Can California Successfully Integrate Groundwater and Surface Water Under SGMA?

November 14, 2018

Presenter, Groundwater Resources Association, Sacramento Branch Meeting

Downey Brand partner Kevin O’Brien will be presenting on how to successfully integrate the legal frameworks of groundwater and surface water under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Acton at the Groundwater Resources Association’s Sacramento Branch Meeting this November. Here is an overview of his presentation:

Historically, California has treated surface water and groundwater under separate and distinct legal regimes. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) takes an initial step toward integrating the administration of rights to surface water and groundwater. Under SGMA, an “undesirable result” may occur where groundwater conditions cause depletions of interconnected surface water that have “significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on beneficial uses of surface water” (referred to in this presentation as the “Impact Test”). First, I will explore the practical challenges inherent in determining whether the Impact Test has been met in a given physical setting. Second, I will examine the tools that Groundwater Sustainability Agencies have available under SGMA to address situations in which the Impact Test has been met. Finally, I will discuss my thesis that court involvement in the resolution of disputes between groundwater pumpers and surface water users is likely, particularly in overdrafted basins.