Current News

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

What's Going On in Tulare County?

New laws enacted January 1, 2015

In September 2014, Governor Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) commonly referred to as "Sig-Ma". Official implementation of the law began January 1, 2015 and everyone who extracts more than two acre feet of water from underground aquifers, specifically in the 127 overdrafted basins here in California are subject to the new law.

If you extract groundwater, this law impacts your future extractions.

SGMA was passed to ensure successful management of California's groundwater resources at the local level. It requires local public agencies, or a combination of local agencies, overlying high priority groundwater basins to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to manage groundwater usage in the basin. The state expects these GSAs to achieve successful management through Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) over the course of the next 20 years.

The GSAs will have the authority to manage and regulate extractions, and will have fee authority to tax or assess landowners for the financial needs to develop hydrologic data and management plans, as well as monitor, enforce, and regulate extractions over the next 20 year planning horizon.

Groundwater basins, their boundaries, and the level of priority were set by the State Department of Water Resources (DWR) and approved by the CA Water Commission. There are three sub-basins under the greater Tulare Lake Basin within Tulare County, these include: Kings sub basin (eastern portion); Kaweah sub basin; and Tule sub basin.    

The process to implement SGMA has begun and it is expected to take years to complete. The first step is establishing the local GSAs to oversee the management of groundwater in the area. Local GSAs are expected to be formed and file paperwork to CA Department of Water Resources by June of 2017. Following formation the GSA is to collect data and hydrogeological information about the groundwater make up in their basin and begin development of their GSP to be submitted to the state by the year 2020 for designated high priority areas. 

It's important to note that SGMA is not just affecting agriculture, but also our local cities and towns who extract groundwater. Everyone who extracts more than 2 ac./ft. per year.

If a local GSA is not formed by the June 2017 deadline or any area within a groundwater basin is not covered under a GSA, then the State Water Resources Control Board will serve as the authoritative agency to implement SGMA in that basin. Local efforts are in place to make sure Tulare County groundwater basins do not come under state control.

More info follows on the specific GSA planning efforts underway:

Kings Sub Basin

Currently there are roughly 5-6 potential GSAs in the formation process for the greater Kings Basin which encompasses most of Fresno County. However the eastern portion of the basin falls within Tulare County, specifically in the Alta Irrigation District service area and northern portion of Tulare County.

The Kings River East GSA involves all of the service territory for Alta Irrigation District, and lands east of the Kings River.  For more information on these efforts and how to get involved, contact Chad Wegley at Alta Irrigation District by calling 591-0800.    

An Ag Board Position will be selected in January 2017, to apply, contact Farm Bureau or.   Download application here.

 GSAs forming in the Kings Subbasin:  visit

  • East Kings River GSA (Alta Irrigation District)
  • Consolidated ID GSA
  • James ID GSA
  • North Kings Subbasin MOU
  • Upper Tulare Lake Subbasin MOU
  • West Kings Subbasin MOU

    Kaweah Sub Basin

    There is one GSA that has formed within the Kaweah sub basin, the Mid-Kaweah. This agency was created between the City of Visalia, City of Tulare and the Tulare Irrigation District through a Joint Powers Agreement in 2015. They have started holding meetings on a monthly basis and are working to get support from consulting agencies in collecting groundwater data. For more information contact the Tulare Irrigation District at 686-3425, or City of Visalia, or City of Tulare.

    For the remaining portions of the Kaweah sub basin, the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District is working on an MOU with the county to form a GSA that would cover other areas of the Kaweah sub basin not covered within the East side GSA or Mid-Kaweah GSA. The intent is to create an open MOU with the ability for more parties to join at a later date. For more information on this process or if you fall within this potential GSA, contact Mark Larsen at KDWCD at 747- 5601.

    An East Kaweah GSA is being formed in the eastern portion of the Kaweah Sub basin.  Lindmore ID, Lindsay-Strathmore ID, Exeter ID, Ivanhoe ID, areas near Woodlake are all in discussions about how to create a GSA on the east side.  For more information, contact any of the cities or irrigation districts listed here for more details or contact Mike Hagman, Lindmore Irrigation at 562-2534.

    GSAs forming in the Kaweah Subbasin:

    • Mid Kaweah GSA:  Cities of Visalia, Tulare, and Tulare Irrigation District
    • Greater Kaweah GSA: County of Tulare, Kaweah Delta Water Conservation Dist.,
    • East Side Kaweah GSA:  agencies TBD

    Tule Sub Basin

    Stakeholder groups within the Tule sub basin have met with discussions that multiple GSAs, spearheaded by irrigation districts will be created within the basin. These will in turn create individual GSPs that will operate under a cooperative agreement. Local irrigation districts within the Tule sub basin are currently in the decision making process of determining who will be forming a GSA to serve its water users and work under a basin wide MOU. For more information on developments in the Tule basin contact Tule River Water Master Dick Schafer at 734-1348 or 4Creeks Engineering at 781-0102.

    GSAs forming in the Tule Subbasin:
    • TriCounties Water Authority GSA
    • East Tule Basin Joint Powers Authority (City of Porterville and east side agencies)
    • Delano Earlimart GSA
    • Alpaugh and Atwell Island GSA
    • Pixley GSA
    • Lower Tule River GSA

    White Areas not covered by a Public Agency  

    There are areas within the county that currently do not fall under a public water or land use agency's jurisdiction, however they fall within the designation of a SGMA groundwater sub basin.  These areas are subject to oversight by the County. Tulare County Board of Supervisors is committed to participating in local GSAs to make certain that white area landowners are covered in SGMA planning. For information about the white areas, you may call Denise England, Tulare County Deputy CAO at 636-5000.     

    Farm Bureau has been actively monitoring the progress and involved in local efforts on SGMA implementation. We will continue to be at the table and in meetings voicing the concerns of our members as various rules and regulations associated with SGMA begin to roll out over the next year. 

    We urge you to stay involved during this process through SGMA updates in TCFB NEWS, attend stakeholder meetings in your designated groundwater sub basin, contact your irrigation district about their involvement in SGMA, attend Farm Bureau water committee meetings, or simply call Farm Bureau at 732-8301 for questions and more information.   


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    Updated August 30, 2016