Leonicio Ramirez and Tania Ramirez
From left, homeowners Leonicio Ramirez and his daughter Tania Ramirez are the first residents to receive water through a water distribution system in East Porterville, California on August 19, 2016. (Photo: DWR)

Press Release by the California Department of Water Resources

In drought-stricken communities, drinking water wells are going dry because groundwater is being pumped faster than it can be replenished. To further protect clean drinking water, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) in coordination with the Department of Food and Agriculture has developed the LandFlex Program to support groundwater sustainability agencies and local growers to limit unsustainable groundwater pumping effecting drinking water wells.

The program aims to free up water in the event of a fourth consecutive dry year, accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), and prevent drinking water supply problems in 2023. Enacted by the state in 2014, SGMA addresses the issues of over-pumping and provides a framework for local agencies to better manage and protect groundwater supplies for long-term sustainability.

The $25 million grant program would award funds to local groundwater sustainability agencies to pay growers to immediately idle land as a one-year drought-relief measure. The proposed program would target operators of small- and medium-size farms in areas where agricultural pumping reductions would help keep household and small community water system wells from going dry.

As of November 2022, 1,394 dry wells have been reported statewide, a nearly 40% increase over the same period last year. For comparison, fewer than 100 dry wells were reported annually in 2018, 2019, and 2020.

In order to reach vulnerable communities in need and provide small or disadvantaged farmers access to the program, DWR is working directly with partners in non-governmental organizations and the agriculture industry to spread the word about this program. Partners include the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Self-Help Enterprises, Western United Dairies Foundation, and the Almond Alliance.

Before LandFlex is officially launched, a public comment period on the draft guidelines will begin on Friday, December 9 and close on Thursday, December 29. Public comments may be submitted via email: SGWP@Water.CA.gov.

For those interested in applying for a LandFlex grant, DWR will host an Applicant Workshop on Thursday, January 19, 2023. To register for the workshop and learn more about the LandFlex program and how to apply, please visit Water.CA.gov/LandFlex.

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