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Sustainable Groundwater Management

BMP-GSU22-Cover-PageThe Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (PV Water) has been working toward sustainable management of the Valley’s water resources since 1984.  Over the last three decades, PV Water has achieved some of the following successes:

  • Engaging with stakeholders, facilitating community involvement, and collaborating with partners.
  • Developing and adaptively updating Basin Management Plans
  • Measuring groundwater extraction [by metering large production wells], water levels and water quality through time
  • Developing hydrologic models to simulate the use and movement of water
  • Building projects and delivering water
  • Funding conservation programs

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

In September 2014, Governor Brown signed into law a three-bill legislative package collectively known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).  It requires groundwater basins like ours become sustainable by 2040. In his signing message, the Governor stated “a central feature of these bills is the recognition that groundwater management in California is best accomplished locally.”

SGMA defines sustainable groundwater management as the “management and use of groundwater in a manner that be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.”  Undesirable Results are defined in SGMA and may be summarized as any of the following effects caused by groundwater conditions occurring throughout the basin:

  • 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 degraded water quality
  • Significant and unreasonable land subsidence
  • Surface water depletions that have significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on the beneficial uses of surface water

Groundwater Sustainability Agency

SGMA places the responsibility of sustainable groundwater management on groundwater sustainability agencies (“GSAs”), which can be any local agency that has water supply, water management, or land use responsibilities within a groundwater basin, or a combination of such agencies overlying a basin.  SGMA provides 15 state-chartered local groundwater management agencies, including PVWMA, with the exclusive right to be the GSA in their respective statutory boundaries, unless they opt out.  All GSAs must be formed by June 30, 2017.

The Board of Directors of the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency voted in favor of becoming a GSA in August 2015.  The Notice of Election Package was submitted in September and is available on DWR’s list of GSAs.

Key Dates on the Road to Sustainability

  • Groundwater agencies formed by June 30, 2017.
    • PV Water Board of Directors voted in favor of becoming a GSA in August 2015.
  • Groundwater sustainability plans adopted by January 31, 2020 for critically overdrafted basins.
  • Achieve sustainability by 2040

Sustainable Groundwater Planning

DWR approved PV Water's Groundwater Sustainability Plan Alternative (GSP-Alternative) in 2019. Under SGMA, PV Water prepares and submits periodic updates to its GSP-Alternative. The first such update was submitted in December 2021, in advance of the January 1, 2022 deadline. Staff anticipates the GSP-Alternative will be updated at least every 5-years.

Sustainable Groundwater Management Annual Reports

In accordance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act , PV Water prepares and submits annual reports for each water year.  

 Well Monitoring Program: Free Water Level and Water Quality Sampling

In September 2021, PV Water published a draft of the Basin Management Plan: Groundwater Sustainability Update 2022 (GSU22).  The GSU22 serves as PV Water’s 5-year update to its Groundwater Sustainability Plan Alternative, which was approved by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) in July 2019.   The GSU22 evaluated the state of the Pajaro Valley Groundwater Basin, established sustainable management criteria, and identified data gaps in PV Water’s monitoring networks among other components.

As a result of the GSU22 process, and in order to increase the spatial coverage of its well monitoring network, PV Water is working to add wells to the network through a combination of constructing new, dedicated monitoring wells, and by asking the community for volunteers who might be interested in enrolling their well in PV Water’s groundwater monitoring program. 

Well owners who chose to participate in this voluntary program would receive periodic water quality and water level information at no cost.  Please note, data obtained through this voluntary program would be reported to DWR, and would be publicly accessible over the internet.  PV Water staff, with permission, will collect, maintain, and handle any associated data reporting. Data collection will occur twice a year during approximately April and October, the highest and lowest points in annual groundwater levels.

Desired qualifications to participate in the program include: 

1) Possession of the well completion report, and  

2) Points of access on the well to measure water level and/or collect water quality samples. 

Interested participants will be required to sign a monitoring agreement, a copy of which is available for review by clicking here

If you’re interested in volunteering your well for monitoring, have questions, or would like to discuss this program, please contact, Casey Meusel, Associate Hydrologist, at (831) 722-9292 x19 or via email at 

Basin Boundary Emergency Regulations

SGMA establishes a process for local agencies to request that DWR revise the boundaries of a groundwater basin, including the establishment of a new subbasin.  California’s groundwater basins and sub-basins are defined in the DWR’s Bulletin 118-Update 2003.  DWR has released emergency regulations outlining the process that local agencies must follow when requesting modifications to existing boundaries of groundwater basins and sub-basins.  The regulations identify the methodology and criteria that will be applied by DWR when reviewing and approving the modification requests, which may be scientific in nature, jurisdictional, or a combination.  The first round when basin boundary modifications will be accepted by DWR for review was from January 1, 2016 through March 31, 2016. 

The Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency submitted a basin boundary modification proposal to adjust a small portion of the Purisima Formation Basin to Pajaro Valley Basin, and adjust a portion of the Pajaro Valley Basin to the Salinas Valley Basin.  The approved basin boundary modifications are shown on the map below.

PVWMA PVHM Pajaro Basin 20161230pdfDownload a PDF copy of this map

 Pajaro River Watershed Regional Water Management Program

PV Water is an active member in the Integrated Regional Water Management(IRWM) Program. The mission of this group is: Preserve the economic and environmental wealth and well-being of the Pajaro River watershed through watershed stewardship and comprehensive management of water resources in a practical, cost effective, and responsible manner.

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