Nurturing the reservoirs you cannot see
Groundwater aquifers are the reservoirs you cannot see. They run deep below the Sacramento region’s core. For generations, they have been a vital water supply for our community, helping to support families and businesses, agriculture and the environment.
In the 1990s, groundwater levels were dropping drastically. The Sacramento Groundwater Authority (SGA) emerged during this era to coordinate the implementation of a new regional program to manage groundwater through conjunctive use.
The Sacramento Groundwater Authority
Formed in 1998, the SGA is a joint powers authority specifically created to oversee management of the groundwater basin in Sacramento County north of the American River.
The Path to Sustainability
Conjunctive use is a strategic approach to managing groundwater that combines the planned use of both surface water from lakes and rivers and groundwater via wells. The practice optimizes water availability in the region over the long term even as the climate changes.
Here’s how conjunctive use works:
- During wet times, when lakes and rivers are full, local water providers shift to using more surface water. This allows our groundwater aquifers to refill, as actively monitored by local water providers.
- During dry times, local water providers shift to using more groundwater. This leaves more surface water in rivers to sustain the environment.
Successful conjunctive use requires deliberate actions during both wet and dry periods.
Thanks to active conjunctive use, the Sacramento region’s groundwater levels have recovered and increased to sustainable levels, even during a megadrought. Building on this success, the Sacramento Regional Water Bank aims to expand and enhance this climate resilient proven practice.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
In 2014, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was established as a comprehensive framework to safeguard California’s groundwater resources for the long term. SGMA aims to prevent the need for state intervention in groundwater management by requiring local agencies to form groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) and develop and implement groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) for over 100 high- and medium-priority sub basins across the state.
Inspired by SGA
The California Legislature passed SGMA 16 years after SGA’s foundation. One of SGMA’s lead authors, then-Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, acknowledged SGA’s progressive management approach as an inspiration for the landmark law.
In the greater Sacramento region, local agencies have established multiple GSAs in both the North and South
American Subbasins. They also developed GSPs for these subbasins, which have been adopted and approved by
the California Department of Water Resources.
These GSPs provide a roadmap for sustainably managing the region’s groundwater. A key management action
included in both GSPs is to enhance the region’s conjunctive use program, which is the intent of the Sacramento
Regional Water Bank.
Groundwater Sustainability Agencies
Within the North American Subbasin the five Groundwater Sustainability Agencies include: the Sacramento
Groundwater Authority, Sutter County, South Sutter Water District, Reclamation District 1001 and West Placer.
Within the South America Subbasin the five Groundwater Sustainability Agencies include: the County of Sacramento,
Northern Delta, Omochumne-Hartnell Water District, Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority and Sloughhouse Resource Conservation District.