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Sustainable Groundwater Management


Valley Water has managed groundwater resources in Santa Clara County since 1929, and conditions have been sustainable for many decades due to Valley Water’s activities that protect and augment groundwater supplies. In 2014, Governor Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to promote the local, sustainable management of groundwater supplies. For basins designated as medium and high priority by the state, SGMA requires local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to develop and implement Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) or Alternatives to achieve sustainability. 

Local Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA)

SGMA lists Valley Water as the exclusive groundwater management agency within its statutory boundary, which includes all of Santa Clara County. Valley Water is the GSA for the Santa Clara and Llagas Subbasins (the primary basins in the county) and the small portions of the North San Benito Subbasin in Santa Clara County. 

Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) or Alternative

SGMA requires that GSAs prepare a GSP for all medium and high priority basins. Recognizing that groundwater is already well-managed in many areas, SGMA also allows specified Alternatives to a GSP. While GSPs must be completed by 2022 (or 2020 if the basin is in critical overdraft), Alternatives had to be submitted to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) by January 1, 2017. 

The 2016 Groundwater Management Plan for the Santa Clara and Llagas Subbasins (GWMP) describes Valley Water’s groundwater sustainability goals, and the strategies, programs, and activities that support those goals. Following a public hearing, Valley Water’s Board of Directors adopted the GWMP on Nov. 22, 2016. The GWMP was submitted to DWR as an Alternative on Dec. 21, 2016. 

For the North San Benito Subbasin, Valley Water is coordinating with the San Benito County Water District (SBCWD) to develop a GSP by the 2022 deadline. Because the majority of this subbasin is in San Benito County, SBCWD is leading the GSP efforts.

Approval of Valley Water’s Alternative

On July 17, 2019, DWR approved the Alternative for both the Santa Clara and Llagas Subbasins, determining it satisfies the objectives of SGMA. DWR also proposed five recommended actions for Valley Water’s consideration: identify groundwater dependent ecosystems, incorporate climate change analysis in the water budget, create separate water quality outcome measures for each subbasin, clarify quantifiable outcome measures, and develop a seawater intrusion outcome measure.

Annual Reporting to DWR

As required by SGMA, annual reports must be submitted to DWR by April 1 of each year for the previous water year (October 1 to September 30).

Additional information about the Alternative and annual reporting is available on the DWR SGMA Alternative Portal for Santa Clara Valley Water District.

Update of Valley Water’s Alternative

SGMA requires GSAs to submit five-year updates to approved Alternatives, with the first update due by January 1, 2022. The update should describe whether implementation of the Alternative, including related projects and management actions, is meeting the sustainability goals in the basin.

Valley Water is actively working on updating the Alternative for the Santa Clara and Llagas Subbasins, including addressing DWR’s five recommended actions. Related information will be shared with the public for review and comment during stakeholder meetings and Board of Directors meetings throughout 2021. Information about upcoming meetings will be posted on this website and shared through the interested parties email list.

Interested Parties

If you would like to receive information on groundwater management activities in the Santa Clara and Llagas Subbasins, including SGMA compliance, please email us at [email protected].

If you would like to receive notifications on GSP development for the North San Benito Subbasin (including the Santa Clara County portion), please contact Barbara Mauro, SBCWD Board Clerk: [email protected]

This webpage was last updated on October 21, 2020. For questions, please contact us at [email protected].