Groundwater Ordinance (GWO)

Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors adopted a Groundwater Ordinance (GWO) in 2014 to address sustainable groundwater management and export of groundwater from the County. The GWO codifies requirements, prohibitions, and exemptions that assure sustainable groundwater extraction from new wells. The ordinance framework is structured primarily on the principles of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA).

Sustainable Groundwater Management

In September of 2014, Governor Edmund G. Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA), which changed the landscape of groundwater management in California. SGMA is a comprehensive package of legislation that sets the framework for statewide sustainable groundwater management and declares that such authority be given to local public agencies that have either water supply or land use authority, or both. SGMA requires, among other items, the formation of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) and the preparation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) with a focus on long-term groundwater sustainability.

2017 Formation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs)

Environmental Resources completed the formation of the necessary GSAs in 2017. Stanislaus County is a participating member in five GSAs across four groundwater subbasins. Public and private water agencies and user groups within each of the four groundwater subbasins work together as GSAs to implement SGMA.

  1. The Eastern San Joaquin Groundwater Subbasin
  2. (Portion of Stanislaus County occurring north of the Stanislaus River; commonly referred to as the “northern triangle”)

  3. The Modesto Groundwater Subbasin
  4. (Area of land located between the Stanislaus and Tuolumne rivers, occurring west of the Sierra Nevada foothills and east of the San Joaquin River)

  5. The Turlock Groundwater Subbasin (East)
  6. (Area of land located between the Tuolumne and Merced rivers, occurring west of the Sierra Nevada Foothills)

  7. The Turlock Groundwater Subbasin (West)
  8. (Area of land located between the Tuolumne and Merced rivers, occurring east of the San Joaquin River)

  9. The Delta-Mendota Groundwater Subbasin
  10. (Area of land within Stanislaus County located west of the San Joaquin River and east of the basement rock of the Coast Range)

Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR)

Environmental Resources collaborated with County stakeholders and finalized the Programmatic Environmental Impact Report in 2018, which facilitates implementation of its Groundwater Ordinance, streamlines the well permitting process, and supports the preparation and implementation of the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) under SGMA. The PEIR integrates and evaluates impacts associated with existing water and groundwater management efforts throughout the County in light of forecasted water supply and demand, land use trends, and well permitting activities. The PEIR Objectives are to:

  • Streamline CEQA review and technical evaluation for discretionary well permit applications
  • Create more robust technical basis for well permitting program
  • Begin data compilation, model construction and evaluation efforts that will help inform GSAs in groundwater management planning and GSP development

Adoption of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs)

On December 10, 2019, the Board of Supervisors (Board) approved and adopted the GSPs for 1) the Eastern San Joaquin Groundwater Subbasin and 2) the Northern & Central Region of the Delta-Mendota Groundwater Subbasin. The Board will be considering the same action for the Modesto Groundwater Subbasin and the Turlock Groundwater Subbasin in the next two years (prior to January 31, 2022).