One of the biggest changes facing the agricultural industry in California is SGMA, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. This Act empowers individual basins and GSAs to cap and regulate the pumping of groundwater in order to stabilize the region’s water supply and recharge aquifers. As part of these regulations, ag professionals will be required to do SGMA reporting with their water use.
Adhering to these guidelines will require better management of groundwater resources, improved data collection, and streamlined reporting compliance. There are new tools available that can help make SGMA reporting easier and more accurate.
As AQUAOSO advisor Peter Williams explains,
“[It’s] possible to measure …. parcels, or sub-segments of parcels, or perhaps an individual tree or vine…. What used to be weekly is becoming daily, what used to be daily is becoming hourly, and what used to be hourly is becoming continuous.”
Improved water data collection can benefit agriculture professionals. In the example of growers, by monitoring water use accurately and managing water efficiently, they can make use of their full allocation each year and sell excess resources in water markets.
This article takes a look at what SGMA reporting entails.
The History of SGMA
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was signed into law in 2014, making California the last remaining state to regulate groundwater resources. Rather than create uniform guidelines at a state level, SGMA empowers local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) to develop their own sustainability plans (GSPs).
While some of these plans have already gone into effect, they’ll be reevaluated every five years, with the goal of reaching sustainable levels by 2040.
The benefit of this approach is that each agency can implement its own set of policies designed to address “undesirable results” such as seawater intrusion, degraded water quality, and land subsidence. However, this has resulted in a patchwork of regulations that vary from basin to basin, requiring lenders and investors to do due diligence and research into the specific regulations of the farmland they’re lending to and investing in.
The Impacts of SGMA
The biggest change to California water regulations post-SGMA is that growers will have to maintain more accurate records of their water use. While existing water rights will still be valid, allocations may be capped in order to meet conservation targets.
Additionally, farmers may need to provide a full water accounting history to their GSA in order to participate in water banking and other types of water transfers.
Why SGMA Reporting Requires Better Water Data
Being aware of SGMA reporting requirements is one thing, but obtaining the data needed to meet those requirements is another. Agriculture professionals will have to find a balance between collecting data, managing groundwater use, and providing that information to state and local governments when required.
Some of the information that SGMA requires from growers pertains to permanent and annual plantings, total irrigated acres, and projected water requirements. Growers will also need to be aware of their water rights, including whether they’re appropriative or riparian, and whether they were granted before or after 1914.
Other important information to have on hand pertains to well data, such as the depth of the well and its pumping volume. Some of this data is available through AQUAOSO in the form of a Well Completion Report, but other details may require additional research and data collection. In some cases, growers may choose to invest in water meters and IoT devices to gather real-time data that can inform their pumping decisions.
It’s also important to be aware of which basin or subbasin a parcel of land is located in. With the possibility of a multi-year drought on the horizon, some basins will implement SGMA reporting requirements more quickly than others. The most at-risk basins were required to implement a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2020, while other basins won’t roll theirs out until 2022.
How AQUAOSO’s Water Security Platform Was Built with SGMA Reporting in Mind
SGMA has introduced a lot of uncertainty into the agricultural industry in California – but this uncertainty can be met with better water data and conservation practices. While AQUAOSO provides water security data in several West Coast states, the Water Security Platform was originally launched with SGMA in mind.
Many of the tools in the SaaS platform were designed specifically to address SGMA reporting requirements, and they can help agriculture professionals save time and money collecting the water data it requires.
Research and Mapping
First, our research and mapping tool helps users view the boundaries of watershed basins and stay up-to-date with over 130+ Groundwater Sustainability Plans. The platform will continue to provide updated analyses and groundwater allocations as new plans are released. Users can also export multi-parcel water reports to share with other stakeholders.
Well Completion Reports
Another area of focus is well data. Our platform collects Well Completion Reports from the Department of Water Resources, which include information on the well owner, the depth of the well, the date of drilling, and any subsequent modifications.
Wells can also be searched for by their numbers, or by turning on the relevant layer in the mapping tool, which will show all the wells in the area.
AQUAOSO also allows users to search for in-depth information on water rights. Because California water rights can be sold, leased, or lost altogether if a parcel of land has been subdivided, lenders and investors may need to do due diligence to confirm that a water right is valid before closing a land deal.
The Water Security Dashboard provides tools for identifying, understanding, monitoring, and mitigating water risk, as well as tracking water supply, and understanding updates to regional water districts.
Lenders can share this information directly with borrowers, including pre-populated farm data, such as crop type and well information. They can update these documents at any time with new data, like well test reports and water transfers, in order to stay organized and stay competitive while complying with SGMA reporting.
Read more about the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in AQUAOSO’s explorable guide.
The Bottom Line
It can be a challenge to stay on top of SGMA reporting requirements each year. Our goal is to make it easier by providing high-quality data and a centralized dashboard so our clients don’t have to track down hidden information from multiple sources and government agencies.
AQUAOSO’s tools make it possible to mitigate water risk and, therefore, business risk, by providing accurate and actionable water risk data.
Reach out to one of our water security experts for a chat, or download one of our free ebooks to learn more about SGMA and other water security issues.