GSP assessments, submissions, and five-year alternative updates

January 2022 was a busy month with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released the remaining assessments of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for heavily drained basins, with the exception of GSPs that cover Madera Subbasin. GSPs for high- and medium-priority sub-basins that were not significantly over-drawn were due to DWR by January 31, 2022. DWR published 15 of these GSPs to the SGMA portal and is now accepting public comment. In addition, the first five-year updates of GSP alternatives have been submitted by January 1, 2022, and are now open for public comment.

On January 13, 2022, the DWR approved two additional GSP systems in the Las Posas Valley and Indian Wells Valley basins. Both GSPs have been approved with recommended corrective actions that groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) will need to address in the five-year update in January 2025. These approvals increase the total number of approved plans to eight.

The approvals come about a month after DWR sent letters to government support agencies across the rest of the Central Valley sub-basins to warn public service agencies that “the task force has identified several shortcomings that will prevent them from doing so.” [DWR’s] Agree.” DWR recommended review assessments of GSAs for other sub-basins in the San Joaquin Valley and prepare to address similar subject deficiencies.

On January 22, 2022, DWR released ratings for Westside Subbasin, Delta-Mendota Subbasin, Cuyama Valley Basin, and Paso Robles Subbasin, and about a week later (January 28) for Eastern San Joaquin Subbasin, Merced Subbasin, Chowchilla Subbasin, Kings Subbasin, Kaweah Subbasin and Tulare Lake Subbasin, Tule Subbasin, and Kern County Subbasin.

The deficiencies identified in the DWR assessment must be addressed within 180 days after the DWR’s determination that the GSP is incomplete. The Department of Water and Sanitation Affairs has prepared an FAQ reference document for incomplete determinations. Key milestones of the re-application process include:

Optional or required?

process element

my choice

DWR Initial Consultation Meetings With DWR staff to clarify any deficiencies and potential corrective actions

my choice

DWR Technical Examination Meetings Regarding technical analysis to correct deficiencies and possible corrective actions


Notice to cities and counties. This includes notifying each city and county within the sub-basin at least 90 days prior to the public hearing of the adoption of the revised GSP and appropriate review and consideration of any comments.

my choice

Board meetings or temporary committees To allow key GSP parties, as well as members of the public, to consider and provide feedback on proposed amendments

my choice

public hearing To adopt the revised Generalized System of Preferences


Resubmit to DWRRe-submission of the revised GSP approved on or 180 days before the DWRs are determined

Agriculture Alert – The main takeaway from DWR on January 13, 2022, approvals

Concerned by the DWR’s approval of an Indian Wells Valley GSP, several agricultural interests have approved the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority (IWVGA) GSA:

  • Making water rights decisions in granting annual pumping allocations to local groundwater,
  • Set a renewal fee of $2,130 per foot acre, and
  • eliminate Existing agricultural water use (the plan states that “under the allotment plan, agricultural water use will be eliminated, and groundwater use will be predominantly for US municipal, domestic, and marine uses”).

While DWR consent can easily be misunderstood as a validation of GSA actions making decisions about water rights, the DWR acknowledges in the consent that “potential water rights issues . . . are outside the scope or authority of [DWR]. It is worth reiterating clearly that the SGMA does not prejudice water rights, and that only a court can adjudicate on water rights. The role of the DWR is limited to reviewing the technical components of the GSP. Regardless of its authority to approve the GSP, it does not follow In doing so, the Water and Sanitation Department can approve or verify any potential water rights infringement.

Summary of issued GSP assessments


  • 180/400 ft Subbasin Aquifer in Salinas Valley (June 3, 2021)
  • Santa Cruz Mid County Basin (June 3, 2021)
  • Oxnard Sobassin (November 18, 2021)
  • Pleasant Valley Basin (November 18, 2021)
  • North Yuba Sobasin (November 18, 2021)
  • Southern Yuba Sobasin (November 18, 2021)
  • Las Posas Valley Basin (January 13, 2022)
  • India’s Wales Valley Basin (January 13, 2022)

Incomplete and requires consultation

  • Koyama Valley Basin (Assessment released June 3, 2021, last updated January 21, 2022)
  • Subbasin Paso Robles (assessment released June 3, 2021, last update January 21, 2022)
  • Eastern San Joaquin Subbasin (Review released on November 18, 2021, last update on January 28, 2022)
  • Chowchilla Subbasin (Review released November 18, 2021, last updated January 28, 2022)
  • Merced Subbasin (Review released on November 18, 2021, last updated on January 28, 2022)
  • Westside Subbasin (Review released November 18, 2021, last updated January 21, 2022)
  • Delta-Mendota Subbasin (Review released January 21, 2022)
  • Kings Subbasin (Review released January 28, 2022)
  • Kaweah Subbasin (Review released January 28, 2022)
  • Tulare Lake Subbasin (Review released January 28, 2022)
  • Tule Subbasin (Review released January 28, 2022)
  • Kern County Subbasin (assessment released January 28, 2022)


All assessments are publicly available for review on DWR’s SGMA portal.

Brownstein will continue to monitor developments.

This document is intended to provide you with general information regarding groundwater sustainability plans and the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The contents of this document are not intended to provide specific legal advice. If you have any questions about the contents of this document or if you need legal advice regarding an issue, please contact the listed attorneys or regular attorney at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP. This communication may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions. The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publication. Since the law in this area changes rapidly, and insights are not updated automatically, ongoing accuracy cannot be guaranteed.


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