Groundwater Info Center
Groundwater Management

In 1992, the State Legislature provided an opportunity for local groundwater management with the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 3030, the Groundwater Management Act (Water Code §10750 et seq. Part 2.75). Groundwater management plans (known as GWMPs) were developed in many basins to provide planned and coordinated monitoring, operation, and administration of groundwater basins with the goal of long-term groundwater resource sustainability.

In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a three bill legislative package, composed of AB 1739 (Dickinson), SB 1168 (Pavley), and SB 1319 (Pavley), collectively known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). SGMA provides local agencies with a framework for managing groundwater basins in a sustainable manner. Groundwater management, as defined in DWR's Bulletin 118 Update 2003, is the planned and coordinated monitoring, operation, and administration of a groundwater basin, or portion of a basin, with the goal of long-term groundwater resource sustainability. Recognizing that groundwater is most effectively managed at the local level, SGMA empowers local agencies to achieve sustainability within 20 years. SGMA resulted in changes to the Part 5.2, Part 2.74, Part 2.75, Part 2.11, and Part 6 of the California Water Code defining how groundwater is managed in California.

Under SGMA, DWR's role in groundwater management includes developing regulations for revising groundwater basin boundaries, developing basin boundary prioritization, developing regulations for groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) and alternative plans, evaluating and assessing of GSPs, and providing technical assistance. For additional information on SGMA, please visit the Sustainable Groundwater Management Program website.

Key Legislation

Legislation that has been incorporated into the California Water Code that applies to groundwater management plans (known as GWMPs) includes AB 3030, SB 1938, AB 359, and provisions of SB X7 6 and AB 1152. These significant pieces of legislation establish, among other things, specific procedures on how GWMPs are to be developed and adopted by local agencies.

On January 1, 2015 additional key legislation incorporated into the California Water Code went into effect, including AB 1739, SB 1168, SB 1319. This legislation defines the required technical components that must be part of every groundwater sustainability plan (known as GSPs). Additional legislation was signed in 2015 that will go into effect in January 2016, including SB 13, AB 939, SB 226, AB 617. The Key Legislation section provides final legislation packages and summaries for review.

Groundwater Management Plans and Groundwater Sustainability Plans in California

SGMA went into effect on January 1, 2015 and brought about changes to the California Water Code that, among other things, requires the formation of groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) overlying groundwater basins and the development of GSPs in medium- and high-priority basins. The GSAs, represented by local agencies are required to provide a copy of their GSPs to DWR and for DWR to review and approve those plans.

GWMPs may be developed in very low- or low-priority basins as they are not subject to SGMA. If you are located in a very low- or low-priority basin, you can visit Developing a Groundwater Management Plan for information to assist in developing, adopting, and updating GWMPs.

Beginning January 1, 2015 no GWMPs can be adopted in medium- and high-priority basins, in accordance with SGMA. GWMPs previously developed for medium- and high-priority basins are still in effect until GSPs are developed.

The information provided in this section will help the public locate, view, and download current GWMPs and GSPs in the future as they are provided to DWR. Beyond the individual plans, this section also provides related statewide maps and contact information.

Court Adjudications

Another form of groundwater management in California is through court adjudication. Adjudications can cover an entire basin, a portion of a basin, or a group of basins and all non-basin locations between. The court decree will define the area of adjudication. In basins or portions where a lawsuit is brought to adjudicate, the groundwater rights of all the overliers and appropriators are determined by the court. The court also decides: 1) who the extractors (owners) are; 2) how much groundwater those well owners can extract; and 3) who the Watermaster will be to ensure that the basin or portion of the basin is managed in accordance with the court's decree. The Watermaster must report periodically to the court.

There are 24 court adjudications of groundwater in California that includes one adjudicated stream system. All 24 have restrictions on groundwater pumping.

View the current List of Groundwater Adjudications in California. View the Groundwater Adjudications on an interactive map at the Groundwater Information Center Interactive Map in the "Boundaries" section.

Local Government Groundwater Ordinances or Joint Powers Agreements

Groundwater management is also achieved through local groundwater ordinances. Ordinances are laws adopted by local agencies such as cities or counties. Many ordinances related to groundwater have been adopted by local governments; however, the counties and cities are not required to submit updates to DWR. Groundwater related ordinances can be accessed from most individual city or county websites.

Note: DWR does not provide a list of county and city ordinances at this time. For city government websites, visit the League of California Cities. For county government websites, visit California State Association of Counties.