Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
On September 16, 2014, the Governor signed a three-bill package known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) into law that establishes a new structure for groundwater management, recognizing that groundwater management in California is best accomplished locally. For over 100 years, the Alameda County Water District (ACWD) has managed the groundwater of the Niles Cone Groundwater Basin (Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01) through comprehensive programs that protect and improve water supplies for all groundwater users. ACWD is identified within SGMA as an agency created by statute to manage groundwater and deemed to be the exclusive local agency within its statutory boundaries to comply with SGMA (California Water Code Section 10723 et seq.).
Alternative to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan
As an exclusive local agency responsible for groundwater management and a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), ACWD submitted an Alternative to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (Alternative) for the management of the Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01 under SGMA in 2016. ACWD’s Alternative preserves and continues the successful sustainable groundwater management already being performed by ACWD. This is accomplished by continuing groundwater management under pre-existing authority by which ACWD carries out groundwater management efforts within Niles Cone, in addition to the authorities of a GSA under SGMA. The existing planning and operating policies and documents under which ACWD currently manages the Niles Cone, and the existing information that demonstrates that ACWD has operated the Niles Cone within its sustainable yield for at least 10 years, satisfies the requirements of an Alternative. These existing documents and information show that ACWD has managed the Niles Cone sustainably for decades, meeting the objective of SGMA.
On July 17, 2019, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) approved ACWD’s Alternative for the Niles Cone. DWR’s approval was accompanied by a Statement of Findings Regarding the Approval of the Niles Cone Subbasin Alternative which included seven recommended actions for ACWD to incorporate in the five‑year update to the Alternative (Alternative Update), which was due on January 1, 2022. Per SGMA requirements, the Alternative Update will describe whether the Alternative is meeting sustainability goals and recommended actions.
ACWD's Alternative Update was submitted to DWR on December 29, 2021. As a result, a 75-day public comment period is now open from January 6, 2022, through March 22, 2022. DWR is asking that all public comments on the Alternative Update be provided to DWR through their SGMA Portal. The Alternative Update is not a plan amendment but is a 5-year written assessment that describes and provides an update on ACWD's groundwater management efforts, an explanation of how the Alternative Update is functionally equivalent to elements of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan, incorporates DWR's seven recommended actions, and includes information on proposed projects, management actions, and/or next steps to ensure the continued sustainable management of the Niles Cone.
Basin Boundary Modification
DWR adopted emergency regulations regarding the process for seeking groundwater basin boundary modifications under SGMA. In Bulletin-118 Update 2003, the graphical representation included in Bulletin 118 (2003) did not match the written description of the northern boundary as it did not extend all the way to the northern boundary of ACWD including the areas located within the City of Hayward that were detached and that ACWD expressly retained groundwater management authority over. Since the basin boundaries in Bulletin 118 will now play a critical role in the management of California’s groundwater basins, ACWD submitted a Basin Boundary Modification Request to correct the Niles Cone Groundwater Basin. On July 1, 2016, ACWD received notice from DWR that the Basin Boundary Modification Request had been approved, as modified by DWR.
Groundwater Sustainability Agency Formation
On November 10, 2016, ACWD’s Board of Directors adopted Resolution No. 16-069 deciding to become the GSA for the Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01. ACWD’s becoming the GSA for the Niles Cone Subbasin continues existing groundwater management under SGMA, in addition to other recognized regulatory authority. SGMA provides various authorities to GSAs to promote sustainable groundwater management including the ability to meter wells and fund and implement groundwater management projects. While many of these authorities have been available to ACWD for many years under the Replenishment Assessment Act of the Alameda County Water District, SGMA provides additional authority that may further the ability of ACWD to sustainably manage the Niles Cone.