GSP Updates

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.

Twelve potential projects considered in or near the McMullin Area GSA

The McMullin Area GSA technical consultants have identified twelve projects potentially suitable for dedicated and on-farm groundwater recharge. Individual projects’ potential average annual yield ranges from about 3,200 acre feet (AF) per year to 29,000 AF per year. Many of the proposed sites have some combination of existing infrastructure and/or resources endorsing project feasibility, including pumping stations, canal systems, and basins that are tied to existing surface water supply sources. No surveying or design by the McMullin Area GSA has taken place and project consideration is solely conceptual based on input from McMullin Area GSA Board members, growers, and knowledge of the area.

A range of factors contributes to the success of implementing a recharge project at the proposed sites: acquisition of additional surface water supply in light of scarcity and existing water rights, project cost per acre foot of supply, willingness of cooperating agencies, and willingness of landowners to convert land use or sell property, among others. The McMullin Area GSA will use the varying factors as scoring criteria to help rank and prioritize the projects.

Heavily weighted on the list of criteria for the groundwater recharge projects is water supply availability. Potential surface water sources include the Kings River, Central Valley Project, and/or storm water from the Fresno area, although existing water rights pose a barrier in some cases to acquisition by the GSA. The availability of the water supply likely holds a higher maximum score potential than other criteria such as land use. The more sources of water supply available to a project site, the higher the score.

Many of the sites are poised with infrastructure components suitable for recharge, but improvements or additions would need to be made for project completion. This could include extending canal conveyance from surrounding irrigation districts to reach into the McMullin Area GSA, or enlarging existing canals to increase carrying capacity.

Groundwater recharge is one of the project types considered by the McMulllin Area GSA to stabilize groundwater levels and reach sustainability by increasing water supply. To complement projects, management actions that reduce water demand and improve data monitoring will also be implemented in the McMullin Area GSA. Projects and management actions, as well as their implementation plan, must be included in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan due to the State in January of 2020.

Approximately 1,000 wells in the McMullin Area GSA identified in well canvass effort

Approximately 1,000 wells within the McMullin Area GSA have been matched with a well completion report as a part of the well canvass effort. Some of these wells may be included in the GSA’s monitoring network; a SGMA requirement, the well monitoring network will collect data that informs sustainability progress. The monitoring network density for MAGSA is about two wells per township/range. Wells must be accompanied by a well completion report to be included in the official monitoring network. A well completion report includes construction information including depth and perforated intervals, among other specifications. The GSA’s technical consultants successfully obtained matched reports for the wells within the GSA’s boundary (pictured below, click to enlarge).

McMullin Area GSA Wells 

Groundwater levels measured by wells in the network will be a key data component for monitoring sustainability goals in the McMullin Area GSA; the data is an important metric for the McMullin Area GSA to measure impacts of future projects and management actions on groundwater levels within the agency boundary.

Federal grant awarded to McMullin Area GSA to conduct water marketing study and groundwater credit system

The McMullin Area GSA has been awarded a WaterSMART Fiscal Year 2018 Water Marketing Strategy Grant from the Bureau of Reclamation. The McMullin Area application was among those receiving the highest scores. A major element of the scoring criteria was landowner support letters. Thanks to strong support from McMullin Area landowners, the grant application was successful.

The Bureau anticipates $193,000 of Federal funds will be awarded to the GSA for the development of a groundwater credit program for landowners including a water marketing strategy study. The award amount will be confirmed once the project scope and budget is refined.

A water marketing program includes proactive strategies for bringing surface water into the McMullin Area. The study will include inter-agency outreach efforts to coordinate and plan for future water transfers, as well as hydrologic studies, pricing and economic impact studies, legal water rights studies, and infrastructure evaluations.

A groundwater credit system creates a mechanism for allocating groundwater resources among landowners to either bank, trade, or sell. Developing the program will include pricing options, legal issues, economic values of local water, socioeconomic impacts, groundwater level impacts, project monitoring, as well as specific rules and regulations for implementation.

The grant award allows the McMullin Area GSA to move forward toward program study and development, and offsets the costs associated with developing this solution. The Bureau anticipates awarding the grant funds to McMullin Area GSA this year.

MAGSA to utilize existing efforts in regional water quality monitoring

At the September 5th Board Meeting, McMullin Area GSA (MAGSA) technical consultant Lynn Groundwater, Provost & Pritchard, discussed the agency’s efficient approach to SGMA-mandated water quality management. The State measures sustainability using six sustainability indicators that when managed appropriately, should avoid “undesirable results”. Significant and unreasonable degraded water quality is included under SGMA as one of the six undesirable results. MAGSA plans to utilize the water quality monitoring efforts of existing regional programs including the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) and the County of Fresno’s Rural Domestic Well Groundwater Quality program.

Under ILRP, this fall 2018 the Kings River Water Quality Coalition will begin sampling groundwater monitoring wells for water quality indicators; designated constituent wells will be monitored annually for Nitrates, EC, DO, pH, and temperature, and every five years for additional indicators such as minerals. Additional sampling data compiled by Fresno County upon installation of new or deepened domestic wells will provide the GSA insight into potential presence of water quality contaminants such as Total Coliform Bacteria or E Coli Bacteria.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board oil field program is another potential resource for water quality information. The program addresses issues that arise with unlined ponds used to dispose water that is produced as a byproduct of oil and natural gas, a risk to groundwater quality.

The cooperative approach will inform MAGSA’s management decisions to prevent degraded water quality, without unduly repeating regional monitoring efforts.

Groundwater Credit System would bring economic benefit to landowners, while increasing overall water use efficiency

The McMullin Area GSA submitted an application for a grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation to conduct a Water Marketing Strategy Study and Groundwater Credit System. At the July 11th Board Meeting the GSA’s technical consultants Provost&Pritchard discussed the mechanics of a groundwater credit system and its potential benefits for landowners.

While a water marketing program would entail a proactive strategy for bringing surface water into the area, a groundwater credit system focuses on allocating groundwater resources among landowners within the GSA. The two concepts work hand-in-hand, as any additional surface water brought into the GSA offsets groundwater use whether used directly or for recharge.

Under a groundwater credit system landowners would be given a groundwater allocation based on acreage to either keep, trade, or sell to other landowners within the GSA. Under the credit system, a landowner could choose to convert a portion of their land for utilization that decreases their water demand, such as grazing or solar, resulting in surplus groundwater to trade or sell. On the supply side, surface water acquisition could be used to offset groundwater dependence allowing landowners to conserve a portion of their groundwater credit to trade.

Because of the economic benefit attached to unused groundwater under a credit system, landowners are incentivized to practice sustainable water management. With higher efficiency in water use across the GSA, there is potential for improved water reliability and increased flexibility in grower operations. A water marketing and groundwater credit system would work in tandem to bring long-term sustainability benefits while offsetting the potential burden of sustainable groundwater management experienced by landowners.

This is one of the programs the McMullin Area GSA Board is investigating to include in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. The program aligns with the Board’s goal of integrating flexibility into compliance on behalf of the landowners they represent.

McMullin Area GSA Pursues Grant for Water Marketing Study and Groundwater Credit System

The McMullin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) is planning to submit a grant application to the United States Bureau of Reclamation for a Water Marketing Strategy Study.  The Study will involve a Water Marketing Study and development of a Groundwater Credit System.

The Water Marketing Study will include interagency outreach efforts to study, coordinate and plan for future surface water transfers.  Topics addressed will include hydrologic studies to identify the likely frequency and quantity of possible transfers, pricing and economic impact studies, legal and water rights studies, and infrastructure evaluations.

The study will also develop a Groundwater Credit System whereby landowners that do not use all of their groundwater allocation in the future can bank, sell or trade it to other landowners.  Topics investigated will include legal issues, pricing options, economic values of local water, socioeconomic impacts, groundwater level impacts, project monitoring, and specific rules and regulations for implementing the program.

Both of these programs will help to expand lines of communication, improve water reliability, improve water flexibility, reduce dependency on groundwater, and reduce future water conflicts.

The application will be due on July 17, 2018 and up to $200,000 is available to applicants.

 

Consultants Propose GSP Project Concepts for McMullin Area

At the May 2nd Board Meeting, technical consultants Provost & Pritchard presented a comprehensive list of potential Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) project concepts for mitigating groundwater overdraft in the Raisin City Water District and McMullin Area GSA. The consultants actively sought public participation and input on the proposed concepts to help prioritize those most favored.

A score granted based on specified criteria will prioritize projects from a technical perspective. The higher the score, the more favorable the project based on the following criteria:

  • Areas of Favorable Recharge (For example, areas of hard pan are likely to receive a lower score on this criteria)
  • Land Use
  • Annual Cost per Acre-Foot
  • Land Owners
  • Project Time to Implement
  • Water Supply/Water Rights
  • Yield
  • Environmental/Regulatory
  • Project Outside of GSA
  • Number of Cooperating Agencies

The consultants presented 37 potential project concepts within five broad project categories: Conjunctive Use (the combined use of surface water and groundwater), Surface Water, Land Management, Water Conservation, and Other. All projects discussed have the ability to mitigate groundwater overdraft, but selecting those to pursue is pending Board and public input on high and low priority measures.

Presented were a number of Conjunctive Use projects, including solutions such as intentional flood irrigation or groundwater recharge in dedicated basins and grower reservoirs. Surface Water projects range from developing surface water storage to more innovative solutions, for instance internal surface water trading amongst growers in the McMullin Area GSA. Land Management solutions include crop conversion to lower water use crops, or landowners selling land but retaining groundwater rights.

Public comment expressed desires for the pursuance of least-cost project options; inquiry surrounded the possibility of incentive programs for projects that would entail voluntary adjustments in landowner water-use practices, such as purposeful flood irrigation for recharge.

Using the scoring criteria in conjunction with landowner feedback, the consultants are working to identify creative solutions that lessen the burden of reaching mandated sustainability as they move toward developing a more detailed project roadmap.

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.