Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

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A organizational summary, by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.


The SGMA was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 18, 2014. It is a three-bill package made up by AB 1739 (Dickinson), SB 1168 (Pavley), and SB 1319 (Pavley). This is the first law in California with to attempt to manage groundwater in a sustainable manor.[1]


The stated mission of the SGMA is: "management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.” The way that it approaches this goal is by requiring government and water agencies to halt overdraft of high and medium priority basins and bring these basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. These basins should reach sustainability within 20 years of the implementation of a sustainability plan.

Such goals to avoid undesirable results in groundwater basins are:

  • Establish minimum standards for sustainable groundwater management
  • Provide local groundwater agencies with authority and financial assistance
  • Avoid or minimize subsidence
  • Improve data collection and understanding of groundwater basins
  • Increase groundwater storage and remove impediments to recharge
  • Minimize state intervention on local water governing agencies
  • Provide a more cost-efficient way to adjudicate water rights while ensuring due process and delays [2]

The thinking behind the design of the SGMA is to leave management of groundwater to locally organized agencies and boards. To accomplish this goal the Department of Water Resources (DWR) will provide ongoing support through guidance and financial and technical assistance. The SGMA designates local agencies to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to manage basins sustainably and requires GSAs to adopt a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) in crucial groundwater basins.[1]

Legal Status / Authority

California Department of Parks and Recreation logo. Photo from [1][3]

The SGMA was passed by the California state legislature and signed by Governor Brown into state law.

The main previsions of the bill includes:

  • Requiring the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs)
  • Mandating the development and implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for high- and medium-priority groundwater basins
  • Authorizing management tools for local agencies, including the ability to curtail pumping and to assess fees
  • Giving intervention authority to the State Water Resources Control Board if certain provisions are not met
  • Defining time frames for accomplishing goals


Organizational Structure

Central Coast Context

Example Work / Projects

Related links


  1. 1.0 1.1


This page may contain student work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessary reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.