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How to Read a GSP October 2, 2019

Groundwater Sustainability Plans are popping up around the Valley like mushrooms after a rain. This may not be the definitive treatise on how to read a GSP – there is a comment section at the bottom of the page, feel free to add your two bits – but hopefully it will get us started in better understanding what we face in the near future.

The following will have a lot of abbreviations so buckle up. The California Department of Water Resources – DWR – had divided the southern San Joaquin Valley into nine hydrologic sub basins. Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – SGMA – each sub basin must have one or more Groundwater Sustainability Agency – GSA. These GSAs are required to submit a Groundwater Sustainability Plan – GSP – to DWR for review no later than January 2020.

DWR will only accept one GSP per sub basin and most sub basins have multiple GSAs. Most GSAs overlie an irrigation or water district, municipality or county line. In order to ensure the expert knowledge and interests of the area are well represented most GSAs have opted to write their own GSP. These individual GSPs will be combined as chapters for the overarching sub basin GSP; so DWR will only have to review the one plan per sub basin. For instance the Kings River sub basin has seven GSAs. The North Kings GSA’s GSP would be more than a foot thick if printed on paper. Stacked on top of one another all seven GSP chapters of the Kings River Sub Basin would be about five feet high.

The taxpayers of California pay the state to hire trained employees at DWR to read these plans. Most folks don’t have the luxury to hire someone to read the plans or the time and patience to do so themselves.

However, there is good news. Much of each chapter is redundant to the other chapter. For example; within the same sub basin each GSA is required to use the same methodology to arrive at its GSP findings. This helps with uniformity in style – one chapter won’t be in acre feet while another uses liters. In other words you read one methodology you’ve read them all. To further refine your reading task each GSP has an executive summary. This passage sums up most of the information in the overall GSP and will save a lot of time, eyestrain and stifled yawns.

Under SGMA GSAs are required to release drafts of the GSPs for review to only counties and cities. However, most if not all of the GSAs in the San Joaquin Valley have opted to release public drafts of their GSP for comment. Not all GSPs have yet to be released but most have and the remainder will soon follow. They are available online.


In the Southern San Joaquin Valley from north to south the sub basins are:

Delta Mendota –  http://deltamendota.org/,

Chowchilla – https://www.maderacountywater.com/subbasins/,

Madera – https://www.maderacountywater.com/subbasins/

Westside – https://www.countyofkings.com/departments/administration/county-counsel/waterfaq,

Kings River – http://kingsgroundwater.info/sgma-legislation/groundwater-sustainability-agencies/,

Tulare Lake – https://www.countyofkings.com/departments/administration/county-counsel/waterfaq

Kaweah River – https://tularelakebasin.com/alliance/index.cfm/sustainable-groundwater-management-act-sgma/kaweah-sub-basin/,

Tule River – https://tulesgma.com/,

Kern – http://www.kerngwa.com/

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