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Author: Breanna Hardy

MAGSA Features: Mark Pitman

Securing a more sustainable future with On-Farm Recharge

Mark Pitman, like many MAGSA growers, understands the challenge of reaching sustainable groundwater levels. Farming has become increasingly complex over the last 50 years, and with the introduction of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, replenishing the region’s groundwater supply has come front and center as a top priority.

Mark is part of the Pitman Farms legacy. Pitman Farms was established in the 1960s as a poultry farm and later expanded with pistachio orchards in 2010. Most recently, Mark planted citrus orchards.

MAGSA growers have shown resilience in the face of changing groundwater availability, and consistently adapt to extreme weather conditions including drought. On-Farm Recharge is one method MAGSA growers are aiming to use to secure a more sustainable farming operation. On-Farm Recharge is a means of recharging the aquifer beneath growers’ farms using available surface water during wet years. When Mark planted citrus trees, he knew there would be the potential for On-Farm Recharge opportunities. He kept flood irrigation infrastructure when he installed drip irrigation lines.

“The role of MAGSA is to help farmers work together to provide technical solutions to maintain the water table and help promote the options that we have to be more sustainable,” Mark said.

One of these solutions MAGSA provides is On-Farm Recharge University (OFR-U), a 6-month-long learning opportunity for a group of growers in a cohort to learn about On-farm Recharge, with exclusive access to technical experts, resources, and personalized field site consultations.

Mark said he wanted to learn all he could about every option to maintain groundwater levels. The cohort experience through OFR-U provides focused support for growers. While the course is technical in nature, experts on OFR topics provide practical support and tailored education to growers seeking to initiate or expand their On-Farm Recharge practices.

“A technical solution is the right way to think about sustainable farming, and On-Farm Recharge University is that technical solution,” Mark said.

Not only has OFR-U provided invaluable technical solutions, but Mark says it has also simplified dense information so he can transfer his own knowledge to stakeholders.

“We need to know enough about it to be able to teach our stakeholders about it,” he said.

This is a way to learn practical tools about On-Farm Recharge, and the science behind what growers are doing to their farms. OFR-U also educates growers on the means to practice it.

The benefits of On-Farm Recharge will be felt among the MAGSA community with the support of its future infrastructure projects. MAGSA is a groundwater-dependent area, or “white area”, with no historical access to surface water supplies. Balancing groundwater supplies under SGMA will require MAGSA to be creative through partnerships with growers to conduct recharge on their fields. However, before recharge can begin, the infrastructure to deliver surface water supplies must be built from the ground up.

MAGSA’s goal is for growers like Mark to use surface water for irrigation and On-Farm Recharge thanks to new MAGSA infrastructure projects in motion like the McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture Expansion Project. This expansion project is the second phase of an existing On-Farm Recharge and flood capture project. It involves construction of a canal and structures to increase the conveyance from the James Bypass from 150 cubic feet per second to 450 cubic feet per second.

The Expansion Project will increase the potential farmland acreage for receiving surface water flows for On-Farm Recharge to an estimated 15,000 acres. Projects like this will help MAGSA achieve groundwater sustainability goals by 2040. The Expansion Project will give growers like Mark surface water conveyance access, where he can put his learned skills from OFR-U into practice!

Though Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) have the authority through SGMA to enact regulations and groundwater pumping limitations, MAGSA has focused on supply-side solutions growers can make to improve groundwater conditions under their farms.

“We need everybody’s help together to recharge our aquifers. We’re all on the same team. Either we all succeed together or we all fail together,” Mark said. “We’re doing this for the next generation – for our kids and our kids’ kids.”

Prop 218 renewal is on the horizon

Over the next six months, MAGSA anticipates moving forward in the process of renewing the Proposition 218 assessment. Proposition 218 originally passed in 2018. Currently the assessment is $19/acre, and when passed, was budgeted for five years.

To continue the assessment it must be renewed by July 2023. However, MAGSA’s General Manager Matt Hurley anticipates that fees will not increase, even though assessment rates in surrounding areas have increased in recent years. MAGSA has hired an elections consultant to assist with the efforts.

Prop 218 funding goes toward the activities and administrative functions that propel local sustainability efforts forward in MAGSA. This next cycle will fund a five-year budget through 2028.

Financial aid through grants — hard-earned by MAGSA team — have reduced the likelihood of increasing assessment rates in the coming months.

To hear more about the Prop 218 and ask questions, join our upcoming virtual 2023 Vision Event on January 25th from 4:00 – 5:00 PM.

2023 Vision Event is around the corner!

MAGSA is hosting its third annual Vision Event! This event is virtual only and will be hosted via Zoom Webinar with a live MAGSA panel.

MAGSA’s General Manager Matt Hurley will be accompanied by project staff and technical experts to reflect on 2022 and give direction for the year ahead. Items on the agenda include McMullin Expansion project updates, On-Farm Recharge University, Aquaterra Water Bank project updates, and administrative updates including Prop 218 renewal and the revised Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

This is a great opportunity to stay engaged with all the latest projects impacting the local landscape to benefit our landowners and stakeholders now and in the future.

MAGSA landowners, growers, and community members can submit questions to the technical team ahead of the event. Questions will be answered live during a Q&A at the end of the webinar.

Spanish and Punjabi interpretations are linked below. View the 2023 MAGSA Vision Event recording here!

MAGSA reminds landowners to be cautious before drilling a well

In light of MAGSA’s moratorium adopted in July, 2022 regarding well drilling through the Corcoran clay, applications to drill new wells below the clay will be directed to cease drilling when approaching the clay layer. Existing wells with depths below the Corcoran clay are not subject to restricted use.

Before submitting well drilling applications, landowners should contact MAGSA at 559-515-3339 or by email at

Pumping below the clay is one of the main causes of land subsidence, a gradual sinking of land caused by chronic groundwater overdraft. It is important to keep groundwater pumping above the clay to meet sustainability measures designated in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

Visit MAGSA’s website here to view the Groundwater Well Metering, Measurement, Monitoring and Construction Policy and Related Policies and to find more information on the moratorium and procedures for well drilling, construction, and meters.

Join Us for MAGSA’s Third Annual Vision Event

MAGSA staff and board members are inviting you to participate in this year’s Vision Event on January 25th at 4 PM via Zoom Webinar. This is an opportunity to hear the MAGSA team reflect on 2022 success and look ahead to growth opportunities in 2023.

This is MAGSA’s third-annual Vision Event, and will include a panel of MAGSA’s team of experts who will give updates, as well as answer your questions during a live Q&A.

In preparation for the live Q&A, MAGSA landowners have the opportunity to pre-submit questions.

The panel will discuss McMullin Expansion project updates, On-Farm Recharge University, Aquaterra Water Bank project updates, and administrative updates including Proposition 218 renewal and a revised Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

In past years, landowners have walked away from the event with more information and a sense of MAGSA’S direction for the following year.

Spanish and Punjabi interpretations and slides are linked below. View the 2023 MAGSA Vision Event recording here!

First-Ever California On-Farm Recharge grower program launches in MAGSA

On November 10, MAGSA launched On-Farm Recharge University the first-ever on-farm recharge grower program in California! On-Farm Recharge University (OFR-U) will consist of six value-packed in-person workshops, field trips, and opportunities for site visits and one-on-one office hours where growers will get support developing an OFR plan customized for their farms. Phil Bachand with Bachand & Associates is leading the technical effort. The course will also include guest speakers from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, UC Cooperative Extension, UC Davis, Berkeley Lab, and more.

MAGSA’s inaugural cohort (Cohort Zero) includes almost 20 participants. Cohort Zero members are primarily growers whose farms are located near the new proposed canal alignment, the McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture Expansion Project. Growers will leave this course with the knowledge and tools they need to implement On-Farm Recharge practices with confidence.

OFR-University’s Cohort Zero will run through the spring of 2023. MAGSA plans to host several subsequent cohorts in the future,and will extend the opportunity to the greater MAGSA landowner base.

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