Tulare Lake Subbasin First to Receive Probationary Status from Water Board

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Water

Tulare Lake Subbasin

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has made a significant decision regarding the Tulare Lake Subbasin. After a lengthy meeting, the SWRCB placed the subbasin on probationary status over concerns with subsidence linked to groundwater pumping. It marks the first instance of such state intervention under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The decision comes after a hearing and public comments, aiming to address the critical overdraft issue in the basin.

The probationary status brings in new requirements like reporting and fees for those who extract water from the area. The fees include a $300 annual fee per well and a $20 fee per acre-foot of water. Extractors using over 500 acre-feet annually must install certified meters to measure water usage. Groundwater pumpers in the region must report usage within 90 days. Some exemptions apply for small domestic users and disadvantaged communities.

Despite objections from some farmers and officials, the board unanimously voted for the probationary status, acknowledging the need to address groundwater overuse. Local water agencies have some time to improve their sustainability plan to get off probation. The Tulare Lake Subbasin has one year to develop a more sustainable groundwater plan.

“If deficiencies are not addressed within a year, the board could move into the second phase of the state intervention process, called an interim plan,” SWRCB noted in a press release. “Only during this second phase, after another public hearing, could the board impose pumping restrictions on basins or issue fines for exceeding water allotments.”

During the hearing, farmers expressed several concerns about the potential impact on their livelihoods, highlighting the need for more time and alternatives to address water management issues. Meanwhile, advocates emphasized the importance of protecting groundwater for drinking water and environmental justice.

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West