Sustainable Groundwater (SGMA)

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

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Overview  |  Timelines  |  Resources

SGMA and the Montecito Groundwater Basin

Statewide, agencies are being formed to provide for local, collaborative, and sustainable groundwater management.

Montecito Water District has initiated the process to form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) with the goal of enhancing groundwater management capabilities in the Montecito Groundwater Basin.

California's groundwater provides approximately half of the state's water supply, and in some parts of Santa Barbara County (County), is the sole source of water to sustain agriculture and domestic uses. In other areas of the County, groundwater is an integral part of multi-source water supply portfolios and is critical in times of prolonged drought. Unlike surface supplies, groundwater aquifers are not subject to losses due to evaporation.

Many California aquifers are adversely impacted by overuse. Such impacts include significant decline in water storage and water levels, degradation of water quality, and land subsidence resulting in the permanent loss of storage capacity. Recognizing the importance of groundwater and the consequences of overuse, Governor Edmund Gerald Brown Jr. signed into law a package of bills addressing the sustainable management of groundwater in California. colorlectively, these bills are the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

The SGMA took effect on January 1, 2015, and requires all groundwater basins designated as medium or high priority by the Department of Water Resources to be sustainably managed by the year 2042. The Department of Water Resources' designation is based on several factors, including population, number of wells, irrigated area, and groundwater conditions.

Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA). The SGMA encourages the formation of local groundwater sustainability agencies for the purpose of implementing the SGMA requirements. Groundwater sustainability agencies can consist of a local agency or combination of agencies that have water supply, water management, or land use responsibilities in the basin. The SGMA empowers groundwater sustainability agencies with certain financial, regulatory, and enforcement abilities but does not allow them to determine water rights.

Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP). The SGMA requires the development of groundwater sustainability plans. Groundwater sustainability plans must result in "sustainable conditions" in the basin, which are defined by the SGMA as the avoidance of significant negative impacts, such as chronic overdraft, worsening water quality, surface water depletions, sea water intrusion (in coastal basins), and land subsidence. Groundwater sustainability plans require detailed technical information to define the basin and aquifer conditions, including historic and current water upply and use, water quality conditions, and projected water demands. Plans must also include measurable objectives and interim milestones to meet on the way to achieving sustainability within 20 years.



Current Status:

Montecito Groundwater Basin is ranked as medium-priority in DWR’s basin reprioritization draft released 5-18-18. This ranking requires GSA formation and GSP implementation for state compliance.

SGMA Process: Timeline Overview
  • November - DWR issues basin prioritization for CASGEM Program
  • January 1 - SGMA Legislation takes effect
  • June 30 - GSA formation required for medium and high priority basins
  • Also in June, DWR to issue re-analysis of basin prioritization (delayed)
  • May 2018 - DWR's 2018 Draft Prioritization Issued: Montecito Groundwater Basin ranked as medium-priority. (Formerly very low-priority)
  • GSPs must be adopted for critically over-drafted basins
  • GSPs must be adopted for medium and high priority basins
  • All critically over-drafted basins must achieve sustainability
  • All medium and high priority basins must achieve sustainability


Current Status:

Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) Formation submittal approved by DWR (November, 2018)

Basin Boundary Modification receives draft approval decision from DWR (November, 2018)

MGWB Process: Timeline Overview
  • January 1 - SGMA Legislation takes effect
  • October 19 - MWD Board directs staff to initiate GSA formation
  • Community Engagement
  • Fall/Winter, MWD Board consideration of Resolution to be GSA
  • MWD to file for GSA status
  • DWR to approve MWD as GSA
  • MWD to initiate GSP
  • DWR to conduct Basin Boundary Modification process
  • MWD submits GSP to DWR
  • GSPs to be adopted and implementation to begin


MWD SGMA Library:



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