by Valley Ag Voice Staff
As local water leaders struggle to address the challenges poised by the State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) a major step forward took place at the December meeting of the Kern Groundwater Authority.
Kern County sits in the Tulare Lake Basin of which we are part of the Kern County Sub Basin. A third of the sub basin boundary lies on the valley floor where intensive agriculture production is a way of life. Data suggests that of the 850,000 acres of agriculture land that is in production in the sub basin with roughly one third of this land being in permanent crops like trees and grapevines. Agriculture is so critical to our national, state and local economies that Kern is often the top or near the top of the agriculture producing counties in the entire United States. In recent crop reports, the industry is estimated to have an annual estimated value of over $7 billion dollars.
With the potential for such a critical impact to the economy at stake, water districts and the Kern Groundwater Authority have been working for months on the development of a Kern Groundwater Sustainability Plan. This is not easy task as it took multiple steps to get here.
The Groundwater Authority had to be formed, then cooperation agreements had to be adopted by multiple member agencies (water districts). The critical step that occurred at the December 18th meeting of the Kern Groundwater Authority was the adoption of each member entities management area plan into the Kern Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Overall, these plans will be used to make up the plan that ultimately will be submitted to the State.
The following entities plans were approved at the meeting:
Kern County Water Agency
Kern Water Bank Authority
Arvin-Edison Water Storage District
& Arvin Community Service District
Cawelo Water District
Eastside Water Management Area
Kern-Tulare Water District
North Kern Water District
& Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District
& City of Shafter
Rosedale Rio-Bravo Water Storage District
Semitropic Water Storage District
Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District
– 7th Standard Road Annexation Area
Southern San Joaquin Municipal Utility District
Tejon-Castaic Water District
West Kern Water District
Westside District Water Authority
Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District
As each water leader addressed during their plan presentation, it was clear that these plans are simply a first step in a long and complicated SGMA process.
In fact, earlier in the meeting other items highlighted the difficulty of adapting to the new State SGMA regulations. Brett Sill addressed the Kern Groundwater Authority Board saying the 7th Standard Annexation area should be considered part of Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District as they are in the process of being annexed into that area. However, it became clear that as the annexation moves forward it is not yet complete. The board gave direction to the staff of the Kern Groundwater Authority to bill and treat the 7th Standard Annexation Area as a separate member until the annexation is complete.
While the Kern Groundwater Authority is making major steps to comply with SGMA, the road will be a long one. Many issues will come up and the potential for internal conflict within the basin is possible. However, it was clear that there was a significant amount of unity to achieve and overall basin plan that works for everyone. Afterall, the alternative of State intervention is an outcome no one wants to see occur.