Sonoma Water
Released by: Water Agency
For Immediate Release

Groundwater Agency Schedules Public Meeting on Proposed Fee

Santa Rosa, CA  –  June 11, 2019  –  The Board of Directors of the Santa Rosa Plain Groundwater Sustainability Agency is holding a public meeting on Thursday, June 13, 1 p.m. at 35 Stony Point Road to consider adoption of a groundwater sustainability fee and a groundwater user registration ordinance.

If approved by the Board, a groundwater sustainability fee would be assessed on groundwater users in the Santa Rosa Plain subbasin (an area extending from Santa Rosa west to Sebastopol and from Windsor south to Cotati). The fee would be based on actual or estimated groundwater pumped annually, and would be levied based on either pumping records or published studies of average groundwater use for irrigated crops and rural residents.

If approved, the fee amount would be $19.90 per acre-foot of groundwater pumped annually. For rural landowners who use water for household and landscaping irrigation, the amount of water used annually is estimated to average 0.5 acre-feet annually (approximately 446 gallons per day), resulting in a fee of $9.95 per year. The fee would take effect on July 1, 2019 and be fixed for three years.

While the proposed fee is calculated based on use by all groundwater users in the basin, an annual financial contribution to the GSA by the County of Sonoma and Sonoma Water would result in the fee only being paid by major municipal pumpers (the cities of Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol; the Town of Windsor; and Sonoma Water). The financial contribution would offset the fees that would otherwise be paid by all non-municipal groundwater users, including rural residential well owners, farmers and businesses through June 2022.

The groundwater user ordinance would be rolled out over three years and would add groundwater user information to a GSA database. People would be notified via mail about the registration program. They would not be required to take any action, but would have an opportunity to share information with the GSA about their well, water quality issues and groundwater use through an on-line or paper system.

Go for the meeting agenda, materials and to view the fee resolution, groundwater user ordinance and other materials.

About the Rate & fee Study

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was passed into California law in fall 2014. The Act requires that State-designated medium (including Santa Rosa Plain) and high priority basins form a GSA and develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). In compliance with SGMA, the Santa Rosa Plain GSA was created in June, 2017.

GSA member agencies contributed funds to pay for the first two years of GSA operating costs. Raftelis (a financial consulting firm) began a fee study in December 2017 to develop options for funding the agency through 2022, when the GSP is completed. In spring 2018, the GSA was awarded a $1 million Proposition 1 grant from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) for developing the GSP. The grant funds significantly offset GSA costs. Funding is needed to cover the remaining operating costs of approximately $337,000 annually.

Strict constitutional requirements on fees and taxes narrowed the funding options to a fee based on actual or estimated groundwater use. Dividing the annual cost of operating the GSA -- $337,000 -- by the estimated annual groundwater extraction from the Santa Rosa Plain basin (16,934 acre-feet) equals a rate of $19.90 per acre-foot. This rate is half of the $40 per acre-foot rate that the state established it would charge groundwater users in the Santa Rosa Plain if the state were to intervene. With a rate of $19.90 per acre-foot multiplied by the actual and estimated use factors, the following fees are proposed:

  • Rural residential groundwater users would pay $9.95 per year
  • Large groundwater users would pay $19.90 per acre-foot of water pumped annually (for example, a vineyard with 100 acres of irrigated vines (60 AFY) would pay $1,194 annually)
  • Urban well owners would pay $1.99 per year

As noted above, a contribution by the County/Sonoma Water would offset the fees for all but municipal groundwater pumpers (the cities of Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol; the town of Windsor; and Sonoma Water). If the GSA does not impose fees, and as a result, cannot complete and implement the GSP, the state could intervene and impose fees that would range from $100 annually for residential well owners to $300 (base fee) plus $40 per acre-foot of groundwater use for agriculture, cities, mutual water systems, golf courses and commercial users.

For more information about the Santa Rosa Plain GSA, go to:


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