Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2021

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

John Callaway


In the past, California’s unregulated groundwater supply has suffered from a legacy of groundwater depletion, loss of aquifer storage, land subsidence, seawater intrusion, and degradation of ecosystems dependent on the interconnectivity of groundwater. Prior to 2016, California had yet to create direct legislation that regulated groundwater management until the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). SGMA empowered local agencies called Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to manage groundwater resources within a specific criterion using locally sourced methods and practices suitable for each individual groundwater basin. One criterion in particular is relatively new for water resource management, Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs). In this paper, I look critically and compare SGMA’s locally controlled strategy to the successes Australia has had with its national policy for GDE management. I utilized the timing of SGMA to interview five GSAs from Californians Central Coast to shed light at some of the potential shortcomings and interpretation challenges caused by SGMA. Australia has had success in utilizing a nation policy and requiring adaptive management planning for all groundwater dependent ecosystems. In California, SGMA is a monumental piece of legislation, because SGMA has the benefit of learning from great examples of successfully managing GDEs in a holistic and urgent method. My suggestions for SGMA stem from my analysis of both policies are directed towards how GSAs are interpreting and implementing GDE management plans, and their ability to isolate and underrepresent the total quantity of GDEs because how SGMA defines a GDEs. GSAs need to incorporate a regional approach to GDE management along with including GDEs associated with shallower aquifers than the SGMA defined “priority basin.” This along with securing the incorporation of a Adaptive Management framework for GDE management will ensure that lessons from Australia and innovative science will continue to shape the development of California’s path to sustainably managing both its groundwater basins and GDEs across the state.