Since 1951, KRCD has been involved in water resource management. One of the most critical services is flood control, which has been a District management activity since 1959. KRCD also works to achieve a sustainable and high-quality water supply. KRCD promotes efficient water use, collects valuable public data on groundwater conditions and subsidence, and supports the implementation of programs to improve groundwater quantity and quality.
Groundwater remains the foundation for agriculture, business and life in the Kings River service area. Almost all water used for domestic, municipal and industrial purposes and portions of agricultural water is pumped from the underground basin. It is important to continue to reduce and eventually reverse groundwater overdraft. The strategies to do this are best developed and implemented regionally by local water agencies and municipalities due to the variability of groundwater conditions throughout the State. KRCD together with local irrigation districts and municipalities have taken on the responsibility and leadership to do just that for the Kings groundwater subbasins.
In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 (SGMA). SGMA requires governments and water agencies of high and medium-priority basins to halt groundwater overdrafts and bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge without causing significant and unreasonable undesirable results related to the six sustainability indicators. Under SGMA, these basins should reach sustainability within 20 years of implementing their sustainability plans.
Within KRCD’s boundaries, there are 12 Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), seven in the Kings Subbasin and five in the Tulare Lake Subbasin, that were created as a result of SGMA and share the goal of achieving sustainability in the basin by 2040. KRCD has worked closely with these GSAs over the years in multiple ways. Some services KRCD has provided include consulting, staffing, grant writing, and research. KRCD staff has helped local GSAs with financial planning, outreach, GSP (Groundwater Sustainability Plan) writing, applying for state funding, annual land subsidence surveys, and research on potential groundwater recharge basins.
As water supplies become less abundant, much concern has focused on groundwater and surface water quality. As a part of its continuing environmental activities, KRCD, in the mid-1970s, began monitoring the water quality at several sites along the Kings River. KRCD staff collects and reports this data annually to the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Various pollutants can be found in runoff from irrigated lands, like pesticides, fertilizers, salts, pathogens, and sediment. At high enough concentrations, these pollutants can harm aquatic life or make the water unusable for drinking water or agricultural uses. The Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) was initiated in 2003 to prevent agricultural runoff from impairing surface waters. In 2012, the ILRP included groundwater regulations into the program.
The Kings River Water Quality Coalition (KRWQC) was formed in 2009 to help growers within the region comply with the Central Valley Regional Water Control Board regulations. Staffed by KRCD, KRWQC conducts regional monitoring and reporting and assists members in compliance with the regulations.
Over the last 150 years, increased agricultural, industrial, and municipal activities, coupled with population growth, have resulted in dramatic increases in nitrate in groundwater in the Central Valley. Many residential well water users in the Central Valley rely on groundwater for drinking water, and some of them experience unsafe levels of nitrate.
In 2006, the Central Valley Water Board (CVWB) initiated the Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long-Term Sustainability (CV-SALTS) as a cooperative effort among regulators, permittees, environmental interests, and other parties interested in Central Valley water quality. Nitrate is a constituent contaminating wells that causes negative human health impacts. In 2019, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted the Nitrate Control Program requiring short- and long-term solutions for this contaminant. The Nitrate Control Program prioritizes providing safe, free drinking water for residents relying on well water with unsafe levels of nitrate. The overarching management goals of the Nitrate Control Program are:
- Ensure safe drinking water supply
- Reduce salt and nitrate loading so that ongoing discharges neither threaten to degrade high-quality waters absent appropriate findings by the CVWB nor cause or contribute to exceedances of water quality objectives
- Implement long-term, managed restoration of impaired water bodies
Representatives from local growers, dairies, and other permitted dischargers in the Kings and Tulare Lake Subbasins formed the Kings Water Alliance (KWA) to address the growing need to solve the nitrate problem in groundwater. In August 2020, the Kings Water Alliance became a non-profit public benefit corporation. Then, starting at the end of spring 2021, the KWA begins offering free well tests to private well owners. For residents with test results showing unsafe levels of nitrates in their drinking water, KWA staff offer free, safe bottled water deliveries to their homes.
In 2009, several local agencies and organizations formed the Kings Basin Water Authority (KBWA), a coalition of water agencies, cities, counties, and environmental interests in the Kings River Basin to deal with the most pressing local water issues. The KRCD, along with 16 other official members and 37 interest groups in the region, make up the KBWA.
Since the early 2000s, the KBWA has received over $55 million in state financial support for use toward planning activities and construct projects that address groundwater, water conservation, efficiency, water quality, riparian habitat, flood corridors, and disadvantaged communities.