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Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

On September 16, 2014, the Governor signed a three-bill package known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) into law that establishes a new structure for groundwater management, recognizing that groundwater management in California is best accomplished locally.  For over 100 years, Alameda County Water District (ACWD) has managed the groundwater of the Niles Cone Groundwater Basin (Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01) through comprehensive programs that protect and improve water supplies for all groundwater users.  ACWD is identified within SGMA as an agency created by statute to manage groundwater and deemed to be the exclusive local agency within its statutory boundaries to comply with SGMA (California Water Code Section 10723 et seq.).

Basin Boundary Modification
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) adopted emergency regulations regarding the process for seeking groundwater basin boundary modifications under SGMA. In the 2003 version, the graphical representation included in Bulletin 118 (2003) did not match the written description of the northern boundary as it did not extend all the way to the northern boundary of ACWD including the areas located within the City of Hayward that were detached and that ACWD expressly retained groundwater management authority over. Since the basin boundaries in Bulletin 118 will now play a critical role in the management of California’s groundwater basins, ACWD submitted a Basin Boundary Modification Request to correct the Niles Cone Groundwater Basin.  On July 1, 2016, ACWD received notice from DWR that the Basin Boundary Modification Request had been approved, as modified by DWR (click here to see ACWD’s Basin Boundary Modification Request).  The updated publication is expected soon.

Groundwater Sustainability Agency Formation
On November 10, 2016, ACWD’s Board of Directors adopted Resolution No. 16-069 (click here to see Resolution No. 16-069) deciding to become the Groundwater Sustainability (GSA) for the Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01. ACWD’s becoming the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) for the Niles Cone Subbasin continues existing groundwater management under SGMA, in addition to other recognized regulatory authority. SGMA provides various authorities to GSAs to promote sustainable groundwater management including the ability to meter wells and fund and implement groundwater management projects. While many of these authorities have been available to ACWD for many years under the Replenishment Assessment Act of Alameda County Water District, SGMA provides additional authority that may further the ability to sustainably manage the Niles Cone.

ACWD Exclusive Local Agency
Under SGMA, ACWD has unique legislative status (along with 14 other agencies) as being expressly recognized for having managed the Niles Cone Groundwater Subbasin for decades. As previously mentioned, SGMA specifically designates ACWD as the exclusive local agency within its boundaries with powers to comply with SGMA and to do so by submitting an alternative to a groundwater sustainability plan. ACWD’s boundaries for compliance with SGMA are defined in the recently approved DWR Bulletin 118 (see above).

Alternative to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan
As an exclusive local agency and a GSA, ACWD is required to submit an Alternative to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (Alternative) or a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the management of the Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01 under SGMA. Per SGMA if a local agency is going to submit an Alternative, it must be submitted no later than January 1, 2017, to the DWR.

ACWD satisfies two of the three bases for submitting an Alternative, specifically (1) ACWD has in place a plan developed pursuant to laws authorizing groundwater management – the Replenishment Assessment Act of the Alameda County Water District and the County Water District Law; and (2) ACWD has an analysis of basin conditions that demonstrates that the Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01 has operated within its sustainable yield over a period of 10 years (click here to see the draft analysis). On December 8, 2016, ACWD’s Board of Directors adopted Resolution No. 16-075 (click here to see Resolution No. 16-075) authorizing staff to submit an Alternative to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for Niles Cone 2-09.01. ACWD's Alternative submittal also will include an explanation of how the Alternative is functionally equivalent to elements of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan and achieves the objectives of SGMA.

The District’s Alternative submittal would preserve and continue the successful sustainable groundwater management already being performed by the District. This would be accomplished by continuing groundwater management under pre-existing legal authority by which the District manages the Niles Cone Subbasin 2-09.01 in accordance with existing and planning and operative policies and documents.