Sustainable Groundwater Management Program

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires sustainable management of groundwater resources to improve long-term reliability while avoiding undesirable impacts in the State of California. When SGMA was signed into law in 2014, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) was charged with several related tasks under tight legislative deadlines, including:

  • Adoption of regulations to revise groundwater basin boundaries
  • Adoption of regulations for evaluating and implementing locally developed Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs)
  • Publication of Best Management Practices for sustainable management of groundwater

GEI assisted DWR to successfully complete all the above tasks, and continues to provide support to DWR for SGMA implementation.

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panoramic view of water
close up of water coming out of hose
Bear River
water coming out of pipe into river
pipe with Potable Water label

Key Challenges

Meeting an Aggressive Schedule

A key challenge the project overcame was meeting an aggressive schedule. SGMA implementation efforts began immediately after the law was signed, and groundwater basin boundaries needed to be assessed and adjusted before groundwater sustainability agencies could form and move forward.  An efficient way for applicants to request a basin boundary modification and a timely way for DWR to respond was imperative. GEI’s team of information management specialists created a web-based application for local agencies to submit modification requests.  This helped streamline the basin boundary modification process, enabling DWR to publish the updated basin boundaries on schedule.

Communicating Complex Technical Information

Sustainably managing groundwater in California requires an understanding of complex technical concepts. Understanding the language of the SGMA legislation and regulations can also be challenging. GEI assisted DWR with creating technically sound documents that can be understood by a variety of interested parties. This process included plain-English technical writing combined with numerous illustrations and presentations. GEI led a multi-discipline consulting team to assist in creation of documents including: Sustainable Groundwater Management Program Draft Strategic Plan, Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) Regulations Guide, Best Management Practices (BMP), as well as numerous guidance documents.

Managing Statewide Data

GEI provided web-based solutions to support the exchange of SGMA-related information.  GEI’s information management team worked with in-house and DWR engineers and geologists to create the SGMA Portal; a central repository for all groundwater basins in California to interact with DWR and submit the following types of SGMA data:

-GSA formation notification

-GSP notification and submittal

-Alternative (to a GSP) submittal

-Adjudicated basin annual reporting

-Basin boundary modification requests

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