Drought Well Permit Review

In Sonoma County, all well construction, alteration and destruction activities are regulated by the County and well permits are administered and enforced by Permit Sonoma. The Sonoma Valley GSA does not have permitting authority, but the Drought Executive Order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2022 requires the GSA to review new well permits, as described below.

 

Drought Executive Order Compliance

On March 28, 2022, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order to address the continuing western drought (Note: this order was amended in March 2023 by Executive Order N-3-23). The order requires additional review of well permits by local jurisdictions and groundwater sustainability agencies, as specified by paragraph 9 of the order below. Two types of permit applications are exempt from this order:

  1. Wells that provide less than two-acre feet of water annually for rural residences (domestic use);
        and
  2. Public water supply wells.

To protect health, safety, and the environment during this drought emergency, a county, city, or other public agency shall not:

  • Approve a permit for a new groundwater well or for alteration of an existing well in a basin subject to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and classified as medium-or high-priority without first obtaining written verification from a Groundwater Sustainability Agency managing the basin or area of the basin where the well is proposed to be located that groundwater extraction by the proposed well would not be inconsistent with any sustainable groundwater management program established in any applicable Groundwater Sustainability Plan adopted by that Groundwater Sustainability Agency and would not decrease the likelihood of achieving a sustainability goal for the basin covered by such a plan;
    or
  • Issue a permit for a new groundwater well or for alteration of an existing well without first determining that extraction of groundwater from the proposed well is (1) not likely to interfere with the production and functioning of existing nearby wells, and (2) not likely to cause subsidence that would adversely impact or damage nearby infrastructure.

This paragraph shall not apply to permits for wells that 1) will provide less than two acre-feet per year of groundwater for individual domestic users, 2) that will exclusively provide groundwater to public water supply systems as defined in section 116275 of the Health and Safety Code, or 3) are new wells that will replace existing, currently permitted wells and will produce an equivalent quantity of water as the existing well, under the condition that the existing well being replaced has been acquired by eminent domain or acquired while under threat of condemnation.

What to do if your well permit application was referred to the GSA

For proposed non-exempt wells within the Sonoma Valley basin, Permit Sonoma is referring well applications to the GSA for review.  Prior to the review being able to be completed, the GSA requires:

  1. a signed Acknowledgement Form,
  2. a completed Supplemental Information Form,
  3. and copies of all Permit Sonoma-required well permit materials (including Water Use Assessment Reports, Well Interference Evaluation Reports, etc.)

These materials can be submitted to the GSA by emailing them to info@sonomavalleygroundwater.org with your well permit number in the subject line. The GSA may also request additional information of the well applicant.

Permit Sonoma will not issue a well permit within the basin until written verification from the GSA is received with an affirmative finding that the proposed groundwater extraction is consistent with the Groundwater Sustainability Plan and that the proposed groundwater extraction would not decrease the likelihood of achieving the sustainability goal for the basin. Additional information about Permit Sonoma’s compliance with the Executive Order is available at: WLS-048 Emergency Drought Standards for Well Construction.