Information provided by Shawn Novack, water conservation program manager for the Water Resources Association of San Benito County.
Adopted in 2014, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) sets milestones that must be met to achieve groundwater sustainability. The law requires formation of local groundwater sustainability agencies—or GSAs—to guide groundwater management in basins and sub-basins classified by the state as medium- or high-priority. The local agencies must work together with groundwater users to develop groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) that will guide decisions affecting groundwater use and fees.
The San Benito County Water District is the GSA for the North San Benito Basin and is preparing a GSP in partnership with Santa Clara Valley Water District (now known as Valley Water), for small areas of the basin that extend into Santa Clara County. The North San Benito Basin is the result of consolidation of the previously-defined Bolsa, Hollister, San Juan Bautista, and Tres Pinos Valley basins. This consolidation of basins, approved by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) in 2019, supports comprehensive and cost-effective management.
The North San Benito Basin has been classified as a medium-priority basin. The DWR recognizes that San Benito County groundwater basins are important sources of water supply, have been well-managed, and are not critically over-drafted. For medium-priority basins such as ours, GSPs must be completed by 2022 and demonstrate sustainability by 2042.
The San Benito County Water District assembled a Technical Advisory Committee to assist in reviewing and contributing to the technical aspects of the GSP as its elements are produced. The committee is made up of individuals selected to represent GSP-related subject areas, including but not limited to environmental, technical, and land use planning fields. This diverse group of experts in their respective fields is responsible for reviewing the GSP scope of work, draft products, and materials prepared by consultants, analyzing them, and providing recommendations to the GSP technical team to develop a technically-sound GSP.
Groundwater matters to everyone. It’s an important source of water stored in the earth beneath our feet, in spaces between sand, soils, and fractured rock known as an aquifer. Layers of aquifers make up a groundwater basin, which can extend for miles. Groundwater is a critical buffer against the impacts of drought and climate variability/change, and plays a vital role in maintaining our region’s (and the state’s) economic and environmental sustainability. Sustainable groundwater management balances groundwater resources in a manner that ensures basin resiliency, which greatly benefits present and future generations.
Public workshops have and will take place that involve the general public. The San Benito County Water District recognizes that community involvement is a critical aspect of ensuring that this process is transparent, engaging, effective, and fully available to the members of the community. Overall community engagement, which includes involvement of diverse social, cultural, and economic elements of the population within the basin area, helps the local water district to best consider the full range of interests of all beneficial uses and users of groundwater as the plan moves forward.
The next public workshop will be in November. To receive updates and to learn more about this process go to the San Benito County Water District website to the tab labeled, “Sustainable Groundwater Management.” There you can read over relevant materials, learn about the process and register for updates.