Demand management – policies that alter the incentives of water users in ways that encourage conservation – will be necessary to achieve groundwater sustainability under California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
A key feature of the state's approach to SGMA is that local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies are each allowed to develop their own plans for achieving sustainable groundwater use, allowing for local flexibility and experimentation. Reflecting the open-ended nature of the law, Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) across the state include a wide variety of demand management strategies. Many, but not all, GSPs include some form of demand management. Understanding these policy choices is important because they will influence the economic costs of SGMA.
We record and explain the demand management proposals made in the state's 118 submitted GSPs and make these data publicly available in a new online platform called the SGMA Demand Management Action Database (www.SGMA-DMAD.com). The site allows for bulk download of the data we collected. Users can also locate a specific GSA on a map of California to see what demand management strategies that agency is proposing.
The Demand Management Action Database is the first easily navigated collection of demand management strategies being proposed across California. Many GSPs include over 1000 pages, reflecting the many criteria they are required to satisfy. Among these pages are discussions of hydrogeologic features of the relevant groundwater subbasin, projections of future water demands and supplies, water budgets, and other information necessary for the development of an effective management plan. Only one small section of the plans, usually taking up only about a dozen pages, explains the management actions GSAs are proposing to achieve sustainability.
GSPs are only an imperfect guide to what will actually happen as groundwater agencies implement SGMA. The plans laid out in GSPs are subject to change. However, submitted GSPs are the best publicly available evidence of what steps GSAs plan to take in meeting their SGMA obligations. GSPs often distinguish between plans that will definitely be undertaken and plans that are merely provisional due to being subject to external approvals, need for additional funding, or are simply being left in the planning stage until uncertainty over future water needs resolves. The Demand Management Action Database includes information distinguishing between plans that are either currently implemented or being implemented versus those that remain uncertain.
In evaluating the role of demand management in submitted GSPs, we've categorized demand management actions into a few broad categories, each with a good deal of variation within them. The Demand Management Action Database shows, for each GSP, whether some policy fitting into each of these buckets is discussed in the GSP, then gives additional details and page numbers for those wanting to know more about how a specific GSP is implementing each policy. For those wanting to conduct their own analysis, the site also includes a download button enabling the entire database to be accessed at once. This data is free to use with proper citation.
We encourage anyone interested in SGMA governance to explore the site and reach out with questions, comments, or concerns. Communications should be directed to Arthur R. Wardle at arw (at) berkeley.edu.