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Public gets involved in Groundwater Act implementation
groundwater well

A group of Turlock Subbasin stakeholders gathered at the first Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Workshop on Thursday to learn more about the requirements of the historic legislation and more importantly how they can assume an active role in its local implementation.


“Get information, get on mailing lists and go to public meetings,” said Turlock Irrigation District Water Resources Analyst Herb Smart. “Start a conversation with us, ask questions. If GSAs [Groundwater Sustainability Agencies] get formed and GSPs [Groundwater Sustainability Plans] get adopted and stakeholders aren’t involved in the process, everything is moot.”


Hosted by the Turlock Groundwater Basin Association, this inaugural workshop educated the public about groundwater and groundwater resources in the region, the requirements of SGMA and ways they can stay informed and engaged in future subbasin management processes.


Smart said that stakeholders include holders of agricultural and domestic groundwater rights, municipal well operators, public water systems, local land use planning agencies, environmental users of groundwater, surface water users, the federal government and disadvantaged communities.


“The fact of the matter is if you drink water around here in the subbasin—and I’m sure we all do—you’re a stakeholder,” said Smart. “Because around here, most of the domestic water that we drink comes from groundwater.”


In addition to learning more about resources and what the next steps are for SGMA’s local implementation, those who attended the workshop received information on the SGMA, TGBA, the geology of the Turlock subbasin and data gathering required for SGMA.


Representatives from surrounding agencies that attended Thursday’s meeting included Al Rossini from Eastside Water District, TGBA vice chairperson Debbie Liebersbach from TID, Garner Reynolds from the City of Turlock, Glenn Prasad from the City of Modesto, Ron Rowe from Merced County, Walt Ward from Stanislaus County, Larry Ernst from Wood Rogers, Inc., Phyllis Stanin from Todd Groundwater and TGBA chairperson Michael Cooke from City of Turlock.

SGMA, which took effect earlier this year, requires the formation of local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies covering the Turlock Subbasin before June 30, 2017 to avoid probationary state intervention. The GSAs are to be formed by local public agencies that have water supply, water management, or land-use responsibilities within a groundwater basin.

SGMA also requires the GSAs—once established—to develop and adopt a Groundwater Sustainability Plan or multiple coordinated GSPs covering the entire Subbasin prior to Jan. 31, 2022. If the GSA fails to meet this deadline, the Subbasin will be subject to state intervention measures.

Furthermore, the Subbasin can also be subject to state intervention after plan adoption if plans are deemed inadequate or are not being implemented in a manner likely to achieve the groundwater sustainability goals outlined in the GSP.

Stanislaus County Walt Ward said that “sustainable groundwater management” is defined as the management and use of groundwater in a manger that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.  These undesirable results can include significant and unreasonable reduction of groundwater storage or chronic lowering of groundwater levels of significant and unreasonable degraded water quality.

The California Department of Water Resources, in consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board, is charged with implementing SGMA and is required by law to develop a series of regulations and documents to aid local agencies in complying with SGMA.

DWR is responsible for developing GSP regulations before June 1, 2016 that will be used to evaluate GSP submittals and GSP implementation. For GSAs, SGMA compliance will consist of adhering to SGMA statutes and complying with regulations developed and implemented by DWR.

The next TGBA meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Nov. 11 at TID, 333 E. Canal Dr. in Turlock. For more information on TGBA, visit