Sustainable Groundwater Management
Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Agency
New: The Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) will meet on Tuesday, June 9th at 1:45pm. Videos, agendas, and meeting materials can be found on the GSA's agendas and minutes webpage. Applications for the Agency's Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee (GSPAC) were due May 6th. An announcement was published on April 6th. GSPAC appointments are expected to be made at the GSA's June 9th meeting.
The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) provides a framework for sustainable management of groundwater resources by local authorities. The act establishes a timeline - 20 years - to implement actions that achieve long-term groundwater sustainability. It protects existing surface water and groundwater rights and does not impact drought response measures. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is in charge of the SGMA Program and has developed guidelines for local agencies to follow.
DWR completed its evaluation and re-prioritization of all of the groundwater basins across California in 2019. The Napa Valley Subbasin was reprioritized from a medium to a high priority ranking due primarily to revised projections of future population for the Subbasin, an increased assessment of the total number of wells, and a revised approach to evaluating water quality in the Subbasin. The change from a medium to a high priority does not affect current requirements for the Napa Valley Subbasin under SGMA. DWR has noted that the Napa Valley Subbasin is being managed sustainably and it is not in overdraft.
The Napa Valley Subbasin (map) is the only basin in Napa County with a priority ranking by DWR that is subject to SGMA at this time.
Alternative Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP)
In accordance with SGMA and adopted GSP regulations, Napa County submitted an alternative GSP (Napa Valley Groundwater Sustainability: A Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Subbasin) to DWR on December 16, 2016. The Alternative GSP and supporting documents are available here. Please see DWR's SGMA Portal for Alternatives and Reporting for additional information.
On July 17, 2019, DWR sent a notification letter and staff report to Napa County outlining DWR’s preliminary recommendation to not approve the County’s Alternative GSP. DWR’s staff report, it did not consider and does not conclude that the Napa Valley Subbasin is, or has been, managed unsustainably. DWR’s preliminary evaluation of the alternative GSP was that Napa County did not establish and operate the subbasin to thresholds or objective management criteria for a period of at least 10 years prior to the adoption of SGMA. On October 11, 2019 Napa County prepared a response to DWR to address this question and other requested clarifications.
On November 13, 2019, DWR notified Napa County that it had completed its review of the County's Alternative GSP and the County's responses. While recognizing that Napa County is proactively managing groundwater, DWR nonetheless elected to not approve the County's Alternative GSP. As noted in DWR's findings, their decision was not a judgment on the health or management of the basin. In fact, DWR clarified that its decision was not an indication that the Napa Valley Subbasin is being managed unsustainably, but rather commended the County for proactively managing groundwater.
Alternative GSP Background
Napa County and its groundwater consultant completed work to meet the initial requirements of SGMA, in the form of an Alternative Groundwater Sustainability Plan/Basin Analysis Report, an Alternative to a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). The report, Napa Valley Groundwater Sustainability - Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Subbasin, provides an extensive analysis of the Napa Valley groundwater Subbasin and demonstrates it has operated within its sustainable yield.
The Alternative GSP/Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Subbasin was presented to the Board of Supervisors at a Special Meeting on December 13, 2016, at which time the Board approved the report and its submittal to DWR. The Report was submitted to DWR on December 16, 2016. Please see DWR's SGMA Portal for Alternatives and Reporting for additional information. A hard-copy of the GSP Alternative is available for review at the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District office, 804 First St., Napa, (707) 259-8600.
A Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) was formed for the Napa Valley Subbasin in order to be in compliance with SGMA and DWR regulations, otherwise the Subbasin would be deemed "unmanaged." If a GSA was not formed, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) would be obligated to step in to monitor and manage groundwater users. The SWRCB could require all groundwater users within the Subbasin to install meters, report extractions, and pay fees to cover State costs.
On December 17, 2019, the Napa County Board of Supervisors conducted a public hearing under Water Code section 10723 and adopted a resolution affirming Napa County's intention to manage groundwater in the Napa Valley Subbasin and to form the Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) pursuant to Water Code section 10724, and authorized the submittal of GSA Formation Information to DWR. Water Code section 10724 provides that the County is presumed to be the GSA for the areas in the Subbasin that are "unmanaged" (not within the management of GSA). DWR's SGMA website portal provides local agencies, GSA's, and watermasters the ability to submit, modify, and view the information required by SGMA, and enables the public and interested stakeholders to view submitted information and provide comments, where applicable. No login is required for public access.
On January 7, 2020, the Napa County GSA held its first meeting. The agenda for this first meeting was to elect officers, appoint an executive officer, adopt a 2020 meeting calendar, and approve a resolution authorizing the submittal of a $2.6 million dollar grant application to DWR to support the development of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for the Napa Valley Subbasin. The new GSA is required to develop a GSP for the Napa Valley Subbasin and submit it to DWR by January 2022.
On February 6, 2020, the Napa County GSA submitted notification to the Department of Water Resources of their intent to prepare a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the Napa Valley Subbasin.
The next meeting of the Napa County GSA will be May 5, 2020. Additional details on upcoming GSA meeting can be found on the GSA's agendas and minutes webpage.
Sign up to be on the Napa County GSA email list to learn about opportunities where you can participate. Please encourage others who are interested in groundwater to also join the GSA email list by providing them with this sign-up link: http://eepurl.com/bWgdin.
SGMA requires annual reporting on groundwater conditions and on any actions taken by Napa County to ensure the sustainable management of Napa Valley groundwater resources. Napa County's 2017 and 2018 Annual Groundwater Monitoring Reports are SGMA compliant and available on the WICC's groundwater monitoring page. They describe groundwater conditions in the Napa Valley Subbasin and provide an update on the County’s SGMA implementation efforts through water year 2018. In addition, the 2017 Annual Report includes an Amendment to the 2016 Alternative GSP/Basin Analysis Report, establishing a Northeast Napa Management Area. The Amendment complements the management actions in the 2016 Alternative GSP/Basin Analysis Report for the Napa Valley Subbasin and enables continued attainment of the SGMA Sustainability Goals for the Napa Valley Subbasin.
Annual reports developed for SGMA purposes are required to be submitted by April 1 of each year following adoption of a GSP or Alternative GSP (Regulations Section 356.2). Napa County submitted the 2018 Annual Report to DWR on March 22, 2019 after public notice and presentation at a public meeting of the Board of Supervisors on March 19, 2019. Work is currently underway to preparing the 2019 Annual Report, which will be available in Spring 2020.
On December 18, 2019, DWR announced completion of a multi-year process to prioritize all 515 groundwater basins in California as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The final priority ranking retained a very low priority rank for the Napa-Sonoma Lowlands Subbasin. This low rank means the Lowlands Subbasin would is not subject to additional requirements through SGMA. Please see DWR’s basin re-prioritization website for details and updates on their process.
Three other groundwater basins located in Napa County (including Pope Valley Basin and Berryessa Valley Basin, and Suisun-Fairfield Valley Basin) remain designated as very low or low priority according to DWR’s re-prioritization.