have the option to develop and implement GSPs, but can use alternative management methods.

Two of these methods have been initiated for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin: judicial oversight and legislation.