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Santa Monica could become the lead agency managing groundwater supplies for the 50-square mile Santa Monica Basin that provides most of the city’s potable water according to a report on the City’s website.

State regulators recently passed a set of laws creating new regulatory agencies to manage groundwater supplies and based on Santa Monica’s history of pumping groundwater from the Santa Monica Basin, local agencies are leaning towards designating the city as the point agency on the project.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the City of Beverly Hills, Culver City, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works are all stakeholders in the local basin. However, Santa Monica is the only city currently pumping water from the area. Groundwater provides about 75 percent of the city’s total water needs and the city is trying to source all of its water from local wells by 2020.

The state legislation, known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) gives the state limited authority to intervene to protect groundwater supplies and encourages long-term management practices by newly formed Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA). The new rules provide greater oversight over groundwater and will increase regulation over private wells that currently operate outside any municipal jurisdiction.

“SGMA establishes a definition of sustainable groundwater management, requires that local agencies develop groundwater management plans and implement strategies to sustainably manage groundwater resources, prioritizes basins with the greatest need (ranked as high and medium priority), and sets a timeline for implementation …” said a recent report to the City Council.

Local agencies must be formed by June 30, 2017. The local agency will have until January 21 2022 to develop a sustainability plan and the agency will have twenty years to achieve sustainability following adoption of the plan.

For the Santa Monica Basin, the stakeholders will use a memorandum of understanding to create the agency and while the document is still in development, consensus has formed around Santa Monica taking the lead.

“A GSA must consider the interests of a variety of different stakeholders, including beneficial users of water, environmental interests, disadvantaged communities, tribes, and others. The agency must maintain a list of persons interested in receiving notices regarding plan preparation and other activities,” said the report.

Details regarding shared costs, powers and duties of the participating agencies are still under negotiation. However, The GSA will be able to conduct investigations, establish how much water can be pumped from the basin, measure/limit wells, impose fees and enforce the terms of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. A GSA cannot determine water rights or supersede land use authorities.

New wells can still be drilled in the basin with the appropriate construction permits, but their operation will have to comply with the new plans.

“The GSA formation isn’t going to be an agency that restricts the construction of new wells but will be an oversight agency that oversees wells,” said Santa Monica’s Water Resource Manager Gil Borboa.

Anyone interested in discussing the new agency can attend a public information meeting on April 12 at Windward School (11350 Palms Blvd) to provide stakeholders and interested parties an opportunity to become informed about SGMA. Following adoption of the MOU by the other agencies in the basin, City Council is expected to formally vote on the issue at its May 23 meeting.

editor@www.smdp.com