Local agencies, such as water districts, may be formed to manage groundwater under authority granted in the California Water Code or other applicable State statutes. In 2014, the State Legislature established a three-bill package known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). SGMA provides a framework of authorities and actions for local, sustainable management of groundwater, with a backstop for state intervention if necessary to protect the resource. 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.” This act builds upon the existing groundwater management provisions of AB 3030 (1992), SB 1938 (2002), AB 359 (2011), and SB X7 6 (2009).
Is a Local Agency Managing the Basin?
Participation and management is expected to change over the coming years, in order to comply with new state law, SGMA. However, historically the San Luis Obispo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (Flood Control District) is a local agency which has undertaken groundwater management efforts related to the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin under the provisions of AB 3030, including ongoing monitoring and study of current and potential future basin conditions. These efforts are led by the County Public Works Department. The Board of Supervisors for the Flood Control District (which is also the County Board of Supervisors) has created a Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Advisory Committee to advise the Board on basin issues. The City of Paso Robles has also adopted an AB 3030 Groundwater Management Plan.
Will a New Water District be Created for the Basin?
Stakeholder groups within basin initiated a process for the creation of a new independent water district to manage groundwater in the basin. The Governor approved special legislation to allow creation of this water district. The new water district would include unique governance features that reflect the diverse interests of landowners in the basin. On October 14, 2014, the Flood Control District Board of Supervisors directed staff to prepare necessary water district formation application materials for submission to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). If the Board files an application with LAFCO and LAFCO conditionally approves the application, the potential water district will be considered by stakeholders through a local voting and election process.
Special legislation to allow these unique governance features was approved by the Governor on September 16, 2014.