Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act “(“SGMA”), states that “[n]othing in this part, or in any groundwater management plan adopted pursuant to this part, determines or alters surface water rights or groundwater rights under common law or any provision of law that determines or grants surface water rights.” (Cal. Water Code § 10720.5(b)) The meaning of this passage is not entirely clear, as Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (“GSA”), do have the right to regulate groundwater use, including limiting extractions of groundwater. It appears reasonably clear that although GSAs may not single-handedly determine groundwater rights, they may take actions that effectively determine groundwater rights, with courts stepping in to determine the validity of what the GSAs have done. (See Cal. Water Code § 10726.6 (GSA may file action to determine GSP validity, but makes no binding determination); Cal Civ. Proc. Code § 830) An owner of water rights may find out that he or she or it has fewer rights than claimed, and all rights will be subject to more regulation in light of perceived “undesirable results” and the “reasonable and beneficial use” doctrine under the California Constitution.