Projects Funded for Arthur Wardle


The Political Economy of Implementing California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

Ellen M. Bruno, Arthur Wardle, Richard Sexton, and Paige Griggs


Specific Objectives of the Project:
(a) Construct a database on how the 298 agencies registered at present to manage basins under SGMA are (i) structured legally, (ii) governed, and (iii) planning to implement the SGMA mandates; (b) Study differences in (iii) as a function of (i) and (ii) and other characteristics of the underlying groundwater resources, availability of surface water, agricultural products being produced, demographics, and urban/rural interfaces; and (c) Provide guidance to groundwater agencies, California Department of Water Resources (DWR), and other policy makers regarding SGMA implementation based on results adduced from (a) and (b).

Project Report/Summary of Results:
Regions of California will be facing significant reductions in water use in the coming years. This project provides an update on the progress made thus far towards implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). For all high- and medium-priority basins, we record and discuss the composition of newly formed groundwater agencies and their proposed management actions by coding agency board seats by entity type and groundwater management activities by strategy type. We find that the majority of board seats are held by quasi-public water entities like irrigation districts and local agencies, skewing representation towards existing agricultural interests. The 92 unique GSAs participating in California’s high- and medium-priority basins grouped to form 43 Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) containing management actions that can be categorized into either supply augmentation or demand management. Of the 27 GSPs imposing demand management through groundwater allocations, 19 plans are also considering creating a market to trade those allocations. Basins not allowing trade are concentrated on the west side of the Central Valley. These actions may have large implications for the economic costs of SGMA.