California Moves Closer to Cracking Down on Farmers Overusing Groundwater

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California has put a water-stressed farming region on notice for having "inadequate" plans to curb its overuse of groundwater.

This is the first time that the state has considered directly intervening in the way that farmers manage their underground water supplies.

The decision to step in signals a willingness to take farmers to task for not doing enough to protect their aquifers.

Regulators will first hold a public hearing on the region, the Tulare Lake sub-basin of the San Joaquin Valley.

Officials will need to tread carefully, as water restrictions could lead to farmers fallowing their land, which could become sources of dust and worsen the region's already poor air quality.

Central Valley farmers are pumping up lots of water, more than almost anywhere else in the country.

What do you think can be the reason?

Farmers in California's Central Valley grow a big share of America's fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

This is because...

Groundwater is effectively a nonrenewable resource, and in some parts of California, so much groundwater has been pumped out that the land has sunk irreversibly by a foot or more in a year.

California didn't regulate groundwater at all until 2014, when a package of laws committed the state to ending overuse in the most depleted areas by 2040.

The laws, known collectively as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, task local authorities with drawing up plans for their particular groundwater basin.

Sustainability plans for the first 20 basins were submitted in 2020.

Want to read more on groundwater crisis in California, and US? Below is one of the stories.

The state's Department of Water Resources reviewed them and said in early 2022 that 12 basins had incomplete plans. It then asked for revisions.

California is taking steps to address the state's overexploitation of groundwater, but it is unclear when or how effective these measures will be.

We hope that the state will take the necessary steps to ensure that California's groundwater resources are managed sustainably in the future.