Grant to pay for long-term solution ideas to fix recurring water problems in rural Tulare County communities

March 19, 2024
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
by Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Teviston residents have had repeated problems with their town's drinking water system. Courtesy / Fresno Bee
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water

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Heads up to creative consultants interested in finding long-term solutions to stubborn drinking water problems in small, rural communities such as Teviston and Allensworth: Tulare County has a grant for you.

Tulare County is offering a $371,000 contract for a consultant or consultants to use in finding long-term fixes to wells that routinely dry up during drought or have excessive amounts of arsenic, nitrates or other contaminants.

Dubbed the Water Security Project, the concept is to identify projects that will finally give residents of these rural communities reliable drinking water. 

The funds come from a portion of a Department of Water Resources grant awarded to the entire Tule subbasin, which covers the southern half of Tulare County’s valley portion. An agreement between lead agency Lower Tule River Irrigation District and the county was recently approved during a meeting of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors.

Denise England, Tulare County Grants and Resources manager, said the requests for proposal are at least a month from going out to the public. When they are published, they will be posted to this website: Once a contractor is identified, work should begin in the summer months. 

“Basically, the project is to identify needs, challenges and solutions for communities in the Tule subbasin,” she said. 

Pairing with Tulare County for help was a logical choice, said Eric Limas, General Manager of the Lower Tule River Irrigation District. 

“The county is probably best suited to identify the long term needs of the communities, and once this planning project is done and long-term solutions identified, the county will be a great partner for project advocacy and funding for implementation,” he said. 

Finding such solutions is important because groundwater sustainability agencies, such as the six that make up the Tule subbasin must protect water for communities while implementing their groundwater sustainability plans, a requirement of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). 

“The long-term reliability of water supplies for communities is paramount to the success of our (groundwater plans) and sustainability of groundwater supplies in our subbasin,” said Limas, who also heads the Pixley Irrigation District and Teapot Dome Water District.

The subbasin was identified several years ago as critically overdrafted by the Department of Water Resources, and after its groundwater plan was deemed inadequate twice, now faces a probationary hearing in September before the state Water Resources Control Board, the enforcement arm of SGMA. 

DWR awarded the $7.6 million Sustainable Groundwater Management implementation grant to the Tule subbasin in 2022. The grant program provides funds to groundwater sustainability agencies to promote healthy aquifers and projects that improve groundwater supply and quality.

Across the Tule subbasin, other projects funded through the DWR grant include construction of recharge basins in Delano-Earlimart, Pixley and Lower Tule irrigation districts, among other projects.

Lisa McEwen, 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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