In 2014, California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) (AB1739, SB 1168, SB 1319), authorizing local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) to develop groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) for a subset of California’s alluvial aquifers. To comply with SGMA, GSAs must achieve sustainable groundwater management, defined by SGMA as the avoidance of locally-defined undesirable results. To achieve sustainability, GSAs must develop and implement effective groundwater management plans that consider the interests of all beneficial uses and users of groundwater, including environmental users of groundwater. [Water Code § 10723.2.]
In many groundwater basins, fish and wildlife that rely on groundwater are among these beneficial uses and users. Many sensitive species and habitats comprise groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs), which are natural communities that rely on groundwater to sustain all or a portion of their water needs. The unsustainable use of groundwater can impact the shallow aquifers and interconnected surface waters on which GDEs depend and may lead to adverse impacts on fish and wildlife.
As trustee for California’s fish and wildlife resources, CDFW intends to engage as a stakeholder in groundwater planning processes (where resources are available) to represent the groundwater needs of GDEs and fish and wildlife beneficial uses and users of groundwater. The information provided here is intended to help local groundwater planners, groundwater planning proponents and consultants, and CDFW staff work together to consider the needs of fish and wildlife when developing groundwater management plans and implementing SGMA. The document includes three categories of groundwater planning considerations:
- Scientific Considerations
- Management Considerations; and
- Legal, Regulatory, and Policy Considerations.
Links to additional guidance and considerations developed by CDFW and other organizations that address the impacts of groundwater pumping on GDEs and depletion of interconnected surface water can be found at the end of this document.
Except to the extent that this document directly references existing statutory or regulatory requirements, use of these groundwater planning considerations is not mandated under law and should not be interpreted as a rule, regulation, order, or standard for local groundwater plans. Practical application of these considerations must be based on the best available information and groundwater basin-specific conditions.