The most agriculturally lucrative sector of California is the San Joaquin Valley, and the current threat to groundwater in this region could affect major crops. After suffering the ramifications of many record droughts, the state of California rolled out the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in an effort to preserve the remaining pockets of groundwater in the valley. Different sectors of the state have different deadlines by which basins must be stabilized. Much of the San Joaquin Valley is between high-medium priority, according to the California Department of Water Resources, and “under SGMA, these basins should reach sustainability within 20 years of implementing their sustainability plans.” Currently an estimated “20%—or 840,000 acres—of irrigated cropland in the valley has no access to surface water,” according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Crops in these areas are of the same nature as crops in surface water areas, high-value fruit and nut crops, more lucrative than an annual crop. A decrease in groundwater allotment to those without surface water access “could result in unnecessarily large, undesirable reductions in high-value crop acreage, regional employment, and GDP,” says the Public Policy Institute. The approach the valley is taking is focused on cooperation between farmers and the water available, facilitating trading and sharing practices between those who have surface water access and those who do not. Also investment in smart water management practices and storage supplies “could offset some of the water use cutbacks expected in groundwater-only areas.”
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