Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy

Groundwater Sustainability Plans Workshop Materials

Groundwater Sustainability Plans workshop

Saturday, October 27th, 10am-3pm

Visalia Marriott Conference Center

event agenda

On Saturday October 27th, Community Water Center, Union of Concerned Scientists, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, and Self Help Enterprises hosted a workshop focused on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

For this discussion, Adriana Renteria from the Community Water Center gave an overview of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, and what it requires local agencies to do in medium- and high-priority sub-basins. First, it requires local water and land use agencies to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). The GSAs must then develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) to manage groundwater sustainability in their sub-basin, and implement that plan to reach sustainability within 20 years. Adriana also reviewed the specific requirements for what each GSP must contain.


Please see Adriana’s slides here for more information:

SGMA GSP Overview

Next, Alyssa DeVincentis from the University of California, Davis, a technical expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists’ scientist network, gave a presentation about water budgets, an important first step that Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) must take in developing their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). Water budgets help GSAs determine how much groundwater their sub-basin currently has, how much groundwater they are currently using, and how their groundwater supplies will be impacted if they continue to use groundwater in the same way, or implement projects and management actions to change their groundwater usage. Alyssa went through the various types of information that consultants and GSA staff should provide when presenting their water budget. We then did an exercise comparing a good water budget presentation with a bad water budget presentation, noting what information was lacking and what questions to ask consultants about the water budget.


See Alyssa's slides and the water budget exercise here:

Water Budgets

Maria Herrera from Self-Help Enterprises reviewed three important sustainable management criteria that are required to be defined by each Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) in its Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP): Undesirable Results, Minimum Thresholds, and Measurable Objectives.

SGMA requires that each GSA define the six “undesirable results” set out in SGMA: depletion of groundwater levels, decreased groundwater storage, groundwater contamination, depletion of surface water from groundwater depletion, land subsidence, and seawater intrusion. To do this, they must determine what they consider to be “significant and unreasonable” negative impacts in each of these six areas. In the Central Valley, we are not at risk of seawater intrusion because we are not near the ocean. Each GSA must determine how much of a negative impact it will allow before it considers the groundwater level depletion, groundwater storage depletion, land subsidence, or surface water depletion in its sub-basin to be “significant and unreasonable.” It has to then establish specific and quantifiable measures for each of these undesirable results by setting a Minimum Threshold beyond which it will not allow its sub-basin to go. It will set a Measurable Objective for each undesirable objective as well, as incremental goals to improve its performance on combating each of these undesirable results.

After Maria’s presentation, we divided up into groups for a group exercise. Each member of each group was given a role to play, so each group had a wide variety of stakeholder interests represented. We discussed which of the undesirable results were most important to avoid for our group, suggested which undesirable results were most important to address right away, and during the next 20 years.  


Maria’s presentation can be found here:

Undesirable Results Presentation

The handouts for the exercise can be found here:

Working Towards Thresholds that are Protective of Community Water Supplies

Tips and Talking Points for Community Participation

Our last presentation explored the wide variety of projects and management actions that Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) could use to comply with minimum thresholds and measurable objectives in order to avoid undesirable results. 

Amanda Monaco from Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability reviewed groundwater recharge projects, surface water import projects, crop conversion, and many other projects that could be used to conserve groundwater and put more groundwater into the ground. Adriana Renteria from Community Water Center then spoke about groundwater markets, and the potential benefits and costs of these types of complex projects.

We then again divided into groups for a group exercise, and were given a role as a specific type of stakeholder. We simulated that we were on a stakeholder committee for the “Sun Valley GSA,” a fictitious GSA, and had to choose which projects and management actions our GSA basin was going to implement in order to decrease its groundwater use by 150,000 acre-feet, in order to comply with its sustainability goal. 

We were given a list of projects that would each contribute to our goal, but that would each have different impacts on different types of stakeholders. Acting according to the interests of the stakeholder role we were each assigned, our groups entered into heated, creative and sometimes comical discussions to find common ground and determine which projects and management actions suited all of our needs best. Each group reached creative and well-thought-out consensus about which projects and management actions were best for our sub-basin.


Find Amanda’s presentation about projects and management actions here:

Projects and Management Actions Presentation

Find a handout on projects and management actions here:

Projects and Management Actions Handout

Find the materials from the projects and management actions exercise here:

Projects and Management Actions Exercise


More photos of the event can be viewed here.

See our event recap blog post here.


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