Private Well Owners

Private Well Owners (PWOs) are individuals or businesses that have a groundwater well that they operate independently of any water agency, and that supplies water for domestic use, livestock, irrigation, and/or commercial/industrial use. Any well serving up to four connections is considered an Individual Water System. The Santa Margarita Groundwater Agency (SMGWA) is hopeful that PWOs that have wells in the Santa Margarita Groundwater Basin will engage with the process of developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for the basin. To help ensure that the concerns and interests of PWOs are heard, two PWO representatives from within the basin are serving on the SMGWA Board. Remember, sustainable groundwater levels benefit all users in the basin.

Click here to view a recording of the Well Owner Representative meeting held December 6th, 2020

Meeting Agenda

Meeting Notice Posting

Presentation: Groundwater in Your Well

Presentation: How do Private Wells and Small Water Systems Impact the Basin

Presentation: The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and the Role of Private Well Owners (De Minimis Pumpers)

Presentation: Ways to be a Good Citizen of the Aquifer

Click here to review the Santa Margarita Groundwater Agency’s Guiding Principles

We encourage every PWO in the Santa Margarita Basin to take the following actions:

1) Sign up for the SMGWA email listserve at the bottom of our Homepage. We use the listserve to provide monthly updates on the process and upcoming events;

2) Attend monthly Board meetings to learn more and share your ideas;

3) Volunteer for our Well Sounding Program and track the water levels in your well;

4) Read the PWO FAQs below;

5) Still have questions? Contact one of the SMGWA and PWO representatives:

Frequently Asked Questions specific to PWOs:

Q) Will the SMGWA require metering of private wells?

A) The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act gives the SMGWA the authority to meter larger, non-de minimis wells. A de minimis well is defined as a well using less than 2 acre-feet per year for domestic uses. The average household uses less than half an acre-foot per year. So, most private residential wells in the Santa Margarita basin are de minimis and therefore not subject to metering. Private wells used for commercial, industrial, or agriculture uses are more likely to be subject to metering in order for the agency to be able to have the water use information needed to effectively manage the basin and bring it into sustainability by 2042 as required by state law. For more information, read the section on metering from SGMA (on page 23 of the Act).

Q) Will the SMGWA assess a user fee on private wells?

A) Under the act, it is *possible* to levy a fee assessment on de minimis and larger volume users alike. We do not know if a fee will be necessary for the Santa Margarita Basin. There will be many opportunities for community input on the entire SMGWA planning process, including management fees. Any fees would have to be fully justified with the benefits to de minimis users well-documented.

Q) What happens if we cannot reach agreement on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan or resulting management fees?

A) If we cannot come to a local agreement on how to bring our basin into sustainability, the State will intervene. They have been very clear about what they will do – they will levy large use fees on all users and where possible, limit water well pumping across the board. The Act gives the state the authority to manage the basin if we cannot do it ourselves. Local participation within the SMGWA is the preferred alternative to state-level basin command and control regulation.

Q) Who has the final say on the SMGWA Over Draft plan and implementation?

A) The Plan content and implementation are determined by the SMGWA. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) staff will review and evaluate Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP) to determine whether they fulfill the State requirements. Implementation and reporting are locally-driven and includes the development of annual reports and GSP assessments completed every five years during the implementation of the GSPs.

Q) How much involvement will the State have on our local situation?

A) If the SMGWA can reach sustainability the State will have little involvement in our local situation.

Q) Will a PWO need to let anyone on their land for testing or monitoring of any kind?

A) A de minimis PWO and who uses less than 2 acre-feet per year for domestic purposes will not need to let anyone on their land for testing or monitoring. However, we encourage PWOs to grant the county access to do occasional well sounding so that the SMGWA can obtain as much groundwater information as possible. The more data we have, the more accurate our modeling outcomes will be.

Q) Who do the Santa Margarita Groundwater Agency Private Well Owner representatives serve?

A) Individual, small water systems (5 or more connections on a single well or water system), agriculture, and commercial/industrial use not reporting to any water agency. Anyone with a groundwater well that they operate independently of any water agency.

Q) How is the GSP development being funded?  

The 3-member agencies are dividing the costs to pay for the writing of the sustainability plan.  Additionally, the effort received a 1-million-dollar matching grant toward creating a plan.

Q) Is the county paying for any part of writing the plan?  

A) Yes, indirectly via property taxes.

Q) How are the cities helping to mitigate overdraft with all the new developments going in?

A) New developments need to maintain pre-development hydrology of the property.  Also, need to provide percolation areas for water falling onto the property. They also have very strict water conservation standards that they must meet.

Q) How is the agricultural business affecting our basin and wells? I know many ag businesses are digging very deep wells.  

A) The Santa Margarita basin is fairly hydrologically isolated from all the nearby basins and not affected by the ag businesses in the Pajaro and Watsonville areas. Those areas, though, are also working on a sustainability plan that will be completed before the SMGW Basin due to the fact they are in critical overdraft.

Q) What is the definition of sustainable and who defines this?

A) Using guidance from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the board of the SMGW Basin along with input from community feedback will define sustainability for numerous criteria.

Q) Will water quality be a factor in the sustainability plan?

A) Yes, water quality is one of the factors included in the plan.

Q) How are the basin boundaries created and defined?  

A) Basins are mainly defined by geology, but some boundaries are modified based on city and county boundaries as well.

Q) What methods are we looking at to recharge the aquifer?

A) Percolation areas for stormwater, inject clean water back into the aquifer (Aquifer Storage and Recovery), recycled water to offset use, in-lieu recharge by partnering surface water suppliers with groundwater users.

Q) Is a horizontal well considered a true well?  

A) Most likely it is a spring and not a well.

Q) How accurate have the municipal projections been?  

A) Municipal projections and planning have been good and efficient, and have typically overestimated use.

Q) How many more people is Scotts Valley planning for?  

A) About 1500 people over the next 5-10 years.

Q) What are the dependent fauna in our area?

A) Mainly fish like steelhead and coho salmon, as well as other aquatic species like amphibians.

Q) Does irrigation do anything to recharge the aquifer?

A) Not really, due to the fact that most of it is evaporated or used by the plants.  SMGW basin does not have a large agriculture business.

Q) If a well owner agrees to well monitoring, is it anonymous or can it be visible for others to see?

A) Yes, it is anonymous and only a well number will be listed on the map.  No names or exact locations will be provided to the public.

How Can I Help?

Outdoor Water Conservation

  • Plant a drought tolerant landscape and use mulch to retain moisture.

  • Use drip irrigation or hand watering

  • Ensure all hoses have a shut off nozzle

  • Install soil moisture meters to determine the need for watering

  • Use irrigation timers and avoid watering from 10am-5pm.

  • Collect rainwater for outdoor irrigation

  • Modify drainage to promote infiltration of rainwater

  • Use a pool cover

  • Consider washing your animals, including horses, less frequently

Indoor Water Conservation

  • Install efficient toilets, washing machines, and shower heads

  • Keep showers to 5 minutes or less

  • Use buckets to collect warm-up water or install a circulation pump

  • Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily

  • Turn off the sink when brushing teeth or rinsing dishes

Well Management

  • Consider installing a meter on your well so you know how much water you are using and track the progress of conservation efforts.

  • Check for and repair water leaks to avoid water waste and to extend the life of your well pump and equipment (installing a meter can help you quickly detect leaks).

  • Perform basic well maintenance.

  • Request a well sounding measurement to monitor groundwater levels in your well. Contact Nathan Salazar from the County at (831) 454-2145 to schedule a visit.

Helpful Information

The Department of Water Resources has put together some FAQs for the Act and the GSA formation. Those can be found here: