With Senate Bill 1262 (“SB 1262”), California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (“SGMA”) has become firmly rooted into the State’s water supply planning laws. Specifically, SB 1262 amends the Water Supply Assessment statute (commonly referred to as “SB 610”) and the Written Verification statute (commonly referred to as “SB 221”).
Background – SB 610 & SB 221
As way of background, SB 610 and SB 221 operate to help cities and counties make informed land use decisions by providing the local governments with information on water supply availability. SB 610 and SB 221 are companion laws that promote more collaborative planning between local water suppliers and cities and counties. Both statutes require detailed information regarding water availability to be provided to the city and county decision-makers prior to approval of specified large development projects.
Under SB 610, Water Supply Assessments must be provided to local governments for certain projects subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). The Water Supply Assessment must analyze whether projected water supplies are sufficient to meet the projected water demand of the proposed development project. Similarly, under SB 221, approval by a city or county of certain subdivisions requires an affirmative Written Verification of sufficient water supply.
Pursuant to SB 1262, Water Supply Assessments and Written Verifications are now required to include certain SGMA-related information if a water supply for a proposed project includes groundwater.
Specifically, if a proposed development project and/or subdivision will obtain water from a basin that is designated as medium- or high-priority under SGMA, the following must be included in the Water Supply Assessment and/or Written Verification:
- Information as to whether the Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) has identified the basin as being subject to critical conditions of overdraft; and
- A copy of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan or alternative plan, if a Groundwater Sustainability Agency has adopted such as plan.
If a proposed development project and/or subdivision will obtain water from a basin that is designated as low- or very low-priority under SGMA, the following must be included in the Water Supply Assessment and/or Written Verification:
- Information as to whether DWR has identified the basin as being overdrafted or projected that the basin will become overdrafted if present management conditions continue.
Under SGMA, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies must be established by June 30, 2017 and Groundwater Sustainability Plans must be adopted by January 31, 2020 or January 31, 2022, depending on whether a basin is deemed to be critically overdrafted.
The changes SB 1262 makes to the Water Supply Assessment statute and the Written Verification statute means that Groundwater Sustainability Plans are now even more important than ever and can have a considerable impact on proposed development projects and subdivisions. Developers should actively pursue opportunities to have their voices heard in the formation of GSAs and GSPs.