Learn more and get involved in public workshops for the 2022 Mission Creek Subbasin Alternative Plan Update.
Get involved in the planning process as it develops from early 2020 to mid-2021:
News and Announcements
We will send all news and announcements through an electronic mailing list. Please send us your name and email address and we’ll keep you up to date on all new activities for the 2022 Alternative Plan Update.
Feedback from stakeholders and community members is crucial to the Plan Update! Public workshops will be held approximately quarterly to update interested residents and stakeholders about the Alternative Plan Update. The public workshops will include presentations on data, information, and analysis compiled for the planning process, as well as activities to solicit input and feedback from participants on plan direction. We invite all interested residents, businesses, and public agencies to join us and provide input at our public workshops:
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The Mission Creek Subbasin is part of the Coachella Valley Groundwater Basin, and is designated as Basin No. 7-021.02 in the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Bulletin 118 (DWR, 2016). See map below. The Subbasin is surrounded by the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the east, the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains to the west, the Indio Hills to the southeast, and the Indio Subbasin to the south.
An aquifer can be thought of as an underground reservoir for groundwater. An aquifer is a body of porous rock or sediment saturated that stores groundwater in the spaces between sand, soils, and fractured rock. Groundwater stored in deep aquifers have accumulated over centuries or millennia.
Within the Coachella Valley region, three faults associated with the San Andreas fault system bound the Mission Creek Subbasin. These faults separate the Mission Creek Subbasin from the adjacent Desert Hot Springs and Indio subbasins as well as the Garnet Hill Subbarea of the Indio Subbasin. The merger of the faults defines the southeastern boundary of the Mission Creek Subbasin. The Subbasin area is fully bounded on one side and partially bound on a second side by mountain ranges, which leads to groundwater replenishment from the mountain range runoff. Water within the Mission Creek Subbasin then slowly moves from the upper valley in the northwest towards the Indio Subbasin in the southeast.
Groundwater basins can be replenished naturally and artificially when water from the surface is allowed to seep into the soil. The Mission Creek Subbasin is naturally replenished from the Mission Creek drainage with some subsurface flow also occurring from Desert Hot Springs Subbasin to the north. Water agencies in the Mission Creek Subbasin also artificially replenish the groundwater with imported water that is pumped into what are known as “recharge ponds” and allowed to seep into the ground.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) defines groundwater sustainability as “the management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.” What does this mean? A sustainable groundwater basin is one in which the water use is balanced with the water replenishment from rainfall, surface water, and other sources.
The earth has limited supplies of water. Groundwater and surface water are essentially one resource, physically connected by the water cycle in which water evaporates, forms clouds, and falls to the ground as rain or snow. Some of this precipitation seeps into the ground and becomes groundwater that moves slowly into an underground aquifer. If there is no precipitation, then there is no water returning to the groundwater below and the groundwater supply is not “recharged” or refilled.
The Mission Creek Subbasin has been managed for many years by the local water agencies. In 2003, the Mission Creek Groundwater Replenishment Agreement was enacted between the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) and Desert Water Agency (DWA). The subsequent 2004 Mission Creek Settlement Agreement led to the formation of the Management Committee, consisting of the CVWD, DWA, and Mission Springs Water District (MSWD). The Management Committee today continues to actively manage the Subbasin.
DWA and CVWD both have contracts for imported water and operate a groundwater replenishment program to help fund groundwater recharge into the Mission Creek Subbasin. MSWD, and other large private pumpers pay a “Replenishment Assessment Charge” for each acre-foot of groundwater pumped.
What Is SGMA (6)
The Mission Creek Subbasin Alternative Plan continues water management efforts that began in 2013 with development of the 2013 Mission Creek/Garnet Hill Water Management Plan, while further developing Subbasin information and management strategies to comply with SGMA through periodic updates. The Alternative Plan describe a pathway for managing the groundwater basin and describe measures to ensure that the Mission Creek Subbasin operates within a sustainable goal for groundwater use. See the “What is the Alternative Plan” below for more information.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), signed into law in 2014, provides a framework for long-term sustainable groundwater management across California. SGMA applies to all California groundwater basins and requires that local and regional authorities in designated medium- and high-priority groundwater basins and subbasins form a locally-controlled and governed Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), which will prepare and implement a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) or submit an Alternative Plan. In the case of the Mission Creek Subbasin, the region’s water purveyors had already developed a Water Management Plan (the 2013 Mission Creek/Garnet Hill Water Management Plan) which was submitted to the State under SGMA. Of the 109 medium- and high-priority basins identified by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), the Mission Creek Subbasin Alternative Plan is only one of nine approved alternative plans under SGMA.
SGMA is not directly related to drought; sustainable groundwater management is a long-term vision and commitment to manage groundwater judiciously so that it is protected for future use. In many areas, over time, the water table, or the depth at which groundwater can be found, has gotten much deeper below the surface due to pumping. As demand for groundwater has increased, more water is being drawn out of aquifers than is replaced or replenished. Low groundwater levels can cause a number of undesirable results such as land subsidence (sinking of the ground’s surface). Some California groundwater basins have reached all-time historic lows. Creating a framework for State oversight (through SGMA) ensures a standard, consistent process to maintain and actively monitor and manage basins at the local level.
Over the years, California water managers have observed a decline in water levels in aquifers in some areas of the state. Impacts and issues related to the decline in groundwater levels are apparent. For example, some wells in the Central Valley have experienced declines in excess of 100 feet during the drought and increases in groundwater pumping have exacerbated some areas of land subsidence, which threatens infrastructure such as roads, canals and bridges. In January 2014, the California Governor’s Office identified groundwater management as one of ten key action steps in its California Water Action Plan. SGMA, signed into law months later, follows up on that action, giving local agencies the ability to manage their respective basins following statewide guidelines.
SGMA does not change existing groundwater rights. Groundwater rights will continue to be subject to regulation under the California Constitution.
SGMA provides a framework for improving management of groundwater supplies by local authorities. SGMA actually limits State intervention, provided that local agencies develop and implement GSPs or Alternative Plans as required by the legislation. Under SGMA, local agencies now have tools and authorities some agencies previously lacked to manage for sustainability. Under a limited set of circumstances, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) may step in to help protect local groundwater resources. The process of SWRCB only occurs if local efforts to form a GSA or develop and implement a viable GSP or Alternative Plan are not successful. In the Mission Creek Subbasin, we have two approved GSAs working together with Mission Springs Water District (MSWD) to manage the subbasin as provided for in the approved Alternative Plan.
What Is The GSP (6)
A Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) or Alternative Plan is a document that outlines how the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) will implement, manage and measure the results of specific actions for the health and viability of the groundwater basin. The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) will evaluate GSPs or Alternative Plans to provide the GSA with an assessment of the plan and any necessary recommendations every five years following its establishment.
In 2009, the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD), Desert Water Agency (DWA), and Mission Springs Water District (MSWD) began development of the 2013 Mission Creek/Garnet Hill Water Management Plan to address groundwater sustainability in the Subbasin. In 2016, the SGMA Alternative Groundwater Sustainability Plan Bridge Document for the Mission Creek Subbasin was prepared by the Management Committee to demonstrate that the MC/GH WMP was functionally equivalent to a GSP. Annual reports describing changes in water supply and demand and updates to management actions, as required under Section 356.2 of the GSP Emergency Regulations, are submitted to DWR. The Mission Creek Subbasin Annual Report for Water Year 2018-2019, the third annual report for the Mission Creek Subbasin, is available online at https://sgma.water.ca.gov/portal/alternative/print/24.
A GSP is the plan outlining how to achieve sustainably managed groundwater that meets the requirements of SGMA. GSAs in high and medium priority groundwater basins are required to submit a GSP to the State. The plan must outline how the GSA will implement, manage and measure specific actions to achieve groundwater sustainability within 20 years. If a GSA already had an existing groundwater management plan that is functionally equivalent to a GSP, they were able to submit it for DWR approval as an Alternative Plan.
In December 2016, the CVWD, DWA, and MSWD collaboratively submitted the 2013 Mission Creek/Garnet Hill Water Management Plan and the SGMA Alternative Groundwater Sustainability Plan Bridge Document for the Mission Creek Subbasin, and other supporting documents as an Alternative Plan to a GSP for the Subbasin, which was subsequently approved by DWR on July 17, 2019.
SGMA mandates that all GSPs and Alternative Plans be updated every five years. In its approval of the Mission CreekCreek Subbasin Alternative Plan, DWR has indicated that the first five-year update to the Alternative Plan needs to be submitted to DWR by January 1, 2022.
SGMA strongly encourages closer planning coordination between water supply and land use agencies to ensure water supply planning accurately forecasts and secures water supplies for future land use changes, and that land use planning considers the effects of projected growth on water resource management. Local agencies are required to acknowledge GSPs or Alternative Plans when a legislative body is adopting or substantially amending its General Plan. General Plans must accurately reflect the information in the GSP or Alternative Plan with regards to available water supplies. In addition, a city or county must now refer the proposed adoption or substantial amendment of a General Plan to any affected GSA(s). In response, the GSA(s) must provide the land use agency with the current version of its GSP or Alternative Plan and any information that is relevant to determining the adequacy of existing and planned future water supplies to meet existing and planned future demands.
Who Is The GSA? (5)
A Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) is one or more local governmental agencies that implement the provisions of SGMA. A local agency is defined as one that has water supply, water management or land management authority. The primary purpose of a GSA under SGMA is to develop and implement a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) or Alternative Plan to achieve long-term groundwater sustainability.
The first requirement of SGMA was to form a GSA by June 2017. The Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) and Desert Water Agency (DWA) each submitted application materials to become a GSA for different portions of the Subbasin that overlap their service area. Since establishing as exclusive GSAs, the two water agencies have worked together with the Mission Springs Water District (MSWD) as the Mission Creek Subbasin Management Committee to implement SGMA requirements. See map below for more information on the service area of each agency within the Subbasin.
Under SGMA, GSAs are empowered to utilize a number of new management tools to achieve groundwater sustainability, such as:
- Adopt rules, regulations, ordinances, and resolutions to implement the Act,
- Monitor compliance and enforcement,
- Require registration of groundwater extraction facilities (wells),
- Require appropriate measurement devices and reporting of extractions,
- Investigate, appropriate, and acquire surface water rights and groundwater rights,
- Acquire or augment local water supplies to enhance the sustainability of the groundwater basin,
- Propose and collect fees, and
- Impose limits on groundwater extraction.
The GSA may use a number of management tools to achieve sustainability goals. The specific tools and methods the GSA will use to achieve sustainability will be determined in discussion with stakeholders and identified in the GSP or Alternative Plan.
The two GSA agencies, Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) and Desert Water Agency (DWA), as well as Mission Springs Water District are working together under the Settlement Agreement that was signed in 2004. While CVWD and DWA are each exclusive GSAs, they continue to work collaboratively with Mission Springs Water District to oversee and manage the Mission Creek Subbasin.
DWR is the State agency responsible for oversight of the GSAs and GSPs (or Alternative Plas). DWR has a list of regulations, objectives and actions formulated to assist local agencies and GSAs with the preparation and implementation of GSPs and Alternative Plans. Under law, all regulations adopted by DWR only become effective upon approval by the California Water Commission. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) acts as the enforcement agency that reviews water use data and has the authority to directly manage basins as a result of failure by locals to comply with SGMA requirements (i.e. create a GSA, adopt and implement a GSP or Alternative Plan).