Kings County Sues California Over Groundwater Monitoring

The Kings County Farm Bureau and two landowners filed a lawsuit against the state last week following a crackdown on groundwater overpumping by the State Water Resources Control Board.

SWRCB placed the Tulare Lake Subbasin on probationary status last month. It was the first time this had happened under the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

SGMA requires groundwater sustainability agencies to draft plans for groundwater management that prevent overuse. Plans submitted by the agencies in the Tulare Lake Subbasin were deemed inadequate by the state, however. 

After probationary status was declared in April, state officials were put in charge of monitoring the amount of groundwater pumping in the region. Growers were ordered to begin reporting pumping activities to the state, with Kings County farmers at risk of millions in fines.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs accuse the state of overreach.

“The State Water Board’s takeover of the Tulare Lake Subbasin is not just the next phase of groundwater management, but rather a foundational and devastating shift from local groundwater management to state control over every well owner in the subbasin,” the lawsuit reads.

Furthermore, the plaintiffs say the probationary status declaration is “arbitrary, capricious and not supported by evidence.” They note that state law gives subbasins until 2040 to achieve sustainability. Instead, “the SWRCB has arbitrarily accelerated that deadline to 2024.”

Read more about the lawsuit at the San Joaquin Valley Sun