Now that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has come into effect in some of California’s most overdrawn basins, maintaining accurate water use data is more important than ever. Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) will be required to cap and regulate groundwater use in each basin, meaning ag professionals will be responsible for monitoring and reporting water use.

Collecting water data can be tedious, but fortunately, SGMA monitoring tools have become more and more digitized and easier to use and update. In addition to helping growers meet regulatory requirements, these tools can help ag lenders and investors monitor and mitigate water risk in their loans and investments.

This post looks at how digitization makes SGMA monitoring easier, and how these tools can be used successfully to give ag professionals a competitive edge in the age of SGMA.


SGMA Monitoring Can Be Easier

The California Department of Water Resources explains that, under SGMA, “there is an increased need for local and state agencies and the public to easily access water data in order to make informed management decisions.”

While adapting to SGMA will require a balancing act between ag professionals’ autonomy and the need for regulatory oversight, there are opportunities for these professionals to benefit from a shift to more transparent data collection. As the Source Magazine points out,

“Nest, now owned by Google, did not check in with urban regulators before enabling people to schedule when best to run dishwashers, make ice, heat showers, or condition the air. It just set out to help countless customers affordably reduce their resource consumption in real-time.”

Likewise, SGMA monitoring tools can benefit ag professionals by allowing them to meet their reporting requirements while adapting their water use and risk mitigation practices to a period of growing water stress.



The AQUAOSO Water Security Platform Was Built with SGMA in Mind

Shifting to a digital-first approach to water risk mitigation can be a paradigm shift but is proving necessary with reporting-heavy regulations such as SGMA. AQUAOSO’s Water Security Platform was built with SGMA in mind. The Research and Reporting Tool combines layers of data into a geospatial format to provide real-time tools that agricultural professionals can use to meet their SGMA reporting requirements.

At the time this page was published, the platform has researched 2.03 million acres (and counting) and has completed over 6,500 reports.


The tools can significantly decrease the time, money, and resources it takes to collect and assemble the water data required under SGMA by helping to:


Lenders can use this tool alongside the Portfolio Connect tool to monitor their overall water risk, share information, and collaborate directly with customers and other stakeholders.

An understanding of water risk empowers a more water-resilient future. Read more about competitiveness and success in the age of SGMA in the living, explorable SGMA Guide.



Why SGMA Monitoring Tools Are So Helpful

When SGMA was signed into law in 2014, many ag professionals in California worried about whether certain crops could still be grown amid changing water use allocations. Since each GSA must develop its own Groundwater Sustainability Plan, there’s no statewide set of standards that growers can turn to for guidance. SGMA adds confusion and complication.


As the SGMA Guide explains, this uncertainty has the potential of “disrupting those professions tasked with managing water and the risk surrounding water-business decisions,” including farmers, lenders, and investors.


Some water-intensive crops may no longer be sustainable and land might have to go fallow. Land that was once valuable could become a liability if access to groundwater resources dries up due to drought or to reduced allocations. These risks increase the amount of due diligence that investors need to perform before investing in land or agricultural infrastructure so as to minimize the effects of water scarcity.

Lenders may have to research water rights, GSA boundaries, well completion reports, and dozens of types of data, while growers may be required to install smart meters or other monitoring devices on their groundwater pumps and irrigation systems.

In short, SGMA requires data collection to a higher degree than ever before.




How SGMA Monitoring Tools Give Growers a Competitive Edge

The good news is that more and more organizations are shifting to digital methods of water risk analysis, which stands to benefit both investors and growers alike. Having access to better water data, and being able to integrate it with other data across an entire farming operation or a lending portfolio, allows for better financial decisions.

Agricultural professionals can use SGMA monitoring tools to stay on top of regulatory changes and remain competitive in an uncertain environment. They can use tools that aggregate information from multiple datasets or tools that use GIS technology to provide a bird’s-eye-view of a specific region or parcel of land. With more tools at their disposal, growers can gain deeper insights into water trends and conservation methods.



Risk Monitoring is Becoming More Digitized

Risk monitoring is becoming more digitized across a wide range of sectors. According to McKinsey, “digitization has become deeply embedded in banking strategy, as nearly all businesses and activities have been slated for digital transformations… [Digitization] provides better monitoring and control and more effective regulatory compliance.”

The granularity of data is becoming an increasingly important factor in monitoring large quantities of data. About granular data, AQUAOSO advisor Peter Williams, says that, “spatially, it becomes possible to measure and analyze say, parcels, or sub-segments of parcels, or perhaps an individual tree or vine from a planting that could have many thousands.” Granularity allows for a deep understanding of a given situation represented by data. This, in turn, empowers good mitigation strategies.

Businesses are also increasingly factoring climate risk into their financial decisions, and using newly available technologies to access the risk of climate change on land deals, water sources, and overall supply chains. When it comes to water risk, the Solutions journal argues that “The Future of Water is Digital”:


“This digital transformation of water is currently enabling real-time water quantity and quality monitoring, vastly improved management of infrastructure assets, direct consumer engagement, and facilitating the adoption of off-grid and localized infrastructure technologies.”


While some of these technologies – such as smart water meters or advanced irrigation systems – require an up-front investment, others are available for free or at a low cost, and aggregate data from publicly available databases. Ultimately, they stand to save users time and money by giving them a greater understanding of their own water risk.


The Bottom Line

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act introduces new reporting requirements for growers in many of California’s basins. Collecting and monitoring this data can be an onerous process – but it can also provide valuable insights into overall water risk and areas for improvement. The digitization of granular water data makes this reporting even easier.

AQUAOSO’s Water Security Platform is designed specifically to help ag lenders, investors, growers, and other stakeholders adapt to the changing agricultural landscape under SGMA. Contact us for a free demo, or sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on current water news!

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