In 2016, the California Legislature made moderate amendments to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which go into effect on January 1, 2017. You can find an annotated version of SGMA here, including all the newest changes. Early in 2017, look for a revised version of my earlier white paper on the significant groundwater law, including regulations adopted by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the formation of groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) across the state.

Bills adopted in 2016 related to SGMA included:

  • Assembly Bill 2874 (Gaines), which requires a GSA to provide notice of any groundwater management fee increase to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), if any public utility extracts water from the basin;
  • Senate Bill 37 (Vidak), which added the Kings River East Groundwater Sustainability Agency to the list of statutory GSAs; and
  • Senate Bill 564 (Cannella), which added the North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency to the list of statutory GSAs.

In addition, several bills were rejected by the Legislature, including:

  • Assembly Bill 938 (Rodriguez), which would have allowed a watermaster or local agency administering an adjudicated groundwater basin to elect that the basin be subject to SGMA; and
  • Senate Bill 1317 (Wolk), which would have required cities and counties to establish programs for issuance of permits for new groundwater wells in any high- or medium-priority basin, and prohibited the issuance of a permit in any basin that is designated by DWR as subject to critical conditions of overdraft.

Fortunately, it is supposed to rain this week across much of California, so those dark clouds may contribute needed water supplies.

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