Email to TID Growers: Mid-Kaweah GSA Groundwater Allocation Cap Notice

Mid-Kaweah GSAGroundwater Allocation Cap Notice

Dear Growers,

We are facing the end of a long and frustratingly dry summer in the Kaweah Subbasin, every landowner, farmer, homeowner, business person, etc. has been impacted by the recent drought conditions. The time has come for the Tulare Irrigation District (District) to begin working towards a reduction in groundwater pumping to ensure our water resources are sufficient to meet our future agricultural needs. 

At the September 2021 Mid-Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MKGSA) Board of Directors meeting, a report outlining a proposed allocation and groundwater pumping cap emergency policy was presented to the Board of Directors. The MKGSA Groundwater Allocation and Groundwater Pumping Cap (Pumping Cap) will come in the form of an Emergency Policy and is aimed at responding to the ongoing dry conditions that we are facing in the Kaweah Subbasin.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was passed in 2014 and requires local subbasins to achieve groundwater sustainability by avoiding undesirable results by 2040. The MKGSA, in coordination with the other two Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) in the Kaweah Subbasin, had prepared and submitted Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) in 2020 for review and approval. The MKGSA anticipates receiving its assessment of the GSP in late 2021. In the 2020 GSP, the MKGSA described a process to spend the first five years filling data gaps, working on a groundwater allocation system, and developing projects and management actions to help growers manage their farming operations under a groundwater allocation system. 

Unfortunately, the back-to-back years of dry conditions and excessive groundwater pumping in the Kaweah Subbasin (including within Tulare ID) have caused groundwater conditions to worsen. As a result, depth to groundwater levels are continuing to increase at an alarming rate and continued pumping at the current rate significantly jeopardizes the ability of the MKGSA, including the District, to achieve groundwater sustainability by 2040. Without immediate cutbacks in groundwater pumping, the reality of being placed on probation by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) is a possibility. Being placed on probation will come with drastic restrictions in groundwater pumping and significant costs. 
To avoid continued declines in groundwater levels, the MKGSA is proposing an Emergency Policy called the MKGSA Groundwater Allocation and Pumping Cap (Pumping Cap). The Pumping Cap allocates out the Native Yield, a negotiated value identified in the 2020 GSP, to all users in the MKGSA. Currently the Native Yield is estimated to be approximately 0.83 acre-feet per acre.

Beyond the allocation of the Native Yield will be a Groundwater Pumping Cap (Cap). MKGSA Staff and consultants are currently evaluating a Cap, inclusive of the Native Yield, between 1.5 acre-fee per acre and 2.5 acre-feet per acre.  The groundwater pumping above the Native Yield but below the Cap is called Relief Pumping. Relief Pumping will be broken into two tiers, and it is anticipated that District growers will only be subject to a Service Fee that will cover the administration fees needed to track and report groundwater pumping. Growers not within the District and solely dependent on groundwater will pay a Service Fee, plus a fee for accessing the Relief Pumping (dollar values are not yet determined). See Figure 1 for a depiction of the Pumping Cap proposal.

Figure 1 – MKGSA Groundwater Allocation and Pumping Cap
Other notable details of the Pumping Cap include:

·      Flexibility will be provided for measurement. In coordination with the MKGSA, the District is tracking evapotranspiration via Land IQ and is developing a pumping model based on ET. Landowners will also be able to provide meter readings for more accurate tracking.

·      Landowners will have the flexibility to move water to other fields (limited distancing) and carry over water to future years.

·      The Proposal will be implemented over a growing season represented from October 1st to September 30th. The MKGSA Board is evaluating the need and ability to apply the Pumping Cap from October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022 (no determination has been made). 

·      MKGSA and District staff are working with consultants to provide a web-based system to monitor, track, and allow growers access to their groundwater and surface water accounts. 
Regarding the schedule for implementing this Emergency Policy / Pumping Cap, the MGKSA and District are working hard to provide a process that allows landowner input before adoption. The District will be hosting several workshops towards the middle to end of October. Growers will be presented with the specific details of the Pumping Cap, and feedback is welcomed. With the input gathered, the MKGSA will then draft an Emergency Policy, which will be presented to the MKGSA Board of Directors towards the end of 2021. Upon reviewing the Draft Emergency Policy and any final adjustments, it is hoped that it could be approved by early 2022 for implementation ahead of the 2022 growing season. 
The MGKSA and the District are aware that this is not a welcomed approach but more of a necessity. We anticipate that the development and implementation of the MKGSA Groundwater Allocation and Pumping Cap Proposal will not come without struggles and errors; however, we hope that keeping you updated and included in the process will minimize our difficulties.  
Grower meeting dates and times will be announced shortly.  

Founded in 1889, Tulare ID was one of the first irrigation districts in California. Its purpose is to serve the water supply needs of the greater Tulare area, a rich and agriculturally diverse region within the Southern San Joaquin Valley. The water provided comes locally from the Kaweah River and is also imported from the Federal Central Valley Project.

Tulare Irrigation District

6826 Ave 240

Tulare, CA 93274