Northern Delta Groundwater Sustainability Agency
In 2014, California adopted a new law that mandates management of groundwater resources throughout the state. This law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (“SGMA”), requires that agencies form to manage groundwater resources and adopt a groundwater management plan by 2022. Existing local agencies with land or water management authority can form a new agency to take on this responsibility, otherwise the county or the State Water Resources Control Board will take on this authority.
The Northern Delta GSA (“NDGSA” or “Agency”) was officially formed in early 2018 for the purpose of acting as the Groundwater Sustainability Agency (“GSA”) for the northern portions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The NDGSA was formed by local agencies that have taken responsibility for sustainably managing groundwater resources according to SGMA. The NDGSA was formed through a Joint Powers Agreement signed by its member agencies. Although a collection of reclamation districts and other local agencies were responsible for forming the NDGSA, the NDGSA is separate and distinct from those local agencies. The NDGSA focuses solely on groundwater issues and is not involved with levee or land management activities. The Agency has also been closely working with several other Partner GSAs.
The NDGSA was formed to retain local control over local groundwater resources, ensuring that groundwater management decisions are made by local entities familiar with the area. As such, the NDGSA is comprised of representatives from local agencies, which are themselves made up of local landowners. The goal of the NDGSA is to provide cost-effective, responsive, and collaborative management of groundwater that achieves compliance with SGMA without burdening local interests more than necessary. It is this concern for local issues that drives the NDGSA’s decision-making process.
The Northern Delta
The Northern region of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is an area rich with natural resources, and a history that includes over a century of sustainable farming, wildlife stewardship, and friendly farming practices. Much of this area was transferred from Federal land to the State of California in 1850 as a part of the Swamp and Overflow Act. One provision of the use of those lands included that it had to be reclaimed, to provide for agriculture, a tax base, and to reduce malaria. This region has ample, naturally high water tables, which results in groundwater near the surface. The Northern Delta is different from many areas in the Central Delta because it largely overlies mineral, instead of peat, soils.
This area is also protected from large-scale development by several laws, which have defined the primary zone of the Delta, and a ring around that zone, with limited development called the secondary zone. (http://www.delta.ca.gov/commission.htm)
Because of the high water tables and the restrictive land use laws, the Northern Delta region is already sustainable for agriculture, and under no future development pressures.