Kings County Growers Could Face Millions in Fines After State’s Crackdown on Groundwater Pumping

The State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously Tuesday to crack down on groundwater overpumping in the San Joaquin Valley. The unprecedented move could mean millions of dollars in fines for Kings County farmers. Growers will also be required to report groundwater pumping.

This is the first time California has levied penalties under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The law requires groundwater agencies to draft plans for groundwater management that prevent overuse. 

California warned local water agencies six months ago that they could be placed on probation if they failed to comply. If a plan isn’t implemented within a year, the state could take over the Tulare Lake basin. 

Small farmers told the board that the new fees could destroy their livelihoods.

“The state’s pumping fees of $20 per acre foot alone could reach almost $10 million a year in Kings County,” according to CalMatters, “and the state also can levy an annual fee of $300 per well, and heavy water users may have to install meters on their wells.”

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