What is The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act?

On 16 September 2014, the California legislature enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) whose primary purpose is to achieve and/or maintain sustainability within the state’s high and medium priority groundwater basins. Key tenets of SGMA are the concept of local control, use of best available data and science, and active engagement and consideration of all beneficial uses and users of groundwater. As such, SGMA empowers certain local agencies to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) whose purpose is to manage basins sustainably through the development and implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). Under SGMA, GSPs are required to contain certain elements, the most significant of which include: a Sustainability Goal; a description of the area covered by the GSP (“Plan Area”); a description of the Basin Setting, including hydrogeologic conceptual model, historical and current groundwater conditions, and a water budget; locally-defined sustainability criteria; monitoring networks and protocols for sustainability indicators; and a description of projects and/or management actions that will be implemented to achieve or maintain sustainability. SGMA also requires a significant element of stakeholder outreach to ensure that all beneficial uses and users of groundwater are given the opportunity to provide input into the GSP development and implementation process.

This GSP Management Area Plan (“MA Plan”) has been prepared by Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District (WRMWSD) and covers an area called the “Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Management Area” or “Management Area” (see figure below). The Management Area underlies the WRMWSD service area, excluding the area (approximately 2,809 acres) also overlain by the West Kern Water District, and is located in the southern portion of the Kern County Subbasin of the San Joaquin Valley Groundwater Basin (Department of Water Resources [DWR] Basin No. 5-022.14; referred to herein as the “Kern Subbasin”). The Kern Subbasin is one of 21 basins and subbasins identified by the DWR as being critically overdrafted, a designation that triggers an accelerated timetable for GSP development by 2020 and achievement of sustainability by 2040.

The Kern Groundwater Authority (KGA) GSA, of which WRMWSD is a member, is the largest of the 11 GSAs that have been formed within the Kern Subbasin. The KGA GSA was formed in 2017 upon adoption of a Joint Powers Agreement by all members and is governed by a 16-member Board of Directors that includes a representative of each member agency. The KGA GSA is preparing an “Umbrella GSP” that, in addition to providing content for the entire KGA GSA area, includes individual Management Area Plans that contain more detailed information for each member agency’s service area. Areas of the Kern Subbasin that are outside of the KGA GSA GSP are covered under five separate, coordinated GSPs that have been developed by other GSAs.

The Arvin-Edison Water Storage District (AEWSD) jurisdictional boundary overlaps approximately 5,318 acres of the Management Area (see figure above), and WRMWSD serves surface water to approximately 3,186 acres in this area. AEWSD is a participating member of the KGA GSA and is developing a separate Management Area Plan for its jurisdictional area within the Kern Subbasin in close coordination with WRMWSD. For purposes of SGMA monitoring and management, WRMWSD and AEWSD have agreed that AEWSD will cover the overlap areas. However, WRMWSD will continue in the future to serve surface water to those lands within the overlap area that have historically received District supplies in accordance with the District’s water delivery contracts with landowners.

The KGA Umbrella GSP and this MA Plan for the Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Management Area have been developed to meet SGMA regulatory requirements1while reflecting local needs and preserving local control over water resources. Together, these documents provide a path to maintain the long-term sustainability of locally-managed groundwater resources now and into the future.