Groundwater is a vital resource in California, and the concept of "sustainable yield" is an attempt to determine a metric that can ensure the long-term resilience of groundwater systems. However, its meaning is ambiguous and quantification is challenging. To provide insight into developing a working definition that encompasses the inherent uncertainty and complexity of the term, this paper examines how sustainable yield in groundwater is interpreted by (1) scientists, (2) the courts in groundwater adjudications, (3) state agencies, and (4) local water practitioners. Through qualitative interviews, this paper identifies problems that local water agencies in the state encounter in engaging with sustainable yield as they incorporate the term in groundwater management practices. The authors recommend that any definitions make explicit the human dimensions of, and assumptions embedded in, the use of these terms in groundwater management practices, and they point to the value of participation in this process.
© 2014, National Ground Water Association.