Groundwater Ordinance Amendment; and Focused Updates to California Environmental Quality Act Guidelines for Determining Significance and Report Format and Content Requirements, Groundwater Resources

Project Contact:
Jim Bennett  |  |   619-323-8950

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PUBLIC DISCLOSURE (April 3, 2023 - May 3, 2023)


This project involves amending the County’s Groundwater Ordinance and completing focused updates to the County California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines for Determining Significance and Report Format and Content Requirements, Groundwater Resources (County Groundwater Guidelines). This action is intended to ensure consistency and compliance with California’s 2015 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), revisions to the State’s CEQA Guidelines, and a Superior Court of California (Court) judgment. While changes to the Groundwater Ordinance are specific to the Borrego Springs Groundwater Subbasin (Borrego Basin), changes to the County Groundwater Guidelines are primarily focused on the three SGMA-mandated basins in the San Diego region, which include Borrego Basin, Upper San Luis Rey Valley Groundwater Subbasin (SLR Basin), and San Pasqual Valley Groundwater Basin (San Pasqual Basin).

Groundwater Ordinance

Given that groundwater rights in the Borrego Basin have been adjudicated, the Groundwater Ordinance is being amended to reflect the Borrego Springs Subbasin Groundwater Rights Adjudication (2021 Judgment). The Groundwater Ordinance will now reflect that future water use is subject to the 2021 Judgment, which requires all groundwater users within the Borrego Basin to have groundwater rights. Therefore, all projects within the Borrego Basin must demonstrate the ability to obtain water rights prior to approval of projects subject to the Groundwater Ordinance.

County Groundwater Guidelines

The focused updates to the County Groundwater Guidelines for Determining Significance and Report Format and Content Requirements – Groundwater Resources (County Groundwater Guidelines) will reference SGMA and the State’s 2018 revised CEQA Guidelines, which address a project’s impacts to groundwater. Since the current version of the County Groundwater Guidelines already considers groundwater sustainability when determining a project’s environmental impact, the updated County Groundwater Guidelines will not change how a project is evaluated but will reference the recent regulatory changes and the 2021 Judgment. The County Groundwater Guidelines would require projects within a SGMA-mandated basin with an adopted Groundwater Sustainability Plan to confirm the project will not impede sustainable groundwater management of the basin; or conflict with or obstruct implementation of a sustainable groundwater management plan. Additionally, the requirement for groundwater investigations will now require a California Professional Geologist to prepare and sign reports in lieu of the current two-step requirement of being a California Professional Geologist and being a consultant on the County CEQA Consultants list (CEQA List) for groundwater resources. This is consistent with other similar County Guidelines.

The County’s current Groundwater Ordinance

The County’s current CEQA Guidelines – Groundwater Resources

Public Meetings

  • Thursday, March 2, 2023, at 5pm – Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group Meeting
  • Thursday, March 9, 2023, at 4:30pm – Borrego Springs Watermaster Board Meeting
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2023, at 3pm – Upper San Luis Rey Groundwater Management Authority

PowerPoint Presentation Slides

Ordinance and Guidelines History

  • The Groundwater Ordinance was initially adopted on November 15, 1991, and most-recently amended on March 1, 2013.
  • County of San Diego Guidelines for Determining Significance – Groundwater Resources were approved on March 19, 2007.