New California Groundwater Fees – Another Step Forward for SGMA

by Stoel Rives - California Environmental Law
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California’s newer groundwater regulatory structure, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (“SGMA”), was signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on September 16, 2014. The State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”) is the enforcement agency for SGMA. SGMA requires the SWRCB to establish a schedule of fees sufficient to recover the costs incurred by the SWCRB to administer groundwater extraction reporting requirements and the activities required to temporarily protect groundwater resources. SGMA also authorizes the SWCRB to adopt an emergency regulation requiring that groundwater extraction reports be filed electronically. (Wat. Code, §§ 1530 & 348.)

The SWRCB recently adopted a resolution to approve the “Emergency Regulation” for implementation of SGMA. Important to note is that while there is an exception carved out for de minimis extractors (defined as person who extracts, for domestic purposes, two acre-feet or less per year), the fiscal impacts of the regulation overlay with these fees becomes quite expensive for many other groundwater users.

Specifically, reports for Water Year 2017 (WY-17) are due by December 15, 2017. The annual fee for reports for WY-17 is $300 per well. For extractions that are within the management of a Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) before the end of WY-17 (by September 30, 2017), the annual fee is waived. The late fee for WY-17 reports is $100 for each 30-day period the report is late.

For example, the SWRCB provides the following estimates:

  • The total cost of the regulation on local governments is about $22,000 for Water Year 2017 (WY-17) and $122,000 for Water Year 2018 (WY-18). This breaks down to $537 for WY-17 and $1,506 for WY-18 per local government.
  • The total cost of the regulation on state agencies is about $22,800 for WY-17 and $122,000 for WY-18. This breaks down to $530 for WY-17 and $1,505 for WY-18 per state agency.

SWCRB’s Adopted Emergency Regulation, effective July 1, 2017, can be found here.

We will continue to track SGMA developments as implementation moves forward with development of GSAs and the plans for managing groundwater that impacts all users, public and private.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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