A series of community workshops are scheduled to update well owners and others on options for short-term funding of Sonoma County’s Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). The workshops will take place in the three groundwater basins in Sonoma County immediately affected by California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA): Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and Petaluma Valley.

The Sonoma Valley workshop will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, at the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Building, 126 First St. W., Sonoma

Until 2015, when SGMA became law, California was the only western state that did not manage groundwater. The new law was enacted during the state’s historic drought, when some groundwater basins were rapidly being depleted and communities were left without drinking water. The new law requires proactive protection of groundwater basins at the local level to ensure that high-quality water is available for people, farms and wildlife now and into the future.

The purpose of the workshops is to solicit feedback on possible options for funding the day-to-day expenses of the GSAs and the creation of extensive, science-based technical Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for the Sonoma Valley, Santa Rosa Plain and Petaluma Valley groundwater basins.

In February, the California Department of Water Resources (the primary state agency responsible for administering SGMA) posted a preliminary list of GSAs eligible to receive grant funding for GSP development. All three local GSAs were recommended to receive $1 million each. While these grants will significantly offset costs of creating GSPs, additional gap funding will be needed.

“Sonoma Valley stakeholders – including well owners, farmers, environmental groups and businesses – have been actively engaged for more than a decade in addressing the valley’s groundwater problems through voluntary programs and projects. We hope that these creative thinkers will join us as we take steps to fund the new mandatory state requirements,” said 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin, who is the chairwoman of the Sonoma Valley GSA.

The three GSAs were created in compliance with SGMA, which also mandates the development of GSPs. The GSPs are the heart of the new state law, and will provide information about how much groundwater is available and lay out the steps needed to ensure that groundwater is available to meet foreseeable needs for the next 20 years. The GSPs must be goal-oriented and science-based, with strong technical foundations.