A recent announcement from the California Department of Water Resources deemed six San Joaquin Valley groundwater sustainability plans as inadequate.

The California DWR said the six rejected plans lacked the necessary information to determine compliance. According to the department, adequate plans limit overdraft, reduce land subsidence and note impacts on drinking water to achieve long-term sustainability in groundwater basins. Under the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, local agencies must include how they will balance the state’s challenged groundwater supplies within a 20-year time frame.

One or more deficiencies were identified in the following six subbasins: Chowchilla subbasin, Delta-Mendota subbasin, Kaweah subbasin, Kern County subbasin, Tulare Lake subbasin and Tule subbasin.

The inadequate determination triggers the state intervention process allowing the California State Water Resources Control Board to control the basin. If the plan is not corrected and approved within a year, the board may develop and adopt an interim plan to manage groundwater use and protect resources until local groundwater sustainability agencies are able to manage it.

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“While we fix these issues, we are trying to figure out how we move out of this condition and away from probation or failure (which could lead to a takeover of the GSA),” said Michael Hagman, executive director of the East Kaweah GSA, one of three GSAs in the Kaweah subbasin and a federal water contractor in the Friant Division.

Of the 12 plans under review, six others were recommended for approval: Cuyama basin, Eastern San Joaquin subbasin, Kings subbasin, Merced subbasin, Paso Robles subbasin and the Westside subbasin in Fresno and Kings counties.

A total of 94 groundwater basins are required to submit plans under SGMA. State officials have released decisions on 24 basins and is awaiting decisions on 61 additional plans submitted in January 2022. DWR anticipates issuing the remaining determinations throughout 2023.

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