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Tulare Lake Subbasin Not Compliant with SGMA According to State

In early 2022, the Department of Water Resources completed its evaluation of the Tulare Lake Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) and determined that it was Incomplete and that the five Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) were required to address deficiencies identified by DWR. The deficiencies centered around the Sustainable Management Criteria for degraded water quality, land subsidence, and the chronic lowering of groundwater levels. In response to this determination, the Tulare Lake Subbasin GSAs submitted a revised Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) to DWR in July of this year.

Four of the five GSAs including South Fork Kings, Mid-Kings River, El Rico, and Tri-County Water Authority adopted the same submitted revised GSP; however, the Southwest Kings GSA adopted a revised GSP with the following additional language:

 “Surface Storage of Groundwater – To the extent allowable by law, the GSAs will work with local and state regulatory agencies to prevent the inefficient storage of groundwater in shallow basins. This practice results in a significant loss of the pumped groundwater to evaporation. Avoiding these losses to evaporation would help in reducing groundwater pumping from the deep aquifer and lessen subsidence.”

Because the Southwest Kings GSA approval of the GSP is subject to additional language not found in the version adopted by the other four GSAs, DWR determined that the Southwest Kings GSA adopted a different GSP. As a result, the Tulare Lake Subbasin is no longer managed by multiple GSAs through a single GSP, but by multiple GSPs implemented by multiple GSAs. Consequently, a coordination agreement is required between the two GSPs.

The DWR reached out for a consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board as part of the intervention process for non-compliant GSPs. The State Water Board requested that DWR continue to review the revised GSPs for the Tulare Lake Subbasin to determine whether the technical deficiencies in the originally submitted GSP have been addressed. The State Water Board anticipates that it will wait to exercise its SGMA intervention authorities with respect to the Tulare Lake Subbasin until DWR completes its full technical review of the GSPs, which is currently scheduled for completion in early 2023. In the meantime, DWR asked that the South Fork Kings and the other GSAs in the Tulare Lake Subbasin continue with implementation of their GSPs.

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