Regional Groundwater Sustainability – The Plans are Finished so what’s Next?

Over the past several years local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) charged with managing the region’s groundwater have been assessing the condition of the region’s groundwater resources and developing monitoring systems and management plans and projects to maintain the sustainability of these resources for the foreseeable future. These efforts have resulted in the completion of three Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) that cover each of the region’s groundwater subbasins – North American Subbasin, South American Subbasin, and Cosumnes Subbasin. The GSPs respond to State required planning criteria outlined in the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The California Department of Water Resources webpage has information about SGMA, the GSP planning process, and a public portal containing the three GSPs for the Sacramento region.  

ECOS, through the Water Committee, has participated in the development of these GSPs by attending public meetings and workshops, and providing comments on the draft plans. We have condensed these comments into a matrix comparing comments for each of the three GSPs. The matrix contains a summary of each original comment and, in bold, the actions taken by the GSAs to address each comment as documented in the final adopted GSPs. The full text of each ECOS comment letter can be found on the ECOS web site.

While some comments have been addressed in the final plans, others were not. For example, key aspects of the GSPs are six sustainability indicators that establish thresholds for when management actions must be taken to assure continued subbasin sustainability. The North American Subbasin GSP calls for management actions to be taken after one year of one or more of the GSP sustainability indicators exceeding action levels thus indicating the subbasin is in trouble. Unfortunately, the South American Subbasin allows three years of indicator exceedance that may lead to no actions being taken until the fourth year of an indicator being exceeded. The Cosumnes Subbasin did adjust their corresponding exceedance time periods but still allow a problem to exceed one or more threshold criteria for at least two years before actions to remedy the situation are taken. ECOS has argued that a one year exceedance criteria is acceptable and should be utilized in all three GSPs.

ECOS also believes climate change is not effectively addressed in the plans. All three GSPs base their management actions on a climate scenario that seems less realistic than current climate experience and the latest climate science indicates. This errant planning assumption may significantly overestimate the amount of groundwater available to meet demands in the future. If not corrected, sustainable management of the subbasins may be very difficult within the next decade.

ECOS members are meeting with the local GSA representatives to explore options to address our concerns prior to the next GSP updates which are due in 2025. Depending on the outcome of these meetings ECOS may find it necessary to participate in the State’s GSP public comment process.

Click here to view the matrix.

North American Groundwater Subbasin Public Meeting – March 10

Save the Date for a virtual public meeting on March 10 (Zoom).

Please save the date for a public meeting with the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) responsible for developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for the North American Groundwater Subbasin (NASb) on Wednesday, March 10 at 6 p.m. Representatives of the Sacramento Groundwater Authority GSA, West Placer GSA, South Sutter GSA, Sutter County GSA, and RD1001 GSA will be available to discuss the latest information about our planning efforts towards development of the NASb GSP, as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

In this meeting, we will discuss the results of the basin wide groundwater model and groundwater budget. The water budget — an accounting of inflows, outflows, and changes in storage — will give us a good understanding of our subbasin, assist in long range planning, and help us know how much water can be safely pumped from the basin while remaining sustainable.

Attend these meetings to learn about these topics as well as:
– The GSP and timeline for completion
– How to engage and provide comments
– Answers to your questions
– Draft GSP sections available

Draft GSP sections 1 through 5 are available for public review at https://nasbgroundwater.org/.

Although public comment is currently closed, another public comment period will be posted later this summer when the full draft GSP is released. The GSP will then be adopted by the GSA member agencies in late 2021 and submitted to the State by the statutory due date of January 31, 2022. We want to ensure the GSP reflects both your input and sound technical studies. We encourage you to participate in this process now, as we shape and implement the plan.

How to attend the meeting

Register in advance for this webinar:
https://placer-ca-gov.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_aMKyrqKzSJSwXv9mqM3Y4g
Meeting ID: 929 6174 1711
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

About the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

Public agencies with water management authority are required by SGMA to form GSAs, manage groundwater in the NASb, and implement activities that preserve and enhance groundwater supplies for our cities, communities, agricultural areas, and the environment. This locally-controlled effort will protect the basin from overdraft, ensure sustainable groundwater supplies, and support a stable and growing economy, including agriculture.

For additional details or more information about the GSAs involved in this effort, visit https://nasbgroundwater.org/.

What’s a Groundwater Sustainability Plan?

August 2020

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) is pleased to announce a new page on our website that is all about Groundwater Sustainability Plans! Look forward to more information to be posted from the water subcommittee of ECOS’s Habitat Committee.

Click here to view our new page and learn all about groundwater sustainability in the Sacramento region!


Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

Private Wells and Groundwater Sustainability

April 10, 2020

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) and Habitat 2020 have submitted a comment letter regarding the subject of significant and unreasonable domestic, shallow agricultural and small system well impact evaluation as part of Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) preparation.

Click here to view the comment letter.

Attachment: NGO letter to California Natural Resource Agency, Department of Water Resources, Cal EPA Special Counsel for Water Policy, and State Water Resources Control Board titled “Reviewing Groundwater Sustainability Plans In Accordance With State Agency Obligations to Consider the Human Right to Drinking Water”, February 10, 2020

hose with water running

How California Can Solve Its Water Crisis With Existing Water

December 26, 2019
By Heather Cooley
ComStock’s Magazine

Californians have made real strides to conserve over the past several decades. San Francisco and Los Angeles use the same amount (or less) water today as they did 30 years ago, despite substantial growth.

California has a chance to model what a truly resilient water system looks like, combining nature and technology to make the most of every drop and dollar. Just as we are doing in the energy sector, we should be focusing on no-regrets water projects that make economic and environmental sense. 

Click here to read the full article.

(Photo: Pixabay via Pexels)

Water Forum II Update Effort

Updated January 5, 2020

ECOS and Habitat 2020 are part of the Water Forum update effort.

The year 2021 will see a lot of activity including discussions and formulation of new Water Forum Agreement language. The following chart prepared by the Water Forum staff lays out the issue topics and the Water Forum Agreement update schedule for the coming year. The foundational learning sessions conducted in 2020 were recorded and can be viewed by accessing the Water Forum website. This year, the issues focused Work Groups (WG) will be developing any specific language changes to the existing Water Forum Agreement. Proposed changes will be discussed in Caucus and Plenary sessions before their eventual ratification by the Water Forum Agreement Signatories. You can follow the progress of the potential modifications to the Water Forum Agreement on the Water Forum website.

To support deliberations, a series of learning sessions were held in July and August 2020 to provide current and potential Water Forum signatories with information to promote a shared understanding of several cross-cutting topics: climate change, fisheries, habitat, groundwater management, and urban water management planning (including demand management, water use efficiency and conservation). An additional educational session on the management of the American River Watershed was held in the fall of 2020. Summaries of these sessions can be found on the Water Forum web site.

The year 2021 will see a lot of Water Forum update activity including discussions and formulation of new Water Forum II Agreement language. The Water Forum II Draft Timeline, prepared by the Water Forum staff, lays out the issue topics and the Water Forum Agreement update schedule for the coming year. This year, issue focused Work Groups (WG) will be developing specific language changes to the existing Water Forum Agreement. Proposed changes will be discussed in Caucus and Plenary sessions before their eventual ratification by the Water Forum Agreement Signatories. You can follow the progress of the potential modifications to the Water Forum Agreement on the Water Forum Web site link above.

The document The Water Forum Past, Present, and Future provides a cogent summary of the history of the Water Forum Agreement, what has happened over the course of the past 20 years that may result in the need for the Agreement’s updating, and what future impacts the region is likely to face and how an updated Agreement will help the region adapt to these changes.

The Water Forum is composed of four caucuses – Environmental, Public interests, Water Purveyors, and Business. ECOS and Habitat 2020 members as well as other environmental groups are represented on the Environmental Caucus. As a prelude to the learning sessions and upcoming negotiation discussions, each caucus developed a Statement of Interests to clarify its intentions and interests in a renegotiated Water Forum Agreement. Access to the Environmental Caucus Statement of interest is possible through this link.

There are a significant number of ECOS members who are actively involved with the Water Forum and this renegotiation effort. If you have questions about the Water Forum or its programs, please contact the Water Forum’s Executive Director, Jessica Law. Questions about the Environmental Caucus Statement of Interests can be directed to Habitat 2020.