In drought-stricken communities, drinking water wells are going dry because groundwater is being pumped faster than it can be replenished. To further protect clean drinking water, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), in coordination with the Department of Food and Agriculture, has developed the LandFlex programme to support groundwater sustainability agencies and local growers to limit unsustainable groundwater pumping affecting drinking water wells.
The programme aims to free up water in the event of a fourth consecutive dry year, accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), and prevent drinking water supply problems in 2023.
Enacted by the state in 2014, SGMA addresses the issues of over-pumping and provides a framework for local agencies to better manage and protect groundwater supplies for long-term sustainability.
The US$25m grant programme will award funds to local groundwater sustainability agencies to pay growers to immediately idle land as a one-year drought-relief measure. The proposed programme will target operators of small- and medium-size farms in areas where agricultural pumping reductions would help keep household and small community water system wells from going dry.
As of November 2022, 1,394 dry wells have been reported state-wide, a nearly 40% increase over the same period last year. For comparison, fewer than 100 dry wells were reported annually in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
To reach vulnerable communities in need and provide small or disadvantaged farmers access to the programme, DWR is working directly with partners in non-governmental organisations and the agriculture industry to spread the word about this programme. Partners include the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Self-Help Enterprises, Western United Dairies Foundation, and the Almond Alliance.
Before LandFlex is officially launched, a public comment period on the draft guidelines will commence from 9-29 Dec 2022. Public comments may be submitted via email.