SGMA Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who will be in charge of implementing the new groundwater regulations? Will it be irrigation districts, the counties, the cities, or the state?
A: The law requires that local agencies within groundwater basins in our region form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) to implement the new regulations. The definition of local agency within the law is an agency that has water supply, water management, or land use responsibilities. This may include irrigation districts, cities, counties, and community service districts among others.
Q: Who will represent me on the Groundwater Sustainability Agency?
A: Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) will be formed by local public agencies that have jurisdiction over the lands within a groundwater basin or subbasin. Those local agencies that participate in a GSA will represent the pumpers that reside within the local agencies’ jurisdictional boundaries.
Q: What if I am in an area that is not covered by a qualified local agency to become a groundwater sustainability agency?
A: In the event that there is an area within the groundwater basin that is not covered by a local agency, the county within which that unmanaged area lies will be presumed to be the groundwater sustainability agency for that area.
Q: What does sustainable groundwater management mean?
A: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 defines sustainable groundwater management as the management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon that does not cause undesirable results including:
- Chronic lowering of groundwater levels
- Reductions in groundwater storage
- Seawater intrusion
- Degraded water quality
- Land subsidence
- Surface water depletions that have adverse impacts on beneficial uses
Q: What are the costs involved and who will pay for it?
A: Implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will cost money. A groundwater sustainability agency has the power to impose fees on landowners and pumpers within its jurisdiction, including, but not limited to, permit fees and fees on groundwater extraction to fund the costs of a groundwater sustainability program. Costs include but are not limited to, preparation, adoption, and amendment of a groundwater sustainability plan, and investigations, inspections, compliance assistance, enforcement and program administration.
Q: Will I be told how much groundwater I can pump?
A: The Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) in the Kings Region will have 20 years to achieve sustainability for the groundwater basins. GSA’s are empowered to utilize a number of new management tools to achieve the sustainability goal. The tools used to accomplish sustainability may include supply side methods, like additional groundwater recharge and/or demand side methods, like limits on groundwater extraction by pumpers. Until the GSA’s have completed groundwater sustainability plans that are due by the year 2020, it is not known what combination of management tools will be needed to achieve sustainability for each groundwater basin in the Kings Region.
Q: Will the law affect land use decisions like what type of crops can be planted or how many houses can be built?
A: A Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) does not supersede the land use authority of cities and counties, including the city or county general plan, within a groundwater basin; however, the law does require coordination amongst the planning agencies. Before the adoption or amendment to a city or county general plan, the planning agency must notify overlying Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA). Upon notification, an overlying GSA must provide the current version of its GSP to the city or county planning agency to review and consider prior to taking action on the adoption or amendment to their general plan.
Q: Does this impact my surface or groundwater rights?
A: This law does not alter surface water rights or groundwater rights under common law or any provision of law that determines or grants surface water rights.
Q: What happens if my well goes dry, will I be able to drill a new well?
A: The decision regarding whether you can drill a new well is under the authority of the county in which you reside. The law does not authorize a groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) to issue permits for the construction, modification, or abandonment of groundwater wells, except as authorized by a county with authority to issue those permits. A GSA may request of the county, and the county shall consider, that the county forward permit requests for the construction of new groundwater wells, the enlarging of existing groundwater wells, and the reactivation of abandoned groundwater wells to the GSA before permit approval.
Q: Will my well be metered?
A: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires that Kings River Region groundwater basins be managed and use groundwater in a manner that is sustainable. This will require that groundwater sustainability agencies (GSA) in the region measure and monitor groundwater levels to meet the sustainability requirements of the law. Metering wells is one of several methods that GSA’s can use to monitor groundwater. Until a GSA has completed its groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) that is due by the year 2020, it is not known what methods will be used to measure and monitor groundwater throughout the region.
Q: What if I am a residential well owner whom pumps very little groundwater?
A: Any domestic user that pumps less than two acre feet of water per year (or less than 652,000 gallons) for domestic use is considered a “de minimis” extractor and will be exempt from reporting requirements. The law specifies that a fee shall not be imposed on a de minimis extractor unless this class of use has been regulated in the groundwater sustainability plan (GSP).
Q: What can the State do if we do not comply with the law?
A: If the State Water Resources Control Board determines that a basin or portion of a basin is not compliment with the law’s requirements, it can designate that basin as probationary. The Board may develop an interim plan for probationary basins which will identify actions that are necessary to correct the long-term overdraft which are likely to focus primarily on restrictions on groundwater extractions.
Q: What is the condition of groundwater basins in the Kings River Region?
A: Out of California’s 515 groundwater basins and subbasins, 127 have been designated by the state as medium and high priority meaning they are not in a sustainable condition. The two groundwater basins in the Kings River Region, the Kings and Tulare Lake basins, are two of those 127 basins. Any basin that has been designated as medium or high priority must comply with the law.
Q: Why must groundwater basins in the Kings River Region comply with the new groundwater law?
A: Out of California’s 515 groundwater basins and subbasins, 127 have been designated by the state as medium and high priority meaning they are not in a sustainable condition. The Kings River Region’s Kings and Tulare Lake basins are two of those 127 basins. Any basin that has been designated as medium or high priority must comply with the law.
Q: What will it take to achieve groundwater sustainability in the Kings River Region?
A: The local agencies working on implementing the new groundwater law in the Kings and Tulare Lake basins have over many years been collecting data and monitoring local groundwater conditions. This information along with further analysis through studies and a hydrologic model will be used to determine the sustainability goal for the basin.
Q: Where can I get more information on groundwater sustainability?
A: Information is available from the following resources:
California Department of Water Resources Groundwater Information Center http://www.water.ca.gov/groundwater/
ACWA’s Recommendations for Achieving Groundwater Sustainability http://www.acwa.com/content/groundwater/acwa-recommendations-achieving-groundwatersustainability
California Water Foundation Information / Recommendations on Groundwater Sustainability www.californiawaterfoundation.org
Q: How can I stay informed about Sustainable Groundwater Management activities in the Kings Basin?
A: For more information on how you can become involved, contact Cristel Tufenkjian, Kings River Conservation District Manager of Community & Public Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 237.5567, ext. 118. You are also encouraged to sign up for our e-newsletter using the form located on the frontpage of this website.
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