To Consolidate or Coordinate? Status of the Formation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in California

December 07, 2016
Esther Conrad,  Janet MartinezTara Moran,  Marcelle DuPraw,  David Ceppos,  William Blomquist

The passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 has launched an unprecedented, locally driven process to form hundreds of new public agencies that will play a critical role in managing the state’s groundwater resources for decades to come. Under this landmark legislation, new Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) must be formed in high- and medium-priority groundwater basins before June 30, 2017 in order to avoid state intervention. Local agencies and other stakeholders involved in forming GSAs face a critical choice: to consolidate their efforts by forming a single GSA for a groundwater basin, or to establish separate GSAs that will work together to manage the basin sustainably.

As the deadline for GSA formation approaches, this report provides a preliminary look at whether local agencies are pursuing consolidated (single GSA) or coordinated (multiple GSA) approaches to managing groundwater basins, and why. It draws upon GSA formation notices submitted to the California Department of Water Resources through October 31, 2016, and eight case studies of GSA formation processes underway in groundwater basins across the state. The report discusses patterns emerging so far in GSA formation across the state, and identifies factors affecting decisions about whether to pursue consolidated or coordinated approaches to basin governance. It also highlights strategies that local agencies and stakeholders may find helpful as they grapple with decisions over GSA formation.