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Groundwater Program

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

California's groundwater provides approximately 38 to 46 percent of the State's total water supply, depending on wet or dry years, and serves as a critical buffer against drought and climate change.Some communities in California are 100 percent reliant upon groundwater for urban and agricultural use. On September 16, 2014, the Governor signed legislation (AB 1739, SB 1168, and SB 1319) to strengthen the management and monitoring of critical groundwater basins. These laws are known collectively as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and established a new structure for the management of groundwater in California. SGMA lays out a process and timeline for forming locally-controlled groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) in groundwater basins designated as high- and medium-priority basins. A GSA is responsible for developing and implementing a groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) to meet the sustainability goal of the basin.

CDFW's Role in Groundwater Management

As trustee for California’s fish and wildlife resources, CDFW has jurisdiction over the conservation, protection, and management of fish, wildlife, native plants, and habitat necessary for biologically sustainable populations of those species. Pumping of groundwater has the potential to affect surface water flows and impact fish, wildlife, and aquatic ecosystems. Many sensitive ecosystems and public trust resources, such as streams, springs, riparian areas, and wetlands, are dependent on interconnected surface water and groundwater. Short-term fluctuations in groundwater levels and quality can have a significant negative effect on fish and wildlife and their habitat. Long-term declines in groundwater levels or quality may lead to extirpation of endangered species, loss of vegetation wildlife depend upon, reduced surface flows for aquatic species, and other irreversible impacts. To date, CDFW has been involved in groundwater management by commenting through the California Environmental Quality Act, National Environmental Policy Act, State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) water right processes, and through various other public planning processes.

In response to the passage of SGMA, CDFW has developed a Groundwater Program to ensure fish and wildlife resources reliant upon groundwater are addressed in GSPs, and that CDFW remains in compliance with regulatory requirements at CDFW owned lands and facilities which rely on groundwater supplies. CDFW has several existing programs and tools that will be of use to GSAs as they evaluate potential impacts to beneficial uses of groundwater and interconnected surface water. These resources include the Instream Flow Program (IFP), which develops instream flows required to maintain healthy conditions for aquatic and riparian species; the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB), a program that inventories the status and locations of rare plants and animals in California; the Biogeographic Information and Observation System (BIOS), a system designed to enable the management, visualization, and analysis of biogeographic data collected by CDFW and its partners; and, the Vegetation Classification and Mapping Program (VegCAMP), which focuses on developing and maintaining maps and the classification of all vegetation and habitat in the state to support conservation and management decisions at the local, regional, and state levels.

For more information, contact Briana Seapy at or (916) 445-1724.

CDFW Water Branch
830 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 445-8576