September 17, 2015

As California continues to face pressing issues of water management, the creation of a groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) looms ahead. Senior Mediator Gina Bartlett, who has been arms-deep in the creation process, contributed a post today for the Groundwater Act blog on building consensus. A snippet of that blog post is included below:

As California’s priority groundwater basins are beginning to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the first major requirements are to form a groundwater sustainability agency (GSA) and then develop a groundwater sustainability plan. California has designated medium and high priority basins that must comply with the Act, and most are now grappling with the agency formation requirement.

Many eligible agencies are concerned about working out the details of legal and coordination agreements by the June 2017 deadline. I have observed struggles verging on tension around how much process and outreach is necessary before “deciding.” Agency staff are asking themselves, how much process do we need? Do we need to make sure everyone’s on board? Do we have to involve the public? How much is enough? When can we just decide? Given the worry over the timeline and number of agencies that might need to be involved, these are challenging questions with no perfect answers. Still, this has me thinking about benchmarks that agencies and stakeholders can use to know when enough is enough, and it’s time to decide. These conditions assume that the responsible entities in a basin want to build widespread support or consensus on its governance structure, where consensus means that everyone can at least live with the decision on the groundwater sustainability agency.