Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Char Miller

Reader 2

Maryan Soliman

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2021 Bailey R Mknelly


This thesis discusses the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), California’s first statewide groundwater regulatory legislation. The act established the formation of groundwater basins and local governing bodies called Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) which are tasked with creating Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). More specifically, this thesis examines how the structure of GSAs affects stakeholder accessibility, community engagement, and transparency. Through a collection of four interviews as well as the use of primary and secondary sources, this paper will explore the potential, and the ultimate shortcomings of SGMAs transparency, particularly in ensuring clean, safe water to historically disenfranchised communities. Using Kern and Santa Cruz Mid-County Basins as case studies, this thesis explores the diversity of groundwater struggles across the state, the importance of GSA accessibility, and valuable strategies for ensuring accessibility. The differences between these two case studies explain the difficulty of statewide groundwater regulation and the potential for the local control design structure central to SGMA legislation. However, it seems that the complex governing structure of Kern is one of the factors limiting the engagement of particular stakeholders. Additionally, the paper will provide recommendations from the community outreach methods found in Santa Cruz Mid-County to be applied at a larger scale in Kern Basin. Transparency and accessibility in any governmental decision-making process are important but particularly in one which may determine the long-term water safety and access to communities across the state.

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