Why did MAGSA develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan?
The Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) is a requirement of the 2014 California law, Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The State law requires all high- and medium-priority basin GSAs (Groundwater Sustainability Agencies) develop and implement a GSP. Basins designated as medium- or high-priority and critically overdrafted were required to complete a GSP by January 31, 2020. SGMA defines a basin as critically overdrafted “when continuation of present water management practices would probably result in significant adverse overdraft-related environmental, social, or economic impacts.” The GSP is a roadmap for how a basin will avoid the adverse effects of overdraft and achieve balanced levels of groundwater to reach sustainability.
The McMullin Area GSA (MAGSA) has been designated under SGMA as a high-priority, critically overdrafted basin. MAGSA developed and submitted its GSP and a Kings Subbasin coordination agreement to the State on ahead of the January 31, 2020 deadline.
What is a Groundwater Sustainability Plan?
A Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) is a roadmap for how a basin will avoid the adverse effects of groundwater overdraft and achieve balanced levels of groundwater to reach sustainability.
MAGSA’S GSP includes a physical description of the groundwater management area including groundwater conditions, a water budget, groundwater management criteria, a monitoring program, and projects and measurable objectives to become sustainable within 20 years. It is the goal of the MAGSA Board to allow flexibility in supply and demand-side solutions to achieve sustainability.
While the State’s requirements for a GSP’s content are the same for all GSAs, MAGSA’s issues and solutions are very specific to the unique challenges within the groundwater management area that it serves.
Who is involved in implementing the Groundwater Sustainability Plan?
The State has granted local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) powers to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in groundwater subbasins. In mnay cases, multiple GSAs exist within a subbasin – the State measure sustainability success at the subbasin level rather than individual GSA level.
Although GSAs may choose to develop individual GSPs, they must cooperate under a formal Coordination Agreement to bring the subbasin to sustainable groundwater levels by 2040.
The McMullin Area GSA is one of seven GSAs in the Kings Subbasin. Each GSA developed and submitted its own GSP to the State, and will coordinate under a formal Coordination Agreement to ensure sustainability is met in the Kings Subbasin by 2040.
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is the regulating and assisting agency under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Their role is to review and approve Groundwater Sustainability Plans and track progress of local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) implementing their Plans. They also assist GSAs by providing data, tools, and technical support services.
MAGSA highly values public input and participation. Engagement in MAGSA’s activities is necessary for the consideration of local stakeholders’ interests and preferences. MAGSA will continue to provide opportunities for the public to engage in the GSP implementation process.
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The State Water Resources Control Board (State Board or SWRCB) is the enforcement agency under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Their role is to enforce SGMA mandates are met at the local level by Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). If GSAs fail to meet SGMA’s mandates, the State Board will intervene to implement the law. If a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) is found by CA DWR to be inadequate, the subbasin will be deemed “probationary”. If a GSA fails to correct the issues under probation, the State Board will intervene requiring any groundwater extractors to file an extraction report with the State Board. The State Board may require the use of meters to measure extractions. The associated fees of State Intervention are much higher than fees that may be collected by the local GSA, and would not include beneficial local projects or incentives for sustainability.