Who Decides What is Sustainable Pumping?
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Local groundwater sustainability agencies, also known as GSAs are quickly being developed to draw out specific plans on how to prevent groundwater overdraft in the areas of the state, particularly in the central San Joaquin Valley. It’s all part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) that could forever change the face of agriculture, as we know it today.
Keith Freitas farms lemons on the east side of Fresno County, and he knows of many farmers that are getting together to fight SGMA.
“They’re going to take it to the courts and the judicial. They’ll be filing injunctive orders,” Freitas said. “You’ve got perishable crops you’re dealing with, so the injunctions can come really quick, they can last for long time, and for many years. There’s a possibility the way this thing is structured legally, if we put a legal defense program together and a plan, the plan could push this thing out another 10, 15, 20 years.
And sustainable pumping is the linchpin of SGMA.
The local GSAs are formed to make your basin sustainable, and the state says the GSAs in control.
“Well, how could we be in control of our own sustainability if the states laying the ground rules and setting the criteria for what’s sustainable, and what’s not?” Freitas said.
So, if the Central Valley GSAs, for example say that they believe pumping water down to the 2600 foot level underground is sustainable, “Then suddenly the state’s going to say: ‘well, no, that’s not even close.’”
“You draft the aquifer down to a thousand feet, all the buttons and bells and whistles go off, and you’re no longer sustainable,” Freitas said. “Well, wait a minute. What happened to that we choose what’s sustainable?”