On October 18, 2016, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) released its final modifications to California’s groundwater basin boundaries in response to the emergency regulations adopted by DWR last October.  The basin boundary changes were implemented under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to provide flexibility to local public agencies to bring their groundwater basins into balanced levels of extractions and recharge.

To submit a boundary request, the local public agency was required to include a local agency board resolution formally initiating the local agency boundary modification request.  In addition, the SGMA required the local agency to demonstrate support for the change from other local agencies and public water systems that would be affected by the change, as well as provide technical and non‐technical information of the basin conditions and management practices to justify the modification.

DWR presented the final basin boundaries to the California Water Commission on October 18 and indicated that 39 basin boundary changes were approved out of 54 requests. Twelve of the 54 requests were denied and three were deemed incomplete.

The DWR website has a Basin Boundary Assessment Tool that identifies the existing groundwater basin boundaries and other relevant geological and geographic data.

DWR has indicated that another basin boundary modification request period may be held in 2018, depending on demand from local agencies and/or Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs).

Other important dates on the SGMA timeline include:

  • December 31, 2016 –DWR will post a report on Water Available for Replenishment on its website.
  • November 14-17, 2016 – DWR will conduct public meetings for input on its draft topic of Best Management Practices (BMPs).
  • January 1, 2017 – DWR will post BMPs on its website.
  • June 30, 2017 – Date by which local agencies in high- and medium-priority basins must form GSAs that cover the entire basin in order to avoid potential intervention by the State Water Resources Control Board.

With this latest development of modifying various basin boundaries, SGMA implementation is ramping up and bringing the inevitable ramp down of groundwater extraction closer. Please stay tuned for additional developments and analysis.