ACWA: The challenges of implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act ten years in

A decade after the introduction of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), significant strides have been made in managing California’s groundwater resources. However, the path to effective implementation has been fraught with challenges. At ACWA’s 2024 Spring Conference, a panel discussed some of those challenges, such as State Water Board intervention, lawsuits affecting SGMA implementation, domestic well mitigation plans, and groundwater allocations.

Seated on the panel:

  • Chris Guillen, an attorney at Brownstein Law Firm:  He is a natural resources attorney combining expertise in land use, CEQA, and water resources issues with specialized experience in infrastructure, real estate development projects, and water-related litigation.
  • Deanna Jackson, the Executive Director, Tri-County Water Authority: The Tri-County Water Authority is a multi-agency joint powers authority that developed and implements groundwater sustainability plans for its 100,000-acre service area.  The Authority is within the Tulare Basin, which has been placed on probation by the State Water Resources Control Board.
  • Lauren Layne, an attorney with Baker Manok and Jensen:  Her law practice focuses on general Water and Environmental Law, including CEQA and NEPA compliance, and includes various business transactional matters in the areas of water rights, water quality, public agency, law, agribusiness, and real property.
  • Jeanne Zolezzi, an attorney with Herum Crabtree, moderated the panel.  She is a recognized expert in California Water Rights. Her practice includes counseling, administrative matters and water rights litigation.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act became effective in January 2015 with the purpose of managing groundwater basins sustainably and with minimal state intervention.  The legislation defines sustainable management with lack of undesirable results, including chronic lowering of groundwater levels, reduction in storage, seawater intrusion, degraded water quality, land subsidence, and depletions of interconnected surface water.

“We have everything in this state,” said Ms. Zolezzi.  “We have basins that are being put in probationary hearings, we have those that have been approved, we have those whose plans are being sued, and we have those that are trying to fund their projects and management actions and being sued on those funding attempts.  So I will turn it over to the panel now so they can start with all these issues we’re facing.”

Status of Groundwater Sustainability Plans

Chris Guillen kicked off the presentations with an update on the Groundwater sustainability plans (or GSPs), which are required for high and medium-priority basins.

After the plans are submitted to the Department of Water Resources, DWR has two years to evaluate the GSP.  The graphic on the slide depicts the pathways for the GSPs.  Based on its evaluation, DWR can find the GSP as approved with potentially recommended corrective actions, incomplete, or inadequate.

If DWR finds a GSP incomplete, the GSA will have 180 days to address the issues.  If those issues are not addressed, or the plan has significant gaps that would take longer than 180 days to correct, that could trigger the state intervention process.  The State Water Board then has a process for determining whether the basin should be considered probationary.  If the Board designates a basin as probationary, the Board can adopt an interim plan and impose mandatory fees.

As of January, DWR had approved 71 GSPs, deemed 13 incomplete, and found six inadequate, with one of the six now on probation.

There are five common deficiencies in the GSPs that have been identified as inadequate:

  • lack of coordination between the GSAs,
  • lack of consideration for protecting domestic wells,
  • insufficient prevention of subsidence,
  • lack of justification for water quality thresholds, and
  • lack of monitoring to avoid depletions of interconnected surface waters.

Groundwater adjudications

Next, Mr. Guillen discussed groundwater adjudications.  A groundwater basin adjudication can be an alternative to the GSP process or a process that proceeds in parallel.  An adjudication is a legal process by which groundwater rights and how that groundwater basin will be managed are determined by a court.  Often, the court imposes a ‘physical solution’ at the end of the groundwater adjudication that directs a watermaster to manage the basin and report back to the court.  SGMA exempts adjudicated basins from the GSP process but requires annual reports to be submitted on the status of the basin.

Before SGMA, 27 or so basins were adjudicated, mainly in Southern California.  Since the passage of SGMA, several adjudications have been filed, which are listed on the slide on the above right.

SGMA-related litigation

Lastly, Mr. Guillen turned to SGMA-related legislation.  Since the adoption of SGMA, there have been several court judicial decisions that have dealt with SGMA-related or groundwater-related issues that bear on the implementation of SGMA:

Mojave Pistachios

Mojave Pistachios is located in the Indian Wells Valley basin.  Mojave Pistachios challenged the GSA’s adoption of a base replenishment fee of $2,130 per acre-foot.  Mojave Pistachios relies exclusively on groundwater for its pistachio farms and filed a lawsuit challenging both the GSP and the fee.  In response, the GSA filed the demurrer to the lawsuit, saying that the Mojave Pistachios must pay the fee before it can challenge the fee.  The ‘pay first, litigate later’ rule requires the taxpayer to pay a tax before commencing a court action to challenge the tax.  The rule does allow for a lawsuit to be filed after the taxes are paid and the potential for reimbursement of the tax with interest if the lawsuit is successful.

Mojave Pistachio argued the rule should not apply to the base replenishment fee as the fee violated groundwater rights.  Given the significant amount of the fee, it could prevent parties from protesting the fee.  The Court of Appeal found in a published decision that the ‘pay first, litigate later’ rule would apply to the fee and upheld the granting of the demurrer.

However, in that decision, the court acknowledged that the ‘pay first, litigate later’ rule could allow GSA to impose unreasonable fees targeting certain users, knowing the user would be unable to protest the fee, given the significant amount of fee.  The Court decided this was not the case and left the door open for future litigation on that issue.  The case has been petitioned for review by the Supreme Court.

RELATED CONTENTKern pistachio farmer ordered to pay $30 million in back fees to high desert groundwater agency, from SJV Water

City of Marina v. County of Monterey

This case addressed which GSA would take charge of a certain portion of the 180/400-foot aquifer subbasin in the Salinas Valley.  The Court found that where two GSAs submitted competing notifications of intent to act as the GSA, and due to the overlap, neither agency could become the GSA.  The County may step in and become the GSA in that area.

RELATEDCourt of Appeal Upholds County of Monterey’s Management of Groundwater in Landmark SGMA Case, legal alert from Downey Brand

Environmental Law Foundation v. State Water Resources Control Board

In this case, the Court of Appeal found that the public trust doctrine applies to groundwater production that could impact navigable water.  The public trust doctrine is generally a duty held by public agencies to act on behalf of the people to protect their interest in navigable water.  The court found for the first time that the public trust doctrine applies when a county is issuing groundwater permit for a groundwater well permit for a well in the vicinity of surface water.  The court also found in that case, SGMA did not preempt the public trust doctrine.

RELATED:  California Court Finds Public Trust Doctrine Applies to State Groundwater Resources, from Richard Frank at the Legal Planet

City of San Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation Dist.

This case dealt with fees that are charged by the water district.  The city was challenging the United Water Conservation District’s imposition of a groundwater charge on well operators to fund conservation activities.  The city challenged the charge on the grounds that the amount the city paid was disproportionate to the benefits received from the funded activities.

“I think what was significant from this decision is that the court decided the groundwater charges were not property-related fees because they did not relate to the delivery of water to the particular parcel, but instead funded these other conservation activities – replenishment and so forth.  The court remanded the case to the Court of Appeal to consider another potential assessment avenue for the fee.  The case came back on appeal a couple of years later for the court to consider a water code provision requiring non-agricultural users to pay three times the groundwater charge that agricultural users paid, and the court overturned that water code provision.”

RELATEDCity of San Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation District, from Justia Law

Pleasant Valley County Water District v. Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency

This decision was not published, but it upheld the agency’s Authority to consider river surface water use in calculating a surcharge for excessive groundwater extractions.

RELATEDPleasant Valley Cnty. Water Dist. v. Fox Canyon Groundwater Mgmt. Agency, from CaseText

Capistrano Taxpayers Assn., Inc. v. City of San Juan Capistrano

This case concerned the city’s fee structure for water service.  The city created a fee structure that assessed different rates depending on the class of customers and the amount of water used.  Each customer class had a different water usage budget, such as low, reasonable, excess, and very excessive, and the city imposed fees based on each of those tiers.  The taxpayers association filed the suit challenging the fee as violating Prop 218’s requirement that a property-based fee be limited to the cost of service attributable to the parcel.  The Court overturned the rate structure because the city had failed to correlate those tiered prices to the cost of actually providing water.  The ruling is a published appellate opinion, meaning it’s a precedent that can be relied on.

RELATEDCapistrano Taxpayers v. City of San Juan Capistrano, from Justia Law

The remaining cases listed on the slide are trial court cases that are ongoing right now, showing the difficulties of water management in the SGMA age.

Lauren Layne noted that these cases are important because they affect the implementation of SGMA.  “There is a lawsuit in Madera County where landowners are protesting the fees that Madera County is imposing on the Madera subbasin.  I’m not involved in that litigation, but my understanding is because of that Mojave pistachio case, the County came back and said, ‘You hadn’t paid the fee first, so you don’t have standing in this lawsuit.’  So these are playing into everyday action we’re going through.  And we’re learning as we’re going.”

Mr. Guillen agreed.  “The text of these cases can be dry, and the way the courts deal with them can be dry, but it is a dynamic environment in which the state passed this pretty significant law in 2014, and now the judiciary is responding.”

The California Sportfishing Protection Alliance has filed lawsuits seeking to invalidate groundwater sustainability plans, including the Eastern San Joaquin GSP, which DWR ultimately approved.  “We had a stay in place; that stay was removed because the plan was approved,” said Ms. Zolezzi.  “The first thing we did was challenge whether you can actually bring a suit through reverse validation.  We think there are good arguments that you can’t, but we lost that on the court.  So that will be going up on appeal.”

“The most important thing we did was we brought a demurrer that said DWR is an indispensable party because you can’t sue the GSA and say make changes to the document when the GSA already has approval from DWR that that document is acceptable,” she continued.  “So we said, ‘we can’t be put in that untenable position that the courts are telling us one thing, and DWR is telling us another.’ So, the court approved that and required them to go and sue DWR, which they did in their second amended complaint.  We are now answering that second amended complaint.  So that will be interesting to watch.  They have already raised interesting arguments on the public trust and whether or not it was considered sufficiently in the GSP, so that will be another issue.  At least we’re going to get a trial court decision.”

State intervention

Deanna Jackson is the executive director for the Tri-County Water Authority, the GSA that manages areas in both the Tule and Tulare Lake subbasin facing state intervention.  Ms. Jackson then discussed the intervention process, and how that is affecting things in the basins she manages.

SGMA grants the State Water Resources Control Board authority to protect groundwater resources when local agencies are unable or unwilling to sustainably manage their groundwater basins.  State intervention is additional to local management and is intended to be temporary, lasting only until agencies can demonstrate that they are ready to adequately manage their basin sustainably.  State intervention is triggered by DWR determining a groundwater sustainability plan is inadequate.  The basin is then referred to the State Water Board, which determines if the basin should be placed on probation.  The probationary determination is done using a public process and a public hearing.

During the probationary period, the State Water Board focuses on data collection and analysis to better understand the management challenges the basin is facing.  Probationary status requires mandatory groundwater extraction reporting, which imposes mandatory fees on water users, excluding de minimis pumpers (generally domestic wells).  These fees include a $300 per well registration fee annually and a $20 per acre-foot groundwater extraction fee.  Ms. Jackson noted that in March of 2024, the Board lowered its SGMA fee schedule for volumetric pumping from $40 to $20 per acre-foot, keeping the $300 well registration fee in place.  The State Board will notify all known landowners and water users of the extraction and reporting requirements and associated filing fees.

After a probationary finding, GSAs have one year to remedy their deficiencies.  If they fail to do so, the State Board may begin another public process to determine whether or not an interim plan is necessary.  If the State Board adopts an interim plan, the Board will temporarily manage groundwater in the basin until the local agencies demonstrate their ability to manage the basin sustainably.  GSAs must demonstrate to the State Water Resources Control Board in consultation with the Department of Water Resources that they can adequately address groundwater issues to end state intervention.

To date, six basins have been deemed inadequate.  These basins include Tulare Lake, Tule, Kaweah, Kern County, Delta Mendota, and the Chowchilla subbasins.  The first two on the list are subbasins where Tri-County manages groundwater.

The first probationary hearing was on April 16 and lasted over 9 hours.  In that hearing, the State Water Resources Control Board identified three significant deficiencies in the GSP:  sustainable management criteria for subsidence, water quality, and water levels.

The staff report said that the basin has a dry well susceptibility analysis showing 700 domestic wells are at risk of dewatering if a repeat of the most recent drought were to occur, as well as potential risks to infrastructure such as the California Aqueduct and flood control levees.

“They recommended that no portion of the basin be excluded from probation, which was much to my dismay,” said Ms. Jackson.  “Under probationary status, all people who extract groundwater, unless excluded, must report their well location and capacity, monthly extraction volumes, place, and purpose of use.  Meters will be required on all individuals pumping 500 acre-feet yearly or more.  Fees include the $300 per well annual registration and a $20 per acre-foot groundwater pumping fee.  In the Tulare Lake subbasin alone, that could mean up to or more than $10 million per year to the State Board to manage their SGMA program.”

De minimis users, who use two acre-feet or less, generally domestic well users, are excluded from reporting and fees.  Small municipals can request an exemption, but only after reporting.

The Tulare Lake groundwater measurements are required to begin this July, and the first reporting period will be December 1.  The State Water Board has an online program for landowners to register their well, well depth, and the well’s location.  In December, landowners report their groundwater use since July 2015; the GEARS program will assess the fee, which is paid directly to the State Water Board.

The graphic on the slide depicts the overdraft in the Tulare Basin.  “The subbasin was determined to be in critical overdraft, which is unsurprising considering the overdraft is over 200,000 acre-feet annually,” said Ms. Jackson.  “Staff noted on this chart that water levels have been in decline for decades.  Staff estimated the subbasin sustainable yield to be close to 300,000 acre-feet yearly, and annual extractions are around 514,000 acre-feet yearly, with the current overdraft of around 215,000 acre-feet yearly.  Staff noted there are approximately 2000 domestic wells within the Tulare Lake subbasin, and groundwater use is 94% extracted by agricultural pumping, 4% is urban, and 2% is domestic rural users.”

The staff report noted groundwater extractions have resulted in subsidence.  The graphic shows cumulative subsidence in the state from October 2015 to October 2023.  The red areas have the highest subsidence rates, with some areas subsiding over five feet since 2015.

“It’s not surprising that the large red area you see with the dot on the slide represents the area in the Tulare Lake, Tule, and Kaweah subbasins, which are the first three in line for probationary hearings,” said Ms. Jackson.  “The chart shows the major subsidence in the city of Corcoran where the dot is from June of 2015 to January of 2024, totaling around 4.5 feet, but actually, the Tulare Lake subbasin data shows that that is closer to 5.5 feet during that period.”

The first task for the Tulare Basin to exit intervention is to revise and resubmit plans to the state for review.  The state will evaluate those resubmitted plans and determine if the deficiencies have been resolved and whether GSAs are on track to achieve basin sustainability goals.  However, if deficiencies are not resolved, then after at least one year, the Board may develop an interim plan and manage the overdraft, which would be effective until the GSP deficiencies are resolved.

Once a revised plan is submitted, staff will require three months to review with an additional month for each plan.  For instance, if there are five plans within a basin, staff would require seven months to review them.  The probationary hearing may proceed if there’s not enough time for staff to review those plans.  Ultimately, it’s up to the Board to determine if a plan meets requirements, if the basin can return to DWR’s oversight, or if an interim plan will be necessary.

The water code states that a Board shall exclude from probationary status any portion of the basin for which the groundwater sustainability agency demonstrates compliance with the sustainability goal; this is known as the good actor exemption.

“My agency believes we met that standard for a number of reasons in the Tulare Lake subbasin,” said Ms. Jackson.  “Two of those reasons in the Tulare Lake subbasin are one, the area that I manage is approximately 48,000 acres, and we’re only pumping 8000 acre-feet in that area; and two, we have been under an allocation program that has a scheduled ramp down since 2021.  That’s 8000 acre feet out of a subbasin is pumping 500,000 acre-feet.”

During the probationary hearing, staff recommended that no portion of the subbasin be excluded.  One reason cited was that an approved GSP has to be implemented, which is hard to come to when the basin has been deemed inadequate, she said.  “In my opinion, I think we’ll see additional clarifications to this area of SGMA, and it will continue to evolve because other GSAs, as they go before the board, are going to continue to apply for probably what is an inadequate basin GSA’s holy grail: the good actor exemption.”

Challenges of SGMA implementation

Lauren Layne then addressed some of the challenges of SGMA implementation.  These include:

  • Five-year updates and annual reporting
  • Implementing projects and management actions
  • Gathering the data needed as many GSAs didn’t start collecting data until SGMA was required to be implemented
  • Establish water accounting programs and groundwater allocations
  • Multi-benefit land repurposing programs, which Ms. Layne described as ‘the nice way of saying land fallowing.’ Examples include short-term or long-term land fallowing, creating/restoring wetlands, or preserving environmental areas.
  • Other issues include investigations, inspections, compliance and enforcement, and program administration.

“We’re still in such a new phase,” said Ms. Layne.  “We’re still trying to figure out how to make this agency function as a public agency when we’ve had our irrigation water districts and flood control levee districts around for a long time.  However, these GSAs are very new; they had to be formed by June 30, 2017.  They’re babies.  Some may stem from an existing district that decided to also be a GSA, but once again, different powers, different staff sometimes, and you’re dealing with different issues.”

Funding options for GSAs

DWR awarded more than $500 million in grants to help develop and implement groundwater sustainability plans.  However, there are no state resources to fund SGMA implementation over that 20-year horizon.

“So GSAs have to figure out how to self-fund this,” said Ms. Layne.  “We’re not like the state where we can have an emergency rulemaking and decide to charge $300 for well and $40 per acre-foot.  We have to follow the California laws for local agencies on those funding components.”

She acknowledged DWR’s recent release of a guidance document for funding but said it was a little late.  The purpose of the guidance document was to provide a high-level guide for funding resources to promote groundwater sustainability within the GSAs for self-funding streams.

The slide shows some funding options available to public agencies under Prop 218, Prop 26, and Special Taxes.

Prop 218 can be used for property-related fees and property-related assessments; an important distinction is one has a ballot, one doesn’t, and both have public hearings.

“The distinction I like to use with the GSAs is what are they using those funds for,” said Ms. Layne.  “If we are trying to fund projects and management actions, and we’re trying to do a blanket assessment across an entire groundwater sustainability agency, is there a benefit to those properties for charging that assessment?  If the project or management action affects one side of the GSA but has no benefit on the other side, you have to consider if you can charge that assessment.  If I’m not getting a benefit from paying that assessment, technically, I could challenge that.”

Many GSAs use assessments for funding to prepare plans, make updates, and perform administrative tasks because that benefits everyone who must comply with SGMA.  Assessments are also being used for data collection because the more data a GSA has, the better they can be informed in moving forward with projects and management actions.  In some cases, the assessment can be put on county tax rolls and collected by the County.

It’s a bit trickier regarding funding projects and management actions.  “You’ll see fees used more for projects and management actions, such as pumping fees, because you can rationally relate those that are pumping to be paying for the projects to offset pumping,” said Ms. Layne.  “It gets detailed.  I don’t know that the engineers appreciate us as attorneys because we tell them no, we can’t do that; you need to explain why we’re charging this fee or assessment and how it’s relating to those individuals and what benefit they’re receiving because that is really important.  We don’t want to be drawn into litigation.”

There are regulatory fees under Prop 26; there were a lot of these initially because SGMA allowed that if you didn’t have a GSP yet, you could impose a Prop 26 fee, like a regulatory governmental fee, for the funds to prepare the groundwater sustainability plans.  However, once a GSP is in place, Prop 26 can’t be used for that purpose.  However, Prop 26 can be used for penalties, such as late fees or fines.  SGMA also specifies fee amounts as special taxes that can be charged, such as a $500 penalty on pumping.

Historically, the state has provided grants to GSAs, primarily around disadvantaged communities or severely disadvantaged communities, land fallowing programs, and conservation programs, but there are less of those funds available now, especially with the state’s budget problems.

“So that’s not a reliable indicator of funding, said Ms. Layne.  “In fact, the State Water Board staff reports had said you can’t rely on grants.  So that’s not going to be reasonable to say you’re going to implement your GSP with grant funding.”

Some GSAs have obtained loans for projects, with some lenders stepping up to provide loans based on the Prop 218 assessment being in place.

RELATED: Resource Guide: Funding SGMA implementation, from the Department of Water Resources

Domestic well mitigation

SGMA doesn’t require a GSA to have a domestic well mitigation plan.  “That is not stated in SGMA, and the State Water Board staff reports even admit that,” said Ms. Layne.  “They say although it is not required, both DWR and the State Water Board have basically told the GSAs that you have to have a domestic well mitigation program or your plan will not be approved.”

Putting the plan together isn’t hard; the real challenge is how to fund it.  Deanna mentioned a possible 700 wells in the Tulare Lake subbasin going dry.  How do you fund fixing those wells?  How do you determine which wells you fix?  Or replace?  Is the well going dry as a result of any action of somebody pumping?  Or is it just a 50-year-old well that needs to be replaced? … It also stems from the human right to water.  And so this goes to the State Water Board’s policies that they’re imposing that are not necessarily defined in SGMA, but something we’re dealing with on a larger scale overall.”

So, domestic well mitigation programs are being considered by almost every subbasin in the Central Valley right now.  They are not all the same; one plan isn’t going to fit all, but they are trying to figure out how to move forward.

The Chowchilla basin is the last of the six groundwater basins up for probationary hearings.  The GSA has already submitted a revised GSP, and they have put a domestic well mitigation program in place.

For this program, there’s really no income threshold limit.  Some GSAs are considering providing loans or helping to offset costs only if well owners are below a certain income level.  The applicant has to complete an online private well education class.  It is on a first-come, first-served basis.  The maximum per well is $30,000, and once per well.

The Chowchilla subbasin has multiple GSAs.  They didn’t impose a fee to develop the program; rather, it is by voluntary contribution.  “They said to their GSAs, you’re voluntarily going to contribute to this program so that we can meet this requirement of the State Water Board and help offset the costs.  They gathered $500,000 and were told by the state that is not enough money.  The state says they have to be adequately funded, but what’s adequately funded?”

Ms. Layne pointed out that the GSAs are already trying to figure out how to fund themselves and the implementation of the GSP; now, the state has added another layer with the domestic well mitigation program, which can lead to Prop 218 issues.

“There are a lot of considerations that the GSAs are going through right now that make it much more complicated than just implementing a domestic well mitigation program.  It’s a challenge.”


It takes a lot of money to run a GSA; these are new agencies.  “Maybe they’re not as big as some municipal agencies, but from an agricultural perspective, these are really big budgets,” said Ms. Layne.  “You’re not really getting anything for it.  You’re not getting a water supply for it.  You’re getting coverage for SGMA so that the state doesn’t come in.  But if the state comes in, you will have to pay the fees for the GSA’s budget and the state’s fees, too.  So it gets extremely complicated.”


QUESTION:  The extreme overdraft in the Tulare Lake Basin has been discussed for decades, and one of the results of that has been extreme ground subsidence.  I understand everything that’s been said about the extreme burden that’s been placed by SGMA in terms of cost, inconvenience, and all kinds of issues that are difficult to deal with.  My question is, is it really possible to get to a practical level of sustainability with the circumstances created by how groundwater has been managed for the last century?

“In the Tulare basin, Tri County, up until this January, was the only agency that had put in place allocations,” said Deanna Jackson.  “But we’re seeing now that with the revised plans and the demands that the state is asking of us, the other agencies are coming along.  Implementation is not perfect.  It takes time; you have to gain the confidence of your stakeholders and bring them along to receive compliance and get these programs in place.  There’s a willingness to do that now.  They’re starting to engage with their stakeholders more and educate them more, and you’re going to see it happen.”

“The law gave us 20 years to come into sustainability, but the state seems to really want that timeline compressed now,” continued Ms. Jackson.  “In the San Joaquin Valley, we’re talking about 700,000 to a million acres of land going out of production.  That doesn’t happen overnight.  So, we have to give these programs and individual GSAs time to work with those stakeholders and implement these plans.  We can’t just build infrastructure and won’t have enough water to do it without reducing demand.  So, the enforcement of demand reduction is really the key element.  And I don’t know if that state can do it any better than the GSAs, which can do it locally.  In fact, I fear that if the state tries to implement an interim plan, it will roll back what GSAs are currently doing.  I still think the 20 year timeline is an aggressive timeline for that.  But anything less than that is likely going to fail.”

Jeanne Zolezzi noted that similar to how domestic well mitigation plans have become a requirement imposed by the State Board and DWR, groundwater allocations and pumping reductions are also required.  “We have GSPs that show sustainability with no pumping reductions by using surface water and existing supplies.  DWR is saying, ‘No, it doesn’t matter.  You need to have a reduction plan in place in case those projects and management actions are not implemented and don’t go through.  You have to show what lands you’re taking out of production.”

“I love the euphemism of demand reduction,” continued Ms. Zolezzi.  ‘It’s not demand reduction.  Ag has reduced their demand about all they can.  It’s putting ag land out of production.  And so DWR is requiring that to be included as GSPs in case project and management actions don’t work.”

QUESTION:  How are you handling enforcement?

“At Tri County, we assess a fee for overdraft pumping that is governed under SGMA and we have an allocation of $125 per acre-foot.  If they exceed that, we impose a maximum of $500 per acre-foot.  Most of my landowners, fortunately, have been paying those fees.  But I have had a couple that did not, and we had to put a lien on their properties.  So it’s unfortunate … I’m guessing this was intended, but I have blocks of land that have already gone back to the bank.  It’s a tough situation for those farmers who do not have access to surface water and developed properties legally and now are losing them.”

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