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Latest Annual Report illustrates the drought’s diminishing impact on groundwater supply, but Kings Subbasin stays optimistic and builds for the future

The latest Annual Report submitted to the State indicates an estimated 890,000 acre-feet of groundwater storage reduction occurred in the Kings Subbasin as groundwater pumping increased to meet demand amid a limited surface water supply in water year 2021 (Oct 2020 – Sept 2021). As we enter another dry year with further storage loss expected, the Kings Subbasin’s seven GSAs are staying optimistic and playing the long game for sustainability by developing necessary infrastructure now, putting $12.4 million of grant funding to use to do so.

Groundwater subbasins implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) are required to submit an Annual Report to the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) annually, and this year’s report sheds light on the extent to which drought impacted groundwater supply in the region.

Surface water supply was limited to only 335,000 acre-feet for the 2021 water year, well below the 1.1 million acre-foot average, putting pressure on groundwater to fill the gap. Most of the surface water in the subbasin is provided by the Kings River – which had its third driest year on record – with diversions at 23% of normal, just 3% higher than record-breaking 2015 drought conditions.

Water Year Type 2015 – 2021
Kings Subbasin Annual Report Figure 2-1

Dry conditions persist for the region this year, with Kings River April-July 2022 runoff forecasted to land around 41 percent of average (DWR Bulletin 120). The Kings Subbasin GSAs are using the dry times strategically by developing and improving water infrastructure so when wet years return, there will be a higher capacity to store water underground.

Since January 2020, the Kings Subbasin has invested in 620 acres of groundwater recharge land representing 15 dedicated basins that have been constructed or are under development. The new infrastructure positions the Subbasin to capture and recharge an additional ~16,000 acre-feet of surface water flows when the water cycle favors wet conditions again.

View interactive StoryMap here.

The Kings Subbasin plans to put to use two rounds of grant funding totaling $12.4 million from the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) Prop 68 SGMA Implementation Grant Program specifically targeted for groundwater recharge project development. The latest $7.6 million grant award will help fund four groundwater sustainability projects located in the Central Kings, James, North Fork Kings, and North Kings GSAs.

Grant funding goes a long way in bridging the gap between plans and action, and the Kings Subbasin will continue to pursue grant funding that offsets local costs of sustainable groundwater management.

Despite challenging water supply conditions, the Kings Subbasin’s seven Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) remain optimistic about coordinating the subbasin-wide sustainability by 2040.

Kings Subbasin Builds for Drought Resilience at Record Pace

It’s feast or famine, and the idea is that when you have feast you mitigate famine.” – Frank Zonneveld, North Fork Kings GSA, Laguna Irrigation District

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires GSAs to submit annual reports to DWR on April 1 of every year. The report includes an overview of groundwater conditions, surface water supply, water use, and progress updates on implementing Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). The Kings Subbasin’s seven GSAs submit a single report, although each GSA has its own GSP with an accompanying Coordination Agreement.

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