Dry well program in Chowchilla has “fallen short” of applicants

March 13, 2024
Jesse Vad, SJV Water
by Jesse Vad, SJV Water
Jesse Vad, SJV Water
Jesse Vad, SJV Water


Chowchilla subbasin should call 559-665-4767 if they are experiencing problems with their wells.

To see if you live in the Chowchilla subbasin, enter your address in the search bar of this  groundwater sustainability mapping website.  Be patient, it’s a slow loader.

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A program to help residents with dry wells in the Chowchilla subbasin, which covers the northwestern toe of Madera County, has only spent about a tenth of its budget so far.

That’s partly because the valley had an exceptionally wet year in 2023, so fewer domestic wells went dry. 

And it’s partly because the program just hasn’t made it on the public’s radar, according to Brandon Tomlinson, General Manager of Chowchilla Water District, which administers the program on behalf of subbasin.

“We fell way short,” said Tomlinson. “And then there’s also the concern that maybe we’re not reaching our target audience.” 

To that end, staff is working on building a website and mailing out fliers, he added. 

The Chowchilla subbasin is in the northwestern toe of Madera County, outlined in green.

Since January 2023, the program has only been tapped to fix two wells with two more “on the horizon”, said Bobby Dibler, domestic well mitigation program coordinator. 

Total spent, including the two wells “on the horizon,” is $120,000 of the overall $1 million available, Tomlinson said.

Initially there wasn’t any money in the Chowchilla subbasin for such programs.

That’s because farmers in the area successfully protested a groundwater extraction fee proposed by Madera County. 

That fee would have covered infrastructure for groundwater recharge, land repurposing programs and water purchases in addition to repairing domestic wells, wrote Stephanie Anagnoson, Director and Natural Resources for Madera County, in an email. 

The work being done under the Chowchilla subbasin well program “…is a small fraction of the total work that needs to be done,” Anagnoson wrote.

The $1 million for Chowchilla’s well program is being paid by area farmers.

Well protection programs are an outgrowth of compliance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which mandates, among other things, that agricultural pumping can’t chronically lower water levels, which is liable to harm to other users such as domestic wells. 

There are four groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) that cover the Chowchilla subbasin, including the Merced County GSA, Madera County GSA, Triangle T Water District GSA and the Chowchilla Water District GSA. The Chowchilla Water District is the largest of the four.

Jesse Vad, SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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