Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal


The story of how California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)—popularly pronounced as “Sigma”—is an example of how what occurs “overnight” can be a century in the making.

California is frequently the United States’ leader in sustainability and progressive regulation. Sections of the State’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act were models for the modern federal Clean Water Act. The federal Clean Air Act provided California a preemption waiver that not only allowed it to set its own automobile emissions standards but empowered other states to choose between the stricter California standard and the federal standard. With a market share of over 8% of the total United States population, the State’s 2003 ban on brominated flame-retardants was effectively a nationwide ban. And in 2006, California took legislative action on climate change while congressional leaders were still nattering about whether global warming was related to human activities. Nonetheless, California was the last State in the nation to adopt a statewide system for groundwater regulation.