Tuesday April 16, 2024

SF Gate

California might step in to regulate groundwater use in part of the crop-rich San Joaquin Valley, which would be a first-of-its-kind move that comes a decade after lawmakers tasked local communities with carefully managing the precious but often overused resource.

At issue is control over a farming-dependent area where state officials say local water agencies haven’t come up with a strong enough plan to keep the water flowing sustainably into the future. The State Water Resources Control Board will hold a hearing Tuesday to decide whether to place the region under monitoring, which would mean state, not local, officials would temporarily watch over and limit how much water could be pumped from the ground.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Dusty Ference, executive director of the Kings County Farm Bureau, which represents regional farmers. “What you gain in having local control is the ability to build groundwater recharge projects and some flexibility with how water is used and moved and traded or not.”

Ference said the state board wouldn’t have the local expertise or staff to do this.

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