Community Water Center

Community-driven water solutions through organizing, education, and advocacy
Pages tagged "SGMA"

Community Water Center Comments on Groundwater Sustainability Plans

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, known as SGMA, was passed by the California Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2014. The law identifies 127 high and medium priority groundwater basins and requires that these basins be managed sustainably to ensure the long-term reliability of our groundwater resources. To achieve this goal, the act requires every high and medium-priority groundwater basin to do three things:

1) Form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) responsible for managing and regulating groundwater extraction by June 30, 2017. There can be one GSA per groundwater basin, or various.

2) Develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) that outline local groundwater conditions and establish a clear and achievable path, including projects and management actions, for achieving sustainability. Because the groundwater basins of Kern, Kings, Tulare and Fresno Counties are severely over-pumped, plans for this area must be completed by 2020. Each GSA can write its own GSP, or multiple GSAs can work together on one.

3) Implement GSPs in order to achieve sustainable groundwater levels within twenty years (2040 for the Central Valley). GSAs must show that they are making satisfactory progress towards sustainability throughout this time through annual reports and five-year assessments.

Community Water Center submitted substantive comments in June 2020 regarding several Groundwater Sustainability Plans. The comments and recommendations contained in this letter are provided to the Department of Water Resources in an effort to protect the drinking water sources of the vulnerable, and often underrepresented, groundwater users that CWC works with.

Read the comment letters here:

Recommendations to Ensure Drinking Water Protections for Communities

Recommendations to Ensure Drinking Water Protections for Communities

Click here to read CWC's white paper on recommendations to ensure drinking water protections for communities.

The purpose of this white paper is to:

1. Provide an overview of some of the major elements to consider when developing a well-designed groundwater market.

2. Introduce tools to help community stakeholders engage in the market design and implementation process.

3. Hold decision makers accountable in developing groundwater management strategies that are protective of community needs. This white paper prioritizes key recommendations for the protection of drinking water sources where groundwater markets are adopted.

Background on the white paper and recommendations:

Through the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), local groups called Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) are tasked with managing their groundwater basins sustainably and addressing groundwater overdraft — which occurs when more groundwater is pumped out of the aquifer than is replenished either by rain, snow melt, or through recharge basins. In order to do this, GSAs will develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs or plans) that specify how they will sustainably manage groundwater in their areas.

Under SGMA, sustainability is defined as avoiding unreasonable impacts of these six undesirable results: chronic lowering of groundwater levels, degraded water quality, depletion of interconnected surface water, reduction of groundwater storage, seawater intrusion, and land subsidence. GSPs will address three major components: 1) description of the plan area and basin setting, 2) defining sustainability criteria, and 3) projects and management actions which will help the GSA achieve the goals indicated under sustainable criteria, including projects, management actions, mitigation measures, and monitoring plans.1 GSPs will be submitted in 2020 and 2022 (depending upon basin prioritization) to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) who will be  reviewing and approving or disapproving GSPs.

SGMA is likely to result in significant changes in Introduction - Groundwater Markets and Drinking Water Sources historical pumping patterns through the many management actions and projects that will be implemented over the next 20 and more years. One potential management action and project, and focus of this white paper, is to develop a system to trade groundwater pumping allocations.2 Though the trading or transfer of surface water is a fairly common practice, trading groundwater is a newer endeavor in California that requires the development of thoughtful frameworks and rules to ensure that all groundwater-dependent communities are protected.

In the Southern San Joaquin Valley, over 95 percent of residents depend on groundwater for at least part of their drinking water supply and many communities are entirely reliant on groundwater as their drinking water source. Further, California’s Human Right to Water law states that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes”. While this does not apply directly to GSAs, it does apply to DWR. Therefore, before any management action or project is implemented, including a groundwater market, it is important for GSAs to consider the possible implications and proactively plan to avoid or mitigate impacts to communities dependent on groundwater supplies.

Historically, many low-income rural communities have struggled with access to safe and affordable drinking water and a well-run market can assist, though not solve, in addressing this issue. However, negative impacts are also possible and must be avoided or mitigated. Often those most vulnerable to the negative impacts from groundwater management decisions are those reliant upon shallow wells, including communities reliant upon domestic wells.

These same stakeholders often lack the financial resources to secure additional sources of water through means such as by purchasing additional rights to pump groundwater or surface water supplies to meet basic needs.

Protecting Drinking Water and Groundwater Planning in the Salinas Valley Workshop

On July 31, 2019, over 50 residents and community leaders attended a drinking water protection and groundwater planning workshop at San Jerardo Cooperative hosted by Community Water Center, San Jerardo Cooperative, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The majority of attendees get their drinking water from private wells and small water systems in the Salinas Valley. 

This workshop was an opportunity to share information about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, sustainability indicators, and what is being proposed in the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan by the Salinas Valley Basin GSA. During the workshop, we received feedback on how residents would like to see groundwater managed and get involved in the process. Community Water Center will continue to work with those who attended to continue to increase engagement among drinking water stakeholders in around groundwater planning in the Salinas Valley.

For more information about how to get involved in groundwater planning in general, please visit: CWC Learn More about SGMA page.

For more information about the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, we encourage you to visit their website ( and sign up for their “interested parties” list. 


Link to materials provided at the event: 


Part 1: Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Overview 

Adriana Renteria, Regional Water Management Coordinator for Community Water Center provided an introduction to groundwater and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the importance of groundwater, and how sustainability management criteria relate to drinking water. The presentation also included the powers and responsibilities held by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) and the requirements of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) to manage groundwater to prevent “undesirable results” that are significant and unreasonable. The focus of this workshop was on three sustainable management criteria which can impact drinking water supplies: 1) degraded water quality, seawater intrusion, and 3) lowering of groundwater levels. 


Part 2: Minimum Thresholds Activity 

Coreen Weintrab, California and Western states campaign organizer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, led the group in an interactive activity on setting minimum thresholds in a hypothetical “Sun Valley GSA.” Minimum thresholds, determined locally by each GSA, are failure points to be avoided. In this activity, three options for minimum thresholds for groundwater levels (250 ft, 180 ft, or 130 ft) were provided along with information about the average depth of private domestic wells (150 ft) and community wells (200 ft), as well as social and economic considerations of each option. Each small group had to discuss and select and option for the Sun Valley GSA. Each small group then shared their decision with the wider group. 

Part 3: Salinas Valley Groundwater 

Heather Lukacs, Director of Community Solutions at Community Water Center, then shared a presentation on Salinas Valley Groundwater. The vast majority of drinking water in the Salinas Valley comes from groundwater. Groundwater is the only water source available for most residents in the Salinas Valley. The Salinas Valley Basin GSA is in the middle of the planning process that will impact groundwater levels, groundwater quality, and the coast of groundwater. 

The goal of this presentation was to connect the experiences of individuals who rely on private wells or shared wells with the planning efforts of the Salinas Valley Basin GSA. An overview of pumping, sea water intrusion, groundwater levels, and groundwater quality in the Salinas Valley were provided, followed by a discussion of the timeline, location, composition, of the Salinas Valley GSA. In the Salinas Valley about 93% is agricultural use and 7% is urban. About 50% of the private wells sampled did not meet the safe drinking water standards for nitrate. The 180/400ft aquifer is the one critically overdraft (closer to the coast). Information was then shared on draft minimum thresholds from the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan Chapter 8 for the 180/400 ft aquifer, which is the subbasin of the Salinas Valley Basin closest to the coast. 

Policy Campaigns 2019

2018 was a big year for Community Water Center. Our very own Laurel Firestone is now a Board Member of the State Water Resources Control Board, Monterey County became the first county in the US to declare that water is a “human right”, and Governor Newsom proposed a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund in the 2019/2020 budget. However, there is still work to do. This blog series will highlight our main policy campaigns for 2019, including:

  • Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (SADWF)
  • Other legislation that will impact drinking water for Californians
  • Status on Chrom6 after the MCL was invalidated in 2017
  • Drinking water contaminated due to dairies and agriculture
  • Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)
  • Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long-Term Sustainability (CV-SALTS)
  • Adoption of  Central Coast Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) Order
  • Update blog posts on previous posts

At Community Water Center, we are not looking for a quick fix to the drinking water problem. Our goal is to find long-term drinking water solutions that are affordable and sustainable in the communities who need them most. We aim to transform water management for the safety of all Californian citizens through our policy campaigns.

August 2017 CWLN Newsletter

Community Events & Announcements:

Armona Community Services Dedication of New $9,200,000 Well and Water Treatment Facility

The Board of Directors of the Armona Community Services cordially invites you to the dedication of their new $9,200,000 well and water treatment facility. The Dedication Ceremony will begin promptly at 11AM followed by facility tours and a light lunch. Armona is very proud of this state of the art facility and hope you are able to attend.  If you would like to address the audience or make a presentation, please call Krystal at (559) 584-4542 in order for us to properly introduce you.

Friday, September 8th, 2017

11:00 AM

10116- 14th Avenue, Hanford, CA (immediately South of the Old Kings Drive In Theater)


Community Water Center’s Water Justice Celebration

Join us for food, music, networking, and inspiring speakers! Check out our flyer and RSVP here: 

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

5:30-8:00 pm

210 Cafe -- 210 W. Center Ave. Visalia, CA 93291

Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund (SB 623) updates:

SB 623 (Monning) creates a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund with the State Water Board to fund drinking water solutions including capital infrastructure and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. Currently there is no available funding to help systems struggling to finance O&M costs and without being able to show ability to do so, these systems are ineligible for capital infrastructure grants and loans from the State. The fund will be partially funded through contributions from agriculture for communities impacted by nitrate contamination, and partially funded through a water user fee (less than a dollar for single-family homes) for all other barriers to safe and affordable drinking water.

So far SB 623 has passed through the California Senate and one committee in the California Assembly, but it still has a number of hurdles ahead. In late August the bill will be voted on in Assembly Appropriations committee, then in early September it will go to the Assembly floor for a vote, then back to the Senate for another floor vote, and finally the bill will go to the Governor who has until mid-October to sign the bill into law.

SB 623 needs your support and there are a number of ways you can help. If your district has not done so already, you can submit resolutions in support of the bill. You can call your local legislator and let them know you support safe drinking water for all. You can also go to to sign a petition in support of SB 623. Together we can ensure California finally has a sustainable source of funding to support the human right to water.

If you have any questions please contact Jonathan Nelson at 916-706-3346 or


Low Income Rate Assistance Program (AB 401) update:

The State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) has concluded a series of public meetings to discuss options for a low-income rate assistance (LIRA) program to help Californians who have difficulties paying their water bills. Some local programs already exist, but AB 401 (passed in 2015) directs the Water Board to develop a plan for a statewide program that would cover many low-income households not currently served by a water LIRA. In the coming months, the Water Board will be working on a report to submit to the legislature in early 2018 that will include any recommendations for legislative action; if approved, a statewide water LIRA program could be in place in 2019. CWC will continue to be involved in the implementation process to ensure that the needs of California’s small rural communities are addressed in the proposal. You can help the Water Board design an effective, appropriate program to help low-income residents pay their water bills by submitting written comments on the published AB 401 scenarios until August 25th. This is an important step toward water affordability, and another step closer to achieving the human right to water for all Californians!


If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Sonia Saini at

Don’t miss our next Network Briefing: September 28th, 4-5 PM

REMINDER: no Network Briefing call in August                                                                                                

Network “briefings” are monthly conference calls that provide members the opportunity to connect with each other, crowd-source questions, and receive information from the comfort of their own homes. As a reminder, we changed service providers which means, we have a new conference call phone number and passcode. To join, dial (929) 432-4463, when prompted, enter the access code 5254-59-7515 followed by the pound key (#). Let Adriana know if you need a pre-paid calling card in order to call long-distance.


                        1.   Member updates and questions

                        2.   Regional and state updates and questions

                        3.   Monthly discussion topic: Prop 1 / funding projects

Upcoming Events and Trainings:                                         

Find more events on our Community Water Leaders online calendar found at

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) Updates:

On August 1st, 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a resolution to remove the the current MCL for the pollutant hexavalent chromium (chrome 6). This resolution was passed after a Superior Court of Sacramento County ruling invalidated the hexavalent chromium MCL on May 31, 2017.  In 2014 the MCL was set at 10 parts per billion (ppb). Hexavalent chromium is a naturally occurring heavy metal that may cause cancer after long-term exposure.

The hexavalent chromium MCL will be deleted from the California Code of Regulations in late September. The Board will begin the process for adopting a new MCL and will have a new MCL in approximately 18-24 months. While the State will not enforce hexavalent chromium compliance plans, the state MCL for total chromium (both trivalent and hexavalent chromium) of 50 ppb will remain in place. The Board estimates that the new MCL will be at the same or similar level as the now invalid one. Public water systems that planned/completed projects to treat hexavalent chromium may use that information once the new MCL is established.

Featured Resources of the Month:

  1. Citizen’s Guide to Working with the California Water Boards

The State Water Resources Control Board just released an updated guide that provides information on the various ways to engage with your local Water Board. The guide includes information ranging from: government structure and overview of water board programs, basin planning processes, water rights application processes, and a series of Water Board maps. The guide provides examples of available databases such as My Water Quality, a web portal for monitoring water safety, and GeoTracker, a data management system for impacted groundwater sites where users can layer data onto a map.  No matter what your current level of engagement with our Regional Water Board, this guide is a helpful reference for navigating processes and getting connected with water resources.


  1.  Department of Water Resources -- Groundwater Information Center

The Groundwater Information Center (GIC) is a web portal where visitors can access groundwater information ranging from: groundwater management plans, water well basics, well permitting processes, and information on bulletin 118. The portal also offers links to an interactive groundwater map application and a link to the Water Data Library (WDL) with data for over 35,000 California wells.

REMINDER: Reduced Annual Fees for DAC Public Water Systems                                                                                                                                     

On May 15, 2017 the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Drinking Water issued a letter to Community Public Water Systems informing them of the possibility of reducing their Annual Fee if the system serves a Disadvantaged Community (DAC).

If you qualify (the Median Household Income in your community is less than $49,454), the reduced fee for your water system will be based on the number of connections that you serve. Systems serving fewer than 100 connections will pay $100. Systems serving 15,000 connections or less will pay $100 plus $2 for each service connection greater than 100.

If you believe your water system is eligible and wish to receive a reduced Annual Fee, submit a request in the form of a signed letter and include information demonstrating that your community meets the definition of a Disadvantaged Community, the DDW will respond.

You can find the letter they sent here. If you have any questions, contact your District Engineer.


Fresno County Board of Supervisors Take First Step Toward Developing Interim Groundwater Ordinance!



On Tuesday, Nov. 17th, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of applying for state funding to develop an interim groundwater ordinance. This is a huge step forwards for a region where thousands of residents lack running water due to excessive groundwater pumping. After four years of drought, we need to take local action now to mitigate impacts and protect our most vulnerable residents.

Since January 2014, Fresno County has issued over 2,800 well drilling permits with few restrictions despite the adverse impacts of these new wells on rural residents in our fourth year of severe drought. With thousands of dry household wells in the San Joaquin Valley, our counties need to do a better job monitoring well drilling and addressing the negative impacts of virtually unrestricted groundwater pumping. At the Board of Supervisors meeting, Kristin Dobbin of the Community Water Center, Leticia Corona of Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, and Austin Hall of the Fresno Regional Partnership attended to testify in support of applying for state funding to develop an interim groundwater ordinance.

By voting to include funding for the development of a groundwater ordinance, the Board of Supervisors took a huge step forward towards protecting our most vulnerable residents and setting the County on the path towards sustainable groundwater management, as mandated by the new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Once the funding application is approved, our next step will be to work with Fresno County to ensure the interim groundwater ordinance adequately protects our valuable groundwater resources and prioritizes the human right to water.  

Learn More About SGMA



Community Water Center has been working diligently to help educate stakeholders about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014. Working with partners throughout the valley we have hosted a series of workshops for regional stakeholders and have also visited many of our local water boards to conduct individual informational sessions. If you are interested in learning more about SGMA implementation, or want to get involved, contact our office Visalia office at (559) 733-0219.

We recently submitted comment letters on several Groundwater Sustainability Plans, read them here

If you’re ready to get involved in groundwater planning, explore the following steps:

Step 1: Find your Groundwater Sustainability Agency by entering your home address here.

Step 2: Add yourself to your GSA’s interested parties list to receive updates for upcoming events by clicking on your GSA’s website and adding your email. Browse through their website to get caught up to speed and identify meeting times.

Step 3: Learn more about protecting drinking water in SGMA by reading through CWC’s SGMA resources page.

Step 4: Attend groundwater planning workshops to learn more and practice your skills.

Step 5: Participate in groundwater planning meetings in your GSA to advocate on behalf of your community’s drinking water needs!


Featured Resources


Materials from past workshops:

Also check out this Groundwater Management Technical Assistance Tool developed by our friends at the Union of Concerned Scientists !

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