Groundwater Program

water-level perspective on a pond with surrounding grassy green vegetation and distant brown mountains and blue-sky backdrop

Fish and Wildlife Groundwater Planning Considerations (PDF)

Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

California's groundwater makes up approximately 40 percent of the State's total water supply and serves as a critical buffer against drought and climate change. In September 2014, the Governor signed legislation (AB 1739, SB 1168, and SB 1319) to strengthen the management and monitoring of groundwater basins. These laws, known collectively as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) (PDF), established a new paradigm for California groundwater management. SGMA defines a process and timeline for forming locally-controlled groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) in designated groundwater basins. GSAs are responsible for developing and realizing groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) to achieve basin sustainability within a 20-year implementation horizon. The Department of Water Resources developed GSP Regulations to guide plan content and will be responsible for plan review and approval. The State Water Resources Control Board serves as the regulatory backstop for groundwater basins found to be out of compliance with SGMA.

CDFW's Role in Groundwater Management

As trustee for the State’s fish and wildlife resources, CDFW has jurisdiction over the conservation, protection, and management of fish, wildlife, native plants, and the habitat necessary for biologically sustainable populations of such species (Fish & Game Code §§ 711.7 and 1802). CDFW has an interest in sustainable groundwater management, as many sensitive ecosystems and public trust resources such as streams, springs, riparian areas, and wetlands are dependent on groundwater and interconnected surface waters.

Thoughtful groundwater planning can maintain or improve groundwater conditions for groundwater dependent ecosystems that provide essential forage and refuge. Conversely, poor groundwater management that disregards fish and wildlife needs can take water away from habitat, stressing terrestrial and aquatic species. Accordingly, CDFW values and supports groundwater planning that carefully considers and protects groundwater dependent ecosystems.

In response to the passage of SGMA, CDFW developed a Groundwater Program to ensure fish and wildlife resources reliant on groundwater are addressed in GSPs, and to support compliance with regulatory requirements on CDFW-owned lands and facilities in groundwater basins subject to SGMA.

Fish and Wildlife Groundwater Planning Considerations

Well-designed SGMA implementation will espouse CDFW’s mission to manage California's diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public. The Fish and Wildlife Groundwater Planning Considerations (PDF) document catalogues groundwater planning considerations to address the Department’s key groundwater planning questions and interests. The document is intended as a reference for GSAs and other groundwater planning proponents to encourage sincere consideration of fish and wildlife public trust resources in groundwater plan development.

Additionally, the Groundwater Program has developed a habitat-specific document for wetlands:
Fish & Wildlife Groundwater Planning Considerations: Freshwater Wetlands (PDF).

The Groundwater Program also partnered with the The Nature Conservancy, Audubon, National Marine Fisheries Service, and University of California Davis to develop a compendium of 84 state and federally listed species that may be affected by groundwater management and merit consideration by GSAs under SGMA. This resource, known as the Critical Species LookBook, can be accessed via the Groundwater Resources Hub Critical Species LookBook web page.

For more information, contact Adam Weinberg, CDFW Statewide SGMA Coordinator, at