Almond farmers looking to invest in new orchards “absolutely have to understand” the new rules coming from regional groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs). according to Scott Hamilton, an economist consulting on water issues in the San Joaquin Valley, who spoke at the Almond Board's Almond Conference on Wednesday.

During the panel discussion, a farmer frustrated with talk of generalities in implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act pushed for details on what the regulation will mean to his bottom line over the next 20 years and how much acreage he should be planting. Hamilton and other speakers said that depends on the local groundwater plans, and they vary significantly.

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One possible option, Hamilton said, is that some plans allow farmers who do not use their full allocations to bank water credits to carry over to the next year. This means the farmer could plant half the acreage now, build credits for the first decade and then spend those credits in the second decade.

“But if you need more water, you absolutely have to be in close touch with your [groundwater sustainability agency],” he said.

He also encouraged farmers to be more involved in valley efforts like the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley and Collaborative Action Program, which “will not exist if we don’t get more funding.”