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, 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.).
Basin Boundary Modification
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) adopted emergency regulations regarding the process for seeking groundwater basin boundary modifications under SGMA. In the 2003 version, 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. DWR’s Bulletin 118 - Interim Update 2016
Groundwater Sustainability Agency Formation
On November 10, 2016, ACWD’s Board of Directors adopted Resolution No. 16-069 deciding to become the Groundwater Sustainability (GSA) for the Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01. ACWD’s becoming the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (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 Alameda County Water District, SGMA provides additional authority that may further the ability to sustainably manage the Niles Cone.
ACWD Exclusive Local Agency
Under SGMA, ACWD has unique legislative status (along with 14 other agencies) as being expressly recognized for having managed the Niles Cone Groundwater Subbasin for decades. As previously mentioned, SGMA specifically designates ACWD as the exclusive local agency within its boundaries with powers to comply with SGMA and to do so by submitting an alternative to a groundwater sustainability plan. ACWD’s boundaries for compliance with SGMA are defined in the recently approved DWR Bulletin 118 (see above).
Alternative to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan
As an exclusive local agency and a GSA, ACWD is required to submit an Alternative to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (Alternative) or a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the management of the Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01 under SGMA. Per SGMA, if a local agency is going to submit an Alternative, it must be submitted no later than January 1, 2017, to the DWR.
On December 8, 2016, ACWD’s Board of Directors adopted Resolution No. 16-075 authorizing staff to submit an Alternative to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for Niles Cone 2-09.01. ACWD’s Alternative submittal also will include an explanation of how the Alternative is functionally equivalent to elements of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan and achieves the objectives of SGMA.
On July 17, 2019, DWR approved the District’s Alternative for the Niles Cone Groundwater Basin (Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01 or Niles Cone). DWR evaluated the Alternative submitted by the District and determined that it satisfies the objectives of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and is approved. DWR’s approval was accompanied by a Statement of Findings Regarding the Approval of the Niles Cone Subbasin Alternative which includes seven recommended actions for the District to incorporate in the Alternative update, which is due January 1, 2022.
ACWD’s Alternative and subsequent annual reports.
The District’s Alternative submittal would preserve and continue the successful sustainable groundwater management already being performed by the District. This would be accomplished by continuing groundwater management under pre-existing legal authority by which the District manages the Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01 in accordance with existing and planning and operative policies and documents.