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Sustainable Groundwater Management

In September of 2014, the California Legislature enacted comprehensive legislation aimed at strengthening local control and management of groundwater basins throughout the state. Known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014, the legislation provides a framework for sustainable management of groundwater supplies by local authorities, with a limited role for state intervention when necessary to protect the resource.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (“SGMA”) requires that all groundwater basins in California be managed sustainably. (Water Code §§ 10720.1(a).) SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.” (Water Code §§ 10721(v).)

SGMA uses the term “sustainability goal,” defined as the “implementation of measures targeted to ensure that the applicable basin is operated within its sustainable yield.” (Water Code § 10721(u).) A basin’s “sustainable yield” is calculated as “the maximum quantity of water . . . that can be withdrawn annually from a groundwater supply without causing an undesirable result.” (Water Code § 10721(w).) SGMA defines “undesirable result” as any of the following effects:

  • Chronic lowering of groundwater levels (not including overdraft during a drought, if a basin is otherwise managed properly);
  • Significant and unreasonable reductions in groundwater storage;
  • Significant and unreasonable seawater intrusion;
  • Significant and unreasonable degradation of water quality;
  • Significant and unreasonable land subsidence; and
  • Surface water depletions that have significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses. (Water Code § 10721(x).)
OBGMA Compliance 

The Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency (OBGMA) is one of fifteen (15) special act districts created by statute to manage groundwater within its statutory boundaries. Pursuant to its enabling legislation, the OBGMA has been managing the quantity and quality of groundwater in the Ojai Groundwater Basin since 1991. These management efforts have resulted in protection and maintenance of the long-term water supply for the common benefit of all water users in the Basin. As a result, the Ojai Basin has been operated within its “sustainable yield” for the past several decades with no evidence of “undesirable results.”

SGMA identifies OBGMA as an “exclusive local agency” within its statutory boundaries for purposes of implementing the requirements of the Act. (Water Code § 10723(c)(1). OBGMA's Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) was approved by the California Department of Water Resources in October 2023, and OBGMA is implementing the recommended actions.

OjaiValley_GSP2023_Determination.pdfFINAL GSP_Combined_reduced.pdfFY23-24 GSP Implementation.pdf


More Information 

The Association of California Water Agencies has produced the following resources clarifying the provisions of the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and Related Legislation 2014

California Department of Water Resources’ Groundwater Website


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