July 25, 2023 — In an effort to safeguard groundwater supplies for Central Valley communities, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that is providing nearly $17 million to three Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs). The funding comes from the LandFlex Program and is aimed at helping local farmers shift to sustainable groundwater use, thereby preserving drinking water for vulnerable groups.
The LandFlex initiative was launched earlier this year, distributing a total of $25 million in grants to GSAs. The goal of the program is to work with farmers interested in temporarily suspending agricultural activities on certain lands. This pause would directly benefit vulnerable communities by protecting their well water supply and helping to stop over pumping of groundwater. Some funds from the first phase of grants were not used, which paved the way for a second round of funding.
Making Use of Rainfall for Groundwater Recharge.
With substantial rainfall this year, farmers involved in the LandFlex Program are being given an alternative to planting their usual crops. They can now use their lands to recharge groundwater, which could further conserve this precious resource.
The LandFlex Program encourages small and medium-sized farms to participate by reducing their water pumping activities. This reduction could help prevent household and small community wells from drying up. To ensure the program is primarily utilized by smaller farms, there’s an income cap of $2.5 million annually for eligible participants.
Strengthening Resilience Amid Climate Change.
“As we prepare for a hotter, drier future due to climate change, programs like LandFlex are pivotal in helping smaller farms and vulnerable communities dependent on groundwater become more resilient,” commented DWR Director Karla Nemeth.
The second phase of funding was distributed as follows:
- Lower Tule River Irrigation District Groundwater Sustainability Agency received $7.7 million,
- Pixley Irrigation District Groundwater Sustainability Agency got $5 million, and
- Westside Water District Groundwater Sustainability Agency was given $4 million.
The LandFlex Program requires farmers to pause agricultural activities for a year and halt any unsustainable overdraft pumping permanently on the involved lands. This aligns with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), introduced in 2014, which strives to protect long-term groundwater supplies.
DWR is collaborating with the Department of Food and Agriculture and other partners, including non-governmental organizations and those in the agricultural industry, to promote the benefits of the LandFlex Program.
California Department of Water Resources’ press release: “California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in partnership with California Department of Water Resources (DWR), begins to plow, fertilize, and spread seeds in the Oroville Wildlife Area (OWA) along the Feather River and Thermalito Afterbay in Oroville, California. Photo taken April 1, 2021.”