The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has now issued its draft prioritization for the 57 groundwater basins that were not finalized in DWR’s Phase 1 prioritization completed earlier this year. For each basin designated as medium or high priority, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires the basin’s Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) designed to achieve safe yield.
DWR proposes to classify 38 of the “Phase 2” basins – i.e. 67% – as medium or high priority. Public comments will be accepted until May 30, 2019. Following the public comment period, DWR will issue its final prioritization for the Phase 2 basins. Assuming that the Phase 2 draft priorities are finalized as currently proposed, DWR will have identified a total 94 groundwater basins in California that require GSPs.
Whereas California groundwater law has traditionally afforded overlying land owners the right to extract groundwater for use on their land, SGMA now empowers GSAs and GSPs to restrict longstanding groundwater uses that are essential to existing investment-backed businesses. Groundwater users in the 94 basins that support a significant proportion of California’s economy should be vigilant in ensuring that their GSAs adequately account for their interests in the development of each basin’s GSP.