Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency

The California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act established the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency.  The Agency has two goals: By 2020 create a comprehensive groundwater sustainability plan and by 2040 implement the plan to reach basin sustainability.

LandWatch Position: Active in the Process
Project Status: Plan Being Written

LandWatch Involvement

  • Letter: LandWatch Requests Compliance with Executive Order N-7-22 (190K PDF)
    LandWatch urges the Board to (1) adopt a protocol for compliance with Executive Order N-7-22 that includes the required determination whether a well would “decrease the likelihood of achieving a sustainability goal” and (2) decline to certify additional Deep Aquifer Wells. The GSA’s current proposal merely to determine whether an additional well “would not be inconsistent with any sustainable groundwater management program” is not sufficient. This approach ignores the separate Executive Order N-7-22 obligation to determine the well’s effect on achieving a sustainability goal. (11.02.22)
  • Letter: LandWatch Warns of Environmental Justice Issues With Costs (555K PDF)
    The fundamental question that faces the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (SVBGSA) as it deliberates about cost apportionment and assesses project feasibility is this: Should Disadvantaged Communities and lower income households bear the significant financial burden of balancing groundwater basins that have been overdrafted from 70 years of unregulated agricultural pumping? LandWatch doesn’t think so. There is not only a health risk associated with overdraft, but also a significant financial risk because of the uncertainty of how much cost will fall on Disadvantaged Communities to address a problem they largely did not cause. (06.28.22)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Cost Apportionment (52K PDF)
    LandWatch submitted a letter to the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency regarding the need to develop a proactive and principled method to apportion the differential costs to implement the six groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) among the six subbasins. LandWatch made several recommendations including that the Board convene a subcommittee to consider the legal and hydrological issues for cost apportionment and be prepared to discuss it in September. (06.14.22)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Subbasin GSP Update (92K PDF)
    LandWatch’s comments point to areas in which the GSP Update creates roadblocks to management of the subbasin through actions to control extractions. Multiple issues were included such as the decision to abandon existing extraction-based Minimum Threshold (MT) for storage loss, adopting an MT based on groundwater levels, and setting sustainable management criteria based on groundwater levels below sea level prematurely abandons the strategy of restoring and maintaining protective groundwater elevations to control seawater intrusion. (04.12.22)
  • Letter: LandWatch Asks for Budget Revisions (46K PDF)
    LandWatch asks that the Board direct staff to revise the Proposed Budget for FY 2022-23 and the Detailed 2-year Work Plan to include funding and plans for the needed feasibility studies for projects and management actions outside the 180/400-Foot Aquifer Subbasin that are not funded via the 180/400 Sustainability Grant.  This work needs to be completed by year end 2024 and the GSA should not simply assume that timely grants will be sufficient to accomplish this. Accordingly, the Board should request this information so that it may consider including the necessary funding in the GSA Regulatory Fee. (04.12.22)
  • Letter: LandWatch Provides Feedback to SVBGSA on Cost Apportionment (85K PDF)
    LandWatch recommends that the SVGBGSA acknowledge and address concerns that have arisen over the need to consider apportioning the 2022-2023 regulatory fee differently among the six GSPs based on their different benefits. The Board should seek stakeholder consensus on the 2022-2023 regulatory fee apportionment based on a commitment to begin a data-driven, structured process to identify and address future apportionment issues. (04.12.22)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on the Interlake Tunnel (ILT) Project (580K PDF)
    LandWatch’s attorney submits a follow-up letter supplementing the March 21 letter regarding the proposed draft letters supporting the MCWRA funding request to various legislators. In short, until there are demonstrated and cost-effective benefits to the subbasins that actually need water, the GSA board should not support public funding of the ILT project. (03.22.22)
  • Letter: LandWatch Sends Comments to Department of Water Resources on Plan Review (3.81M PDF)
    LandWatch comments on the Groundwater Sustainability Plans for the Forebay, Upper Valley, Eastside, Langley, and Monterey Subbasins of the Salinas Valley relay that the plans fail to comprehensively propose, let along evaluate, the cost/benefit of projects and policies that are required to achieve compliance with SGMA (02.15.22)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Groundwater Table and Water Budget (72K PDF)
    LandWatch submitted comments on the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s Chapters 5 and 6. These chapters provided an update to the 180/400 foot aquifer. Through our evaluation we found errors, including the fact that the tables do not add up; the water balances are not balanced, and the document doesn’t even use its modeled results to determine either historic or future sustainable yields. (02.08.22)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Sustainable Management Criteria (54K PDF)
    LandWatch asks that the 180/400 GSP continue to specify the minimum threshold for reduction in groundwater storage in terms of extractions and be set at the “total volume of groundwater that can be withdrawn from the basin without causing conditions that may lead to undesirable results,” as is required by the SGMA regulations. Even if it were legal, the GSA should not set a groundwater reduction SMC that is based on groundwater levels that are below sea level. Doing so would further commit the GSA to the potentially infeasible pumping barrier project to attain the seawater intrusion SMC. (12.31.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Implementation Grant (78K PDF)
    LandWatch asks that the Draft Spending Plan be revised to include two additional projects or tasks that would: (1) Refine the yields and cost estimates for all of the sustainability options to a level of detail that would enable the GSA to identify the most cost-effective set of options to attain sustainability, and  (2) Provide a study of willingness to pay for water based on an agricultural production model for the Valley so that the GSA can (i) determine which projects and management actions are economically feasible and (ii) compare demand management to other options to find the least cost route to sustainability. (12.30.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Gives Feedback on Project List and Actions (344K PDF)
    LandWatch writes about the 180/400 Groundwater Sustainability Plan identifies several proposed projects/management actions that are more cost effective than the Sea Water Intrusion Barrier and Desalination project. As we painfully learned over the past decade on the Monterey Peninsula, desal, because of its cost, should follow rather than lead groundwater sustainability efforts. Premature commitments to expensive capital projects become bureaucratically challenging and financially costly to change. (12.30.21)
  • Draft Report: Selection of Projects and Management Actions for Salinas Valley Water Supplies (177K PDF)
    This report is intended to identify economic and technical issues that should be addressed in the selection of water supply projects and management actions for the Salinas Valley. Water management agencies must resolve these issues to choose projects using an open and reasoned process. Ultimately, selection of projects and management actions is their responsibility. (10.29.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Groundwater Sustainability Plan (149K PDF)
    LandWatch Monterey County offers the attached comments on the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for the Upper Valley Aquifer Subbasin, Forebay Aquifer Subbasin, Eastside Aquifer Subbasin, Langley Aquifer Subbasin, and Monterey Subbasin. (10.14.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Reminds SVBGSA to Begin Work Now (426K PDF)
    LandWatch repeats to the SVBGSA that the 180/400-Foot Aquifer Subbasin Plan requires development of pumping allocations by January 31, 2023. Because the most legally defensible allocations will require extensive stakeholder negotiation and data collection, the SVBGSA should begin this work now. (07.19.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Reminds Agency of its Obligations (67K PDF)
    LandWatch points out that the SGMA, under the Groundwater Sustainability Act, has the legal authority to regulate groundwater pumping consistent with common law water rights and can be aligned with state water rights. (07.13.21)
  • Letter: Comments by LandWatch on Chapter 8 – Monterey Subbasin (93K PDF)
    LandWatch points out that sustainable management criteria for chronic lowering of groundwater levels for the Monterey Subbasin may suffer the same defect as the 180/400-Foot Aquifer Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan. The defect is that the groundwater levels for the criteria ignore indicators like seawater intrusion. (07.12.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Recommends Moratorium on Deep Aquifer Pumping (675K PDF)
    LandWatch urges the Advisory Committee recommend that the SVBGSA enact a pumping moratorium on new Deep Aquifer wells permitted after July 1, 2021 in the 180/400-Foot Aquifer Subbasin pending completion of the proposed Deep Aquifer study. (07.08.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Calls for Immediate Moratorium on Additional Wells (144K PDF)
    LandWatch objects to the Agency’s failure to implement “Priority Management Action #5.” This action item calls for an immediate and continuing moratorium on additional wells in the Deep Aquifers pending completion of a study to determine their substantial yield. Neither the County or Agency has taken action to even study the Deep Aquifers. (06.09.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Brings Deep Aquifer Issues to Secretary Crowfoot’s Attention (1.3M PDF)
    In an effort to bring the issue to surface, LandWatch expands on its concerns related to the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency and its lack of compliance with the state-mandated Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the Department of Water Resources own regulations. Direct action is requested by the Department. (06.09.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (197K PDF)
    LandWatch reminds the agency that a recurring error persists within the plan chapters, which has already been objected to in previous comments, but remains uncorrected. In short, the proposed minimum thresholds for groundwater levels and storage reduction fail to coordinate with, and support attainment of, the minimum thresholds for other sustainability indicators, especially the seawater intrusion indicator. (03.19.21)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Staff Report (521K PDF)
    LandWatch outlines its concerns with allowing replacement wells in the Salinas Valley because they have the potential to pump up to 23% more groundwater from the deep aquifer. This groundwater basin is compromised with sea water intrusion and additional pumping risks further damage. (05.14.20)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Aquifer Subbasin (732K PDF)
    LandWatch outlines its key concern as the Plan has failed to address the biggest threat to the groundwater resource – continued seawater intrusion. The Plan appears to have been designed to avoid the one measure that is most certain to address this threat:  immediate mandatory reductions in groundwater extractions.  (11.13.19)
  • Letter: LandWatch Add to its Chapter 10 Comments with Policy Choices (593K PDF)
    Within this LandWatch letter is a table recapitulating the table that staff circulated to identify policy issues and to suggest policy options. LandWatch has added a column that sets out our position on the policy issues. The new column also identifies legal constraints on the interaction of Minimum Thresholds. (10.08.19)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Chapter 10 of the Groundwater Plan (564K PDF)
    LandWatch commented Groundwater Sustainability Plan, Chapter 10, Implementation.  We believe it fails to recognize the urgency required for action to address the critically overdrafted 180/400 Foot Aquifer Subbasin, among other issues like pumping restrictions and new start up projects. (10.07.19)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Chapter 9 of the Groundwater Plan (590K PDF)
    In another letter, LandWatch supports the conceptual Water Charges Framework, but a lot of details remain to make it implementable. LandWatch contends that voluntary pumping reductions will not achieve the sustainability goal. (09.09.19)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Chapter 6 of the Groundwater Plan (236K PDF)
    In a letter to the new Groundwater Agency, LandWatch emphasized the lack of information available to confirm the actual amounts being pumped at the 180/400 foot sub-basin. In short, based on our analysis, the Agency must adopt adaptive management strategies—with a new baseline reduction in pumping—and adapt pumping limits as data becomes available. (08.05.19)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Chapter 8 of the Groundwater Plan (236K PDF)
    In a letter to the new Groundwater Agency, LandWatch generally supported the sustainable management criteria in this chapter. Specifically, we support a long-term future sustainable yield as the minimum threshold for reduction in groundwater storage and the measurable objective of moving the 500 Mg/L chloride isocontour to the line defined by Highway 1. That said, we raised several concerns including: seawater intrusion, reduction in groundwater storage, and groundwater dependent ecosystems. (07.02.19)
  • Letter: LandWatch Comments on Chapter 9 of the Groundwater Plan (516K PDF)
    In a letter to the new Groundwater Agency, LandWatch emphasizes two points. First, the Agency needs independently calibrated and monitored flowmeters on agricultural pumps throughout the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin; and second, the annual pumping reports must be independently validated for accuracy. In addition, LandWatch believes the ordinance should also include strict enforcement provisions that help assure full compliance. (06.10.19)
  • Salinas Valley Basin Water will be returned to Basin
    The desalination portion of the MPWSP intends to obtain its source water from subsurface slant coastal supply wells in the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin. The Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin has been plagued for decades with seawater intrusion because of overpumping, which jeopardizes our agricultural and domestic water supply. LandWatch has long supported finding a realistic solution to the water supply problems on both the Monterey Peninsula and the Salinas Valley, and we believe the solution to one problem should not aggravate the other. The desalination project’s source water wells may further harm the basin to the extent that Salinas Valley groundwater is pumped along with ocean water. One way to mitigate this harm would be to return any fresh water pumped by the source wells to the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin. Returning this water to the basin to existing groundwater users who use it to offset their pumping will help mitigate harm from the desalination source wells. One great option for this “return” water is the community of Castroville, whose wells are now going salty.

Project History

  • Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin Plan Seeks to Fix Overdraft
    Decades of over pumping are being realized as drought conditions continue and seawater intrudes the groundwater. More water comes out of the ground, than goes into it. LandWatch is urging a moratorium on deep well pumping until the study of the deep wells is complete and better understood. (07.07.21)
  • Could Desal be the Next Solution for County’s Water Woes?
    Plans were just approved in the Salinas Valley groundwater basin to protect its groundwater, but the rise of desalination plants begins. CalAm is proposing a new plant in Marina, which the City resisted. Now the Coastal Commission will decide. (01.23.20)
  • Dual Plans Out for Review
    Salinas Valley and City of Marina Groundwater Sustainability Agencies have each released for public review a groundwater management plan.  One of the key issues is that the two agencies have not reached an agreement on what territory the agency will cover—right now they overlap.  And, the plans also overlap. This needs to be corrected soon. (10.14.19)
  • County Steps in to Help Basin Argument
    Portions of the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin are being contested by Salinas Valley and the City of Marina.  This could threaten the creation of the new Sustainability Agency and force the State to take over control of the entire basin. (09.24.19)
  • Chapter 9 Seems to be the Key to the Sustainability Requirement
    Described as where “everything” comes together for the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin Sustainability Agency, Chapter 9 shows the Department of Water Resources the plan can be implemented. Everyone will need to pay something, it was said, but others may need to pay more. (08.15.19)
  • Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin Map (2.7M PDF)
    The historical map of the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin shows seawater intrusion into the water supply. These historical records show the issue areas—especially near Salinas—and this scientific data is important when considering development projects relying on this already overdrafted water supply. (03.05.19)
  • Local Fees Likely to Increase to Create New Agency
    In order to fund the new Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency non-agricultural residents and irrigated agricultural user fees will likely increase July 1st. The agency’s creation was required by state law and will focus on the sustainability of the groundwater resources. (01.24.19)
  • Supervisors Adopt a Moratorium on Two Wells
    Law requires planning for sustainable groundwater basins, but two wells have saltwater intrusion, so Supervisors adopted a moratorium. (07.09.18)
  • Seawater Intrusion Will Worsen
    Water in greater than water out. Simple equation. Seawater intrusion will continue to worsen until overpumping of aquifers stops. As the Squid writes, “It’s the same old kicking the can down the road Squid’s seen for years, and ignores the basic fact that growers continue to pump groundwater in unsustainable amounts, which is what led to the seawater intrusion in the first place.” (05.02.18)
  • Supervisors Overturn Well Denial
    The Board of Supervisors voted to allow an agricultural well to be added at a deeper aquifer level even though County agencies had already denied the permit application due to the saltwater intrusion in the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin. (02.15.18)
  • Salinas Valley Groundwater Oversight
    To avoid state intervention, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted to assume oversight responsibility of disputed areas within the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin. (06.29.17)
  • Water Conservation Order Extended
    In May, Governor Brown extended the short-term water conservation Executive Order. Yesterday, forecasters reviewed the weather models for California. It appears we are in for another year of drought along with extremely hot summer days.  (05.10.16)
  • Water Conservation Improves in Monterey County
    Monterey County residents meet and in some places exceed water conservation requirements. Locally, our biggest cities ranged from 9-18% reductions–12% was required. Statewide 23.9% was achieved and 25% was mandated. Keep up the great work! (04.06.16)
  • Rain in North, Not in South, Impacts Groundwater
    Years ago, Monterey County wisely built two reservoirs to collect winter rains and recharge the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin in the summer. Both the San Antonio and Nacimiento dams are owned and operated by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. The reservoirs started out the rainy season extraordinarily low due to the drought. The Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin has not been recharged since 2013. (02.11.16)
  • Subsidence Due to Crop Irrigation
    This is a great article on groundwater and subsidence issues. The land subsides when too much groundwater is removed, this subsidence (sinking) damages infrastructure too–even infrastructure meant to carry water can be impacted. Specific crops like vineyards seem to have taken a toll on the groundwater availability, as do other water intensive crops. Residents note that multiple wells have gone dry and this is only exacerbated by the historic drought. (12.10.15)
  • Groundwater Regulations Signed into Law
    While the phrase “local control” seemed to fit decades ago for monitoring groundwater resources, locals are now wondering how to fund and manage an agency to review local groundwater issues.  Governor Brown just signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which creates safeguards and manages California’s groundwater.  (09.16.15)
  • Water Needs Include $20+ Million Fix
    This week the Monterey County Water Resources Agency gave a grim report to the Board of Supervisors about its dire financial situation and how that will impact planning and projects to bring the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin into balance. Estimates show to complete just a fraction of the core plan for the basin will cost in excess of $20 million over the next five years. State law requires full sustainability by 2042, meaning the water that is being pumped out needs to equal what is recharged. How is this possible when development projects keep getting approved that further drain the already over-drafted basin? (05.19.15)
  • Drought Impacts to Groundwater Basin
    Salinas Valley has a saltwater intrusion problem in the groundwater basin. Research indicates that the intrusion is exacerbated during times of drought, but that the true extent of the problem doesn’t show up for several years after the end of the drought. (05.10.15)
  • State of the Basin: Overdrawn, Like We Thought
    The State of the Basin report presented to the Board of Supervisors indicates that a shift in pumping locations could help alleviate saltwater intrusion into the groundwater basin in Salinas Valley. Interestingly, an average of up to 24,000 acre feet per year is pumped from the basin rather than replenished. (12.17.14)
  • State of the Basin – Groundwater Report (7.1M PDF file)
    The Monterey County Board of Supervisors will hear the Staff Report (123K PDF file) and the State of the Basin Report (7.1M PDF file)—a required report, completed every five years. In addition to reviewing the consequences of a prolonged drought the basin is analyzed with recommendations made to reduce consequences of further groundwater depletion. (12.10.14)
Policy Issues & Actions