California groundwater management resources
California trailed behind many other states in groundwater management before passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014. Now, with careful implementation of the new law, California has an opportunity to transform into a model for the West and other water-challenged parts of the world.
EDF is providing guidance to groundwater agencies on how to navigate complex groundwater issues to comply with the new law in order to successfully bring groundwater supplies back into balance. Please scroll down to explore our SGMA resources.
Reports, white papers and other resources
- Advancing Strategic Land Repurposing and Groundwater Sustainability in California: A guide for developing regional strategies to create multiple benefits.
One unfortunate outcome of transitioning to sustainable groundwater management in California is inevitable: To balance groundwater demand with supply, some agricultural land will have to be taken out of production — as much as 500,000 to 750,000 acres, roughly equivalent to the size of Yosemite National Park. This guide outlines practical and creative approaches for the development of regionally coordinated land repurposing strategies to help with this transition, features one-page case studies, and includes a financial analysis summarizing funding options for strategic land repurposing.
- The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the Common Law of Groundwater Rights — Finding a Consistent Path Forward for Groundwater Allocation
One of the biggest challenges to implementing California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act centers on deciding who gets to pump how much groundwater without changing groundwater rights. To provide more clarity to groundwater agencies on how to navigate this challenge, Environmental Defense Fund partnered with four leading law experts to coauthor this article in the UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, which takes a deep dive into the relationship between SGMA and groundwater rights.
- Building multibenefit recharge basins [PDF]
This guide developed by EDF, Point Blue Conservation Science, Audubon California and Sustainable Conservation provides information to help water managers and growers build groundwater recharge basins that provide operational benefits while also creating valuable waterbird habitat.
- Protecting Groundwater
Quality in California: Management Considerations for Avoiding Naturally Occurring and Emerging Contaminants [PDF]
This paper provides guidance to help groundwater sustainability agencies and local communities avoid inadvertently contaminating supplies as they change management practices to comply with SGMA.
- The Groundwater Game Toolkit
The Groundwater Game provides players with an interactive opportunity to experience the challenges of managing increasingly scarce groundwater when there are competing needs. The game also provides players with a greater understanding of different management tools, including groundwater trading.
- Groundwater Sustainability Plan Chapter Templates: Basin Framework for a Multi-benefit Groundwater Replenishment and Water Trading Program [Word Doc]
The Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) chapter templates were developed to assist Groundwater Sustainability Agencies with incorporating multi-benefit replenishment and water trading mechanisms into GSPs as they are developed to comply with California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. These chapter templates provide an initial framework that can be adapted to reflect regional conditions and objectives.
- Groundwater pumping allocations under California's Sustainable Management Act: Considerations for groundwater sustainability agencies [PDF]
This paper addresses one major dilemma facing Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs): how to comply with SGMA without changing groundwater rights. It provides background on groundwater rights priorities and then recommends one approach among four to develop an allocation scheme that is most likely to withstand a court challenge.
- Addressing regional surface water depletions in California: A proposed approach for compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act [PDF]
In this paper, Environmental Defense Fund proposes an approach for GSAs to address surface water depletions – also known as the “sixth deadly sin” or “Undesirable Result No. 6” – under SGMA.
- Groundwater trading as a tool for implementing California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act [PDF]
This report describes how groundwater trading can be a compelling, cost-effective tool to achieve the goals of SGMA. While trading is not a panacea, it can reward conservation, create new revenue streams for groundwater users, boost a community’s drought resilience and improve aquifer conditions.
- EDF, State Water Agencies and California Water Data Consortium Partner on Groundwater Accounting Platform and Data Standards
May 11, 2021
- EDF and Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District to Build New Groundwater Trading Market
August 8, 2019
- New Platform Offers Resources and Engagement Tools for California Water Agencies and Communities
September 18, 2018
- New Report Uncovers Five Hallmarks of Successful Groundwater Management
January 29, 2018
- Capturing water from atmospheric rivers will help build drought resilience in California. Here’s how.
October 28, 2021
- 3 critical actions for water equity in California’s Latino communities – ¡apúrense!
- Developing rural water leaders as drought and water scarcity intensify
- As drought intensifies, this California water manager is testing new tools to help farmers, communities and wildlife
- 3 ways this accounting platform will help California groundwater agencies transition to sustainable supplies
May 11, 2021
- California is facing another drought, but I’m still hopeful. Here are 3 reasons why.
April 1, 2021
- Report provides guidance on repurposing California farmland to benefit water, landowners, communities and wildlife
March 25, 2021
- Dusty barren fields or thriving farmland and habitat? This bill creates a better vision for California’s future
Jan. 15, 2021
- After decades of inequity, this woman is bringing long-overlooked voices to California’s land and water decisions
Jan. 7, 2021
- Small California farmers are often overlooked in water policy. Here’s a look at their unique challenges.
Dec. 22, 2021
- A Craigslist for water trading? Learn how this new water management platform works
Oct. 7, 2020
- How groundwater managers can avoid the courts as they divvy up water
Sept. 30, 2020
- Location, location, location: New tool shows where groundwater recharge will maximize benefits
July 10, 2020
- Why I’m visiting the California Capitol to testify on groundwater
May 13, 2020
- A low snowpack makes it imperative to better manage groundwater supplies. Here’s how.
April 9, 2020
- How water managers can build recharge basins to boost resilience for farmers and birds alike
March 13, 2020
- One area in California will tap regional planning to respond to the state’s groundwater law. Here’s how it could help farmers.
Feb. 28, 2020
- Groundwater plans are due in California, but the hard work is just getting started
Jan. 30, 2020
- Five years into SGMA, here are five important considerations for balancing groundwater quality and quantity
Sept. 24, 2019
- The Groundwater Game: A new hands-on way to learn about groundwater management
July 18, 2019
- What’s next for California’s Central Valley? Even with water cutbacks, the region can still thrive. Here’s how.
June 28, 2019
- The clock is ticking for groundwater managers in California’s most over-drafted basins
January 31, 2019
- How Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry company, is becoming a leader in water conservation
January 23, 2019
- What California’s history of groundwater depletion can teach us about successful collective action
September 26, 2018
- The groundwater manager's dilemma: How to comply with new California law without changing water rights
September 4, 2018
- How water managers can address surface water depletions - California's "sixth deadly sin"
August 15, 2018
- What can Nebraska teach the American West about managing water? A lot.
February 23, 2018
- California's rural water systems needs leaders. Who will step up next?
December 21, 2017
- Sunshine, beaches and...saltwater intrusion? Solving for groundwater decline on California's coast
December 11, 2017
- 7 lessons from a California water leader on managing for the future
January 23, 2018
- Water heroes emerge in California's Central Valley
December 19, 2016