Author: Cristel Tufenkjian

Water and Money…and the MAGSA Water Budget

As anyone who pays for groceries, rent, equipment, labor, utilities, etc. knows, it is much more effective to work with a budget so that the expenses can be planned for and “covered” as appropriate when the piper calls. The income side needs to be accounted for in advance of the payments side to avoid writing rubber checks and paying “overdraft charges” or, ultimately, getting services reduced or cut off.

Groundwater management is set up in much the same manner (interesting that the water world refers to extraction greater than what is supportable as “overdraft”).  Each basin/Subbasin/GSA (Groundwater Sustainability Agency) area must assess the amounts and types of water coming into the area before the determination can be made as to what can support what is expected to be needed to cover the extractions.  As in either equation, expenses (or extractions) in excess of income (water inflow or import) will result in the “accounts” being in the red or in “overdraft.” 

In recognition of these parallels, the SGMA legislation requires the GSA to do the math on an annual basis to check the status of the “checkbook” balance as far as water is concerned.  What we are all seeking, of course, is the checkbook being balanced, thereby avoiding the negative impacts of miscalculation.  Unfortunately, groundwater is considerably more difficult to account for, so one of the continuous and continuing efforts which the GSA will be pursuing is the better understanding of our account balances so we can achieve real, verifiable balance at the earliest possible time.

At the last GSP (Groundwater Sustainability Plan) update, Lynn Groundwater from Provost and Pritchard walked the group through the range of somewhat limited knowledge currently available to us.  One method of analysis, using groundwater contour maps, shows our negative balance to be 18,000 acre-feet.  Another method, using ET (evapotranspiration) estimates and crop patterns, shows a deficit of 79,000 acre-feet.  The difference, or “gap” will need to be narrowed over the next twenty years as we gather additional measurements and other data necessary to clarify the actual “overdraft.”

In the meantime, MAGSA intends to focus its efforts heavily on the possibilities for additional supply side (income) to better offset the anticipated deficits currently anticipated.  We will look for additional water to offset the demands before having to cut back on the pumping (check writing).  Balance is, and shall continue to be, the goal.  We will do what any business person does, continue to adjust the income and expense (inflow and outflow) to ultimately achieve that balance!

Matt Hurley Will Lead McMullin Area GSA

At the January 10 Board Meeting, the McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) Board announced the appointment of Matt Hurley as MAGSA’s general manager. Hurley will lead MAGSA in the development, adoption, and implementation of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the sustainable management of groundwater within the MAGSA service area.

As CEO of Water Management Professionals, Inc, Hurley has extensive SGMA knowledge and background having been heavily involved at the State and local levels with the development of the regulations and implementation of SGMA. He served on the Department of Water Resources SGMA Practitioner’s Advisory Panel and the Association of California Water Agencies SGMA Task Force. “I am grateful to the Board for putting their trust in me as the new general manager of MAGSA. I will bring all the energy and expertise I have to implement SGMA for the best possible outcome for the landowners and communities served by MAGSA,” stated Hurley.

As a licensed attorney, Hurley is fully versed in water law, especially groundwater, in the State of California along with having broad experience in water resource and special district management. In addition to his role as General Manager of Angiola Water District, Deer Creek Storm Water District, and Green Valley Water District for the last ten years, Hurley organized and managed the Tri-County Water Authority GSA in the Tulare Lake Subbasin since 2016. He also served as Board Chair for several local water agencies including the Fresno Slough Water District, Atwell Island Water District, and the Tri-County Water Authority GSA. “Groundwater availability is essential for businesses, farms, and residents to thrive in the McMullin Area. Hurley has the experience and knowledge to navigate MAGSA through the challenges of implementing the State’s new groundwater regulations while minimizing the impacts to our local economy,” stated MAGSA Board Chair Don Cameron.

As a newly formed agency, MAGSA is responsible for developing and implementing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that will describe localized groundwater issues and identify appropriate solutions. The focus of the MAGSA Board is on local needs, local solutions, and local success. 

Water Quality Sustainable Criteria Considered for MAGSA GSP

At the December 5 Board meeting, MAGSA technical consultant Owen Kubit, Water Resources Engineer at Provost & Pritchard, discussed water quality as it relates to SGMA and implementation within the McMullin Area. Water Quality is one of the six Sustainability Indicators. This indicator is concerned with the degradation of water quality. 

Sustainability according to the Sustainable Management Criteria is achieved by avoiding “significant and unreasonable” results across the Sustainability Indicators. The following metrics set by MAGSA and approved by DWR serve as the measuring stick of sustainability across the Sustainability Indicators: 

Minimum Threshold – the lowest result allowed in the worst-case scenario. 

Undesirable Result – a result defined by MAGSA and approved by DWR. An undesirable result occurs when conditions related to the sustainability indicator becomes significant and unreasonable. 

Measurable Objective – average maintained result over the long-term. Must be met by 2040. Each GSA will set its own results and objectives across the Sustainability Indicators using the methodology coordinated among the seven GSA’s in the Kings Subbasin.

  Water quality Sustainable Management Criteria in the McMullin Area include four classifications: municipal wells, agricultural wells, contaminant plumes, and rural residential wells. The proposal by MAGSA’s technical consultant is to collect data for five years and set the criteria in 2025 due to the lack of existing groundwater quality data. The Sustainable management criteria can be updated in the 5-year updates of the plan.  

As the MAGSA Board considers the best method for complying with SGMA’s water quality requirements, the objective is to have a cooperative approach to inform MAGSA’s management decisions to prevent degraded water quality, without unduly repeating regional monitoring efforts.

McMullin Receives $214,000 Grant Funding

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) was part of a successful grant application that will bring $1.5 million into the Kings Subbasin for the development of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP). The McMullin Area GSA will receive $214,000 as their share of the grant award. The money will be used to offset some of the costs for the preparation of the McMullin Area GSP.

The grant was funded by Proposition 1 and awarded on a competitive basis. The full list of grant applications submitted is available on the Sustainable Groundwater Planning Grant Program webpage.The Department of Water Resources announced its recommended awards for grants on February 6 for groundwater sustainability projects that directly benefit severely disadvantaged communities and for local agency development of Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). DWR received 78 grant applications and is recommending that all receive awards, pending public comments and review of those comments.

 

Land Subsidence Reviewed for McMullin Area

Land subsidence is one of the six sustainability indicators that must be managed without causing undesirable results in a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Technical Consultant Lynn Groundwater from Provost & Pritchard reviewed maps at the Ad Hoc Technical Committee meeting showing historic and current information on subsidence in the McMullin Area GSA territory.

Land subsidence occurs generally where the Corcoran Clay underlies the Valley, but recently land subsidence has been documented in some areas not underlain by the Corcoran clay.  The map below (click on map to enlarge) shows land subsidence from 1926 to 1970. This historical map shows subsidence as one foot in the middle of the McMullin territory and 4 feet in the upper left of McMullin’s boundary.

A more recent map from NASA shows the amount of land subsidence from May 2015 to May 2016 (click on map to enlarge). The green areas represent less subsidence. The yellow to orange areas are higher. The coloring within the McMullin Area indicates that subsidence varies across the territory. On the eastside of McMullin there has been minimal subsidence with it increasing as you go west. Overall there was less than 5 inches of subsidence from May 2015 to May 2016 in the McMullin Area GSA.

Ad Hoc Technical Advisory Committee Meeting Highlights

At the McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s Ad Hoc Technical Advisory Committee held on December 6, the participants heard a report from McMullin’s technical consultants, Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group (P&P). P&P provided an update on the development of the hydrogeologic conceptual model and the groundwater conditions and monitoring chapters of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

The GSP requires the identification of groundwater quality issues that may affect the supply and beneficial uses of groundwater, including a description and map of the location of known groundwater contamination sites and plumes. Water quality is one of the six undesirable results that must be addressed in the GSP. P&P staff members highlighted some of the groundwater quality issues that may be considered in the GSP, like the Raisin City oil fields.

Work is also being done on estimating the annual change in groundwater storage for the McMullin area over a 15-year period. The minimum threshold for reduction of groundwater storage shall be a total volume of groundwater that can be withdrawn from the basin without causing conditions that may lead to undesirable results.
Some of the elements being considered in the hydrogeologic conceptual model include understanding the structural trough of the Valley which governs the location of the sediments types. The McMullin Area service area is near the axis of the Valley on the eastside as shown in the visual below (click on map for larger image) that includes mostly San Joaquin River alluvial sediments and Dune Sands.

Using this information along with other factors, a picture of the McMullin Area’s groundwater conditions can start to emerge. One example is on the map below (click on image for larger view), where several elements are considered to determine the best locations for recharge. On this map, the dark green areas are the most desirable locations for recharge with the brown areas being the least desirable.

Technical Consultant Discusses Progress on Drafting Groundwater Sustainability Plan

The Board received a report on the progress of drafting three chapters for the McMullin Area’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan from their technical consultant, Provost & Pritchard. The Plan Area Chapter, which includes topics like a description of the geographic areas covered and other water and land use plans in the area, was submitted to McMullin Area’s Technical Advisory Committee for review.
The Groundwater Conditions Chapter is scheduled to be drafted by the end of November. This chapter will describe current and historical groundwater conditions in the McMullin Area including topics like groundwater elevation and depth, flows, storage variation, water quality and subsidence.
The Hydrogeologic Conceptual Model Chapter is scheduled to be drafted by the end of December. This chapter will characterize through a conceptual model the physical components and interaction of the surface water and groundwater systems in the area.