Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)
SGMA (pronounced sigma), or the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, was signed into law by former California Governor Jerry Brown in 2014. SGMA consists of three legislative bills: SB 1168, SB 1319 and AB 1739 which together serve the purpose of achieving sustainability of groundwater resources in California. Local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) were identified as the best path forward to managing and mitigating groundwater at the local level. SGMA requires the creation of groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) to be developed by these local agencies in coordination with adjacent GSAs for the sustainability of the underground aquifer. All groundwater basins designated as high and medium priority must ultimately achieve their sustainability goals by 2040 through a planning and implementation process:
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SGMA outlines six “undesirable results” to be avoided:
Chronic lowering of groundwater levels indicating a significant and unreasonable depletion of supply
Significant and unreasonable reduction of groundwater storage
Significant and unreasonable seawater intrusion
Significant and unreasonable degradation of water quality
Significant and unreasonable land subsidence
Groundwater-related surface water depletions that have significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses of surface water.
Groundwater subbasins and aquifers can span hundreds of miles and under several cities, water agencies, and other municipalities. Therefore, collaboration of these different agencies was identified in the creation of GSAs. Fresno Irrigation District (FID) is the largest member of the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency (NKGSA). The NKGSA is one of seven GSAs in the Kings Subbasin and consists of 10 member agencies who work in coordination with each other to accomplish the requirements mandated by SGMA.
The North Kings GSA is authorized under SGMA to develop, adopt, and implement a GSP for the sustainable management of groundwater in a portion of the Kings Subbasin. The GSP is designed to maintain sustainable levels of groundwater in the aquifer even during the driest of years. Although this legislation can perhaps feel cumbersome, California was the last state in the United States to adopt such a law.
How FID Fits In
At FID, sustainability is key to our groundwater management efforts as it affects the future of our community, water users, and the next generation. As an organization, FID also encourages conservation as the path forward for all
FID is committed to achieving sustainability goals by building more recharge capacity and importing as much surface water into the area as possible. As a conjunctive use district, FID makes beneficial use of –and intends to fully capture and utilize–all surface water.
FID’s sustainability efforts include adding 150 acres of additional recharge basins since 2020 when the North Kings GSA’s GSP was submitted. Plans to add another 420 acres of recharge basins to capture up to an additional 30,000 acre-feet of floodwaters in 16 projects identified by FID in the North Kings GSA GSP project list. FID’s surface water supply and projects to recharge groundwater have helped improve FID’s ability to become sustainable.
Recharging Groundwater Today for Tomorrow’s Needs
Groundwater recharge occurs when water from rainfall and snowmelt soaks into the ground. The soil conditions within FID allows water to be reintroduced into the underground aquifers through percolation. Groundwater is often pumped out of the ground for residential and agricultural uses, which lowers the available groundwater supply. When groundwater recharge occurs, it replenishes the same aquifer.
Multiple benefits come with groundwater recharge, increasing water quantity and quality accessibility for agriculture, rural residents that are well-users, and disadvantaged communities that also rely on wells. Groundwater recharge is essential during wet years so enough water is available during dry years when surface water availability is limited and reliance on groundwater pumping increases.
Savory Pond Basin at S. Chestnut Ave and E. Lincoln Ave was completed and began operations in 2022
Central Basin site at W. Central Ave and S. Hughes Ave was completed in 2021, with operations beginning in 2022