The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“the Act”) recently passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014 fundamentally changes management of California’s groundwater basins. The Act mandates the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) and requires the adoption of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for basins designated as medium or high-priority by the Department of Water Resources. GSPs are mandatory to eliminate overdraft conditions in aquifers and to return them to conditions that assure long-term sustainability within 20 years of implementation.

Madera County is comprised of three basins, designated by Department of Water Resources as critically overdrafted, and “high priority:” (1) the Chowchilla Subbasin, (2) the Madera Subbasin and (3) a portion of the Delta-Mendota Subbasin. Each of these basins must complete and submit a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) by January 2020, and these basins are required to achieve “sustainability” by the year 2040. The method by which sustainability will be achieved will be illustrated in the GSP, which will be drafted in partnership by the irrigation district, water districts, cities and Madera County. The process is meant to be a public and participatory process. Madera County will consider input from stakeholders and seeks achieve public support toward a common goal of long-term sustainability.

Madera County has created the Department of Water and Natural Resources, a county department dedicated to maintaining compliance with the Act. On January 24, 2017 The Madera County Supervisors held a public hearing and took action to manage groundwater, in accordance with the Act. The Act identifies counties as the backstop for management of any properties which are not managed by a Groundwater Sustainability Agency established through another local public agency. Counties, cities, irrigation districts and water districts are local agencies which are eligible to manage groundwater as exclusive Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) in the State of California. Should another local agency choose not to act as the GSA for any or all of the properties in its jurisdiction, it is expected that the counties will assume responsibility for these properties.

Madera County intends to comply with the law, and as such, has opted to assume responsibility for groundwater management by filing a Notice of Intent with the Department of Water Resources to become the exclusive GSA for its jurisdiction and any unclaimed properties in the jurisdiction of other local agencies. The process of becoming an exclusive GSA for these properties requires a 90-day waiting period, after which the County will become the exclusive GSA to manage groundwater in conjunction with other GSAs on May 10, 2017.

CA Department of Water Resources SGMA Website