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GSP Updates

Meet MAGSA’s water market study team, a reflection of the multi-disciplinary approach required to design a water market

A team of skilled individuals from organizations across disciplines has been assembled by MAGSA’s water market study project lead Amer Hussain with Geosyntec. Innovative approaches to achieve sustainable water use within an area through the buying and selling of available supplies (or otherwise, establishing a workable water market), involves a multitude of considerations from the legal and political to the economic and hydrogeologic.

The dynamic team will work over the coming months to outline the fundamental components for establishing a groundwater market within MAGSA, identify a range of options for a market structure that is right for MAGSA, and analyze opportunities and constraints for surface water use within a yet to be determined groundwater only or surface-groundwater combined market.

We look forward to spending time with this highly qualified group as they dig into the nitty gritty of MAGSA water over the next year or so. The following information will provide some introduction to each of the team members that will better prepare us all to greet them as they “come aboard” to familiarize themselves with our area!


Amer Hussain, Project Manager, Geoysntec

Amer is a principal and California registered professional engineer with over 25 years of experience in the southern Central Valley. With Geosyntec consultants, Amer has been active in managing SGMA implementation with experience negotiating to locate additional water supply, developing conveyance improvement, and employing groundwater recharge. Amer also works with private landowners on SGMA response strategies.

“I think what makes this project unique is its innovative nature. Although certainly a topic of discussion in the water world, actual work on developing formal water markets within local agencies is still very new. MAGSA is really ahead of the curve when it comes to this type of water management under SGMA. And we are looking at SGMA not just from a GSA standpoint, but also how it affects the individual stakeholder and landowner. The stakeholder-oriented approach is what will ultimately result in a successful water market structure for MAGSA.”

Bob Anderson, Scoping and Strategy, Geosyntec

Bob is a senior principal and hydrogeologist with over 30 years of experience in groundwater resource planning. With Geosyntec, Bob leads the firm’s SGMA initiative. Their team works in several California basins including Tulare Lake, Tule, Borrego, Salina, Santa Ynez, Santa Clarita, East Bay, Vina, Wyandotte, and Sutter basins. He also conducted groundwater planning and agricultural water management assessments in Washington’s Columbia River Basin, where water markets and conjunctive groundwater/surface water management programs have been developing since the 1990’s. Bob brings a long-term perspective and technical knowledge directly applicable to MAGSA’s current study on groundwater allocation and water market structures.

“MAGSA’s challenges are unique to its groundwater management area and, like most water management problems, the solutions rely on sound science, stakeholder outreach, and a willingness to explore and compromise. The process takes time and this work will create a foundation, based on our team’s past experience in California and other regions, for a program tailored to fit MAGSA landowners. We think a groundwater market can be an important part of ensuring the success of SGMA here into the future.”

Kristin Reardon, Water Resources Engineer, Geosyntec

Kristen is a water resources engineer with over 20 years of experience specializing in studies to support decision-making for water resource managers. Her work has focused on floodwater protection and utilization through “FloodMAR,” Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge, a method in which surplus river flows are used to recharge groundwater supplies. Kristin has worked with irrigation districts in the San Joaquin Valley, the California Department of Water Resources, and the US Bureau of Reclamation and was a lead author of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan 2017 Update.

In addition to technical expertise, Kristen brings the valuable skill of communicating complex technical issues to diverse audiences.

Duncan MacEwan, Economics, ERA Economics

Duncan is a principal economist and managing partner at ERA Economics specializing in water resources and agricultural economics. Duncan is the lead economist on several Groundwater Sustainability Plans developed under SGMA in high and medium priority groundwater subbasins. He works to assess the value of water assets and evaluates third party impacts of water transfers. Duncan will be focusing on market design and economic implications of a potential market for stakeholders in MAGSA.

“We are really focused on the core task of developing a water market that works for MAGSA. This means looking at strategies for importing water and integrating the projects MAGSA lays out in its Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Looking at all components of market design will help us assess economic implications of this forward-thinking approach to SGMA implementation.”

Steve Hatchett, Water Transfer Economics, ERA Economics

Steve is a senior economist and project manager with ERA Economics with 30 years of experience specializing in water resources and agriculture. His focus is on assisting clients with integrated analyses, using economics integrated with hydrologic and engineering analyses. He has used mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, cost-benefit analysis, cost allocation, and regional economic impact analysis to support federal, state, and local agencies in implementing large water resource programs resulting from new laws and regulations. Steve and the ERA Economics team will focus on the cost-benefits and economic impact of water transfers within MAGSA under varying water market scenarios.

Gwyn-Mohr Tully, Surface Water Rights and Legal Support, Tully & Young

Gwyn-Mohr, a licensed California attorney with Tully and Young, brings extensive experience in surface and subsurface hydrology, law, and policy. He has evaluated water rights, contractual water obligations, water settlements, and has negotiated water transfers throughout California and the West. Gwyn-Mohr brings valuable understanding of the legal issues surrounding surface water rights and water transfers, and will be working to assess any legal implications of importing surface supplies into MAGSA, as well as how those supplies might be accounted for in an allocation in the market structure.

“We are approaching surface water supplies broadly, looking at a number of opportunities locally, regionally, and statewide. Integrating legal implications into this picture is a critical component to a successful water market strategy, and will be a complex but rewarding task.”

Greg Young, Surface Water, Tully & Young

Greg is a registered civil engineer with over 30 years of experience in water resource management. Greg provides expertise to local agricultural and urban water users, public agencies, and non-profits and private interests on SGMA compliance, water asset management, and water rights reporting. He is currently the lead technical strategist for SGMA efforts in Madera and Merced Counties. Greg is working on a similar water market study in progress in Madera County.

Greg will be working closely with MAGSA to identify potential surplus surface water to augment water supply.

Dave Ceppos, Outreach Task Lead, Sacramento State Consensus and Collaboration Program

A Managing Senior Mediator and Manager of Sacramento State’s Consensus and Collaboration Program, Dave has overseen extensive outreach efforts relating to water policy, including in 35 different Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in California. Dave has worked in SGMA efforts in the Chowchilla, Madera, and Kaweah regions as well as across the state in areas as north as Siskiyou County and to the south in the San Diego River Basin.

“The stakeholders in MAGSA have an incredible opportunity before them to shape how groundwater is sustainably managed in a way that maximizes its use and more specifically, its value. Our job is to make sure stakeholders are directly involved to develop water market options and can express their preferences on the design of a potential allocation and water market system.”

Malka Kopell, Facilitation, Sacramento State Consensus and Collaboration Program

Malka has over 30 years of experience collaborating with communities throughout California and nationally with meeting facilitation, conflict resolution, and process design. Malka is a Senior Mediator/Facilitator and has consulted on and supported public engagement on groundwater issues for both the Madera and Chowchilla GSA.

“I think what makes this project exciting is its stakeholder-driven nature. Engaging with landowners and other stakeholders to make this water market structure fit their needs is going to be critical to its success, and I look forward to facilitating open lines of communication between our team and the people MAGSA serves.”


The team is combining expertise to identify and analyze opportunities across the components of a water market and will provide MAGSA varying options to fit the needs of landowners and stakeholders within the area.

Especially critical is the engagement of stakeholders on their preferences for how each water market component is structured. A water market design is only good if it enjoys wide support and adoption, resulting from fitting the needs of MAGSA stakeholders and landowners. Opportunities are upcoming for stakeholders to engage through surveys, workshops, and individual interviews.

Groundwater conditions improve overall in the Kings Subbasin in water year 2019, Annual Report shows the data

The McMullin Area GSA (MAGSA) together with the six other GSAs in the Kings Subbasin submitted the first Annual Report to the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) by the initial April 1, 2020 deadline. Thanks to favorable hydrology for the reporting period, Kings Subbasin groundwater conditions improved overall with groundwater storage increasing by 210,000 acre-feet Subbasin wide. The Annual Report informs the State and stakeholders on groundwater conditions in the Subbasin and focuses on water year 2019 (Sept 2018 – Oct 2019), a hydrologic “wet year” seeing 134% of average diversions on the Kings River, the majority of surface water supply to the region.

Combined surface and groundwater use in the Kings Subbasin across sectors including agriculture, urban, and managed recharge, totaled 2.7 million are-feet for the period. The report indicates groundwater extractions in MAGSA represent an estimated 30% of total 1.06 million acre-feet extractions Subbasin-wide. The MAGSA service area relies on groundwater to fully meet its water demands, and in the coming months and years plans to pursue any additional available surface water to bring into the agency to offset groundwater use. This strategy paired with water use efficiency, conservation measures, and demand reduction will over the long run positively impact the Kings Subbasin sustainability effort.

Correcting MAGSA’s estimated 91,000 acre-feet of annual overdraft is key to achieving sustainability as a Subbasin, and it will take steady implementation of projects and programs outlined in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). The groundwater allocation and water marketing program currently being studied is a major shift that would improve water use efficiency across MAGSA while allowing landowners to take water management decisions into their own hands.

Considering this first report was prepared just months after the submission of the GSPs, the data does not stray from data already included in the seven Kings Subbasin GSA’s GSPs. Although, the Subbasin used the opportunity to include any additional data collected through the reporting period and established a template for future reports. Data was collected from the seven GSAs’ monitoring networks, groundwater extractions, surface water supply, total water use, and changes in groundwater storage.

Following the adoption of a GSP the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires GSAs to submit Annual Reports to DWR on April 1 every year as a tool to track and communicate GSP implementation progress.

There is no grading or scoring criteria on the Annual Report, and DWR expects this first report to be missing some information considering the short timeframe between GSP adoption and the report due date.

To stay up to date on MAGSA’s groundwater management activities, sign up for our interested persons email list here, and follow us on Twitter @McMullinAreaGSA!

A groundwater credit program and surface water market may not be too far off. MAGSA awards contract to Geosyntec to study the concepts.

Meeting the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act’s (SGMA) deadline for sustainable groundwater levels by 2040 is going to require creative solutions in many areas of California. Thanks to grant funding, MAGSA has hired engineering firm Geosyntec to conduct a study on one forward-thinking solution: a groundwater credit and surface water marketing program.

At the March 12, 2020 Board Meeting, the Board approved awarding engineering firm Geosyntec a contract to study the concepts. “We commend the McMullin Area GSA Board for getting ahead of the curve on studying water markets and groundwater credits, and look forward to working with stakeholders, staff and the Board on solutions that best fit the needs of landowners in the area,” stated Amer Hussain, the lead Geosyntec engineer on the study.

Geosyntec has begun work and projects the study will be complete by May 2021.

MAGSA posted a Request for Proposals in December seeking qualified contractors/firms to complete tasks associated with project management and administration, outreach and partnership building, scoping and planning, and water marketing strategy development. The proposal review process was conducted by an ad hoc committee of two stakeholders, one board member, and MAGSA’s General Manager.

The study is funded through a $193,000 WaterSMART grant awarded by the US Bureau of Reclamation, with a cost-share of $193,000. The total project cost is $386,000.

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. Under a groundwater credit system, landowners would be given a groundwater allocation to either keep, trade, or sell to other landowners within the GSA. A well-designed program would improve water use efficiency and provide flexibility for MAGSA landowners.

The Consultant team will be out in the Agency soon providing information and background on these critical topics and will be seeking feedback and opinion from our Stakeholders to assist them in arriving at the best possible solutions tailored specifically for MAGSA.

Keep checking back on the website and in your e-mail inbox (and on Twitter!) for further opportunities to participate in the discussions. If you have not already done so, please make sure MAGSA has current, up-to-date email contact information for you so that we may not lose our outstanding stakeholder input pipeline!

MAGSA Fully Empowered as a GSA

On January 28, 2020, MAGSA and the six other GSAs in the Kings Subbasin jointly submitted their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP) to the Department of Water Resources for initial review.  As set forth in the SGMA legislation, completion of this action immediately and fully vested all of the oversight and enforcement powers of a GSA with the MAGSA. This submittal now places this tremendous responsibility, and the fantastic opportunity to locally and collaboratively, sustainably manage the groundwater beneath our feet, squarely in the hands of the MAGSA Board and the MAGSA landowners they represent.

In its Groundwater Sustainability Plan, the Board has adopted a glide path approach to sustainability, allowing a landowner room to adjust and continue to thrive over the 20-year implementation period. The goal of reducing groundwater overdraft by 91,000 acre feet has been divided into phases. The Phase 1 target amount is a 10% reduction or 9,110 acre feet by 2025.

The MAGSA Board and Staff will immediately begin working on achieving this target through implementing management actions and projects and programs identified in the GSP, such as implementation of enhanced efficiency irrigation conservation practices, a robust data gathering and management system, or a water marketing program. The Board continues to strongly encourage involvement and input by landowners and stakeholders in fleshing out the most effective groundwater sustainability programs that can immediately be implemented. The future of groundwater sustainability truly is in the hands of MAGSA. The best possible outcomes and success in accomplishing this will come from the ideas, cooperation, and substantial efforts of all of MAGSA’s landowners.

Ways to Get Involved

A New Era in Groundwater Management Begins

Kerman, CA – A new era in the sustainable management of groundwater in a portion of Fresno County for the next 20 years and beyond was initiated by the McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) Board of Directors with the unanimous adoption of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) at their November 6 meeting.  

“This action by the Board represents two years of focused effort by MAGSA’s Board, technical consultants, and stakeholders to develop a plan that gives our landowners the tools and flexibility they need to effectively manage their groundwater use,” stated Board Chair Don Cameron. “MAGSA has taken a critical first step to secure the future of opportunity and economic viability for the landowners in the region.”

MAGSA is the first of seven groundwater sustainability agencies in the Kings Subbasin (and one of the first in the State of California) to adopt their GSP, which must be submitted to the State for review by January 31, 2020. MAGSA’s GSP is one of the foundational elements to achieve sustainability in the King Subbasin, a critically overdrafted groundwater basin that lies within Fresno County.  

“Having the first GSP to be completed and adopted in the subbasin is a testimony to the determination of the Board and MAGSA landowners,” stated MAGSA General Manager Matt Hurley. “MAGSA has distinct challenges to overcome. It is a groundwater use only territory with a large portion of the area without water district oversight,” stated Hurley. “Being first out of the gate with a solid, informed Groundwater Sustainability Plan indicates on day one that MAGSA is up to the challenge.”

Approximately 55% of MAGSA’s 118,783 acre territory is within the service areas of Raisin City Water District and Mid-Valley Water District with 45% of MAGSA’s service area located outside of local water districts in what is referred to as the “white areas”.

MAGSA’s GSP is a roadmap for how to achieve balanced levels of groundwater supply and defines a path forward for groundwater sustainability. It describes localized groundwater conditions and identifies innovative solutions. The GSP does not propose starting off with pumping restrictions, changes to cropping patterns, land use conversion, or land fallowing. Instead, MAGSA’s top priority is to develop water supplies. Another immediate implementation action is to fill data gaps to form a more comprehensive and accurate picture of groundwater conditions. MAGSA’s Board is proposing a phased approach over 20 years to mitigate the target overdraft of 91,100 acre-feet per year, MAGSA’s allocation of the Kings Subbasin total 122,000 acre feet per year overdraft.

Starting in 2017, the MAGSA Board created a stakeholder-driven process with monthly public meetings by the ad hoc technical advisory committee to provide GSP updates and receive input from the public. This informed the development of the GSP, ultimately creating a more robust document for the localized MAGSA area. In July 2019, the Board approved opening the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for a 90-day public review and comment period. First in the Kings Subbasin to release a full draft GSP, MAGSA staff and consultants allowed ample time to consider comments and make any necessary revisions to the draft prior to adoption and submittal to the State by the January 31, 2020 deadline.

MAGSA First to Release Groundwater Sustainability Plan in the Kings Subbasin

At the July Board Meeting, the McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) Board approved opening the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) 90-day public review and comment period. First in the Kings Subbasin to release a full draft GSP, MAGSA staff and consultants are intent to allow ample time to consider comments and make any necessary revisions to the draft prior to submittal to the State by the January 31, 2020 deadline.

MAGSA’s consultant Provost & Pritchard provided the Board with an overview of the GSP, which lays out MAGSA’s historical and current groundwater conditions providing a snapshot of where MAGSA will start in 2020. MAGSA’s Board is proposing a phased approach over 20 years to mitigate the target overdraft of 91,100 acre-feet per year, which is MAGSA’s allocation of the Kings Subbasin 122,000 acre feet per year overdraft.

MAGSA’s GSP is a roadmap for how to achieve balanced levels of groundwater supply and defines a path forward for groundwater sustainability. The GSP does not propose starting off with pumping restrictions, change of cropping patterns, land use conversion, or fallowing of land. The first of the management actions is to develop water supplies. Another immediate implementation action is to fill data gaps to have a more comprehensive and accurate picture of groundwater conditions.

The MAGSA Board and staff have welcomed broad public participation in the development of the draft GSP over the last two years, holding numerous public GSP technical update meetings to provide an in-depth look at GSP progress. Technical consultants and the Board consistently present the opportunity for members of the public to provide guiding feedback on the GSP’s components during Board Meetings. MAGSA hopes to continue this trend of public participation through the official 90-day public review and comment period.

Members of the public are invited to take part in this important process by reviewing a copy of the GSP document, available for download on MAGSA’s website at mcmullinarea.org/gspcomment, and submitting comments. The review period will conclude at the MAGSA Public Hearing set to take place Wednesday, October 16th at 2:10 pm at the Kerman Community Center.


Click below to download the GSP, and to find more information regarding the Public Review period.

Ready to comment? Click below to access our online comment form:

Board Continues Current $19 Fee

At its recent July 10th Board meeting, the McMullin Area GSA Board approved the continuation of the currently assessed $19.00 per acre property-related fee for fiscal year 2019-20. Based on assessable acreage of 114,475, this generates a projected revenue of $2,175,025. This amount covers the July 1 – June 30 fiscal year budget of $1,891,600, which is the amount approved by MAGSA landowners in the fee election passed in 2018. Also included in the budget is a contingency/reserve fund in the amount of $283,700.

At the same meeting, the Board also released for immediate public review the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the McMullin area.  With this milestone release, General Manager Matt Hurley noted MAGSA will begin focusing upon transitioning from the planning phase into implementation phase of local groundwater management in early 2020. Hurley stated that by mid-year 2020, there will be a more clear understanding of the requirements and specifics related to SGMA implementation detail, thus allowing for an updated look at the budget needs for the following fiscal year. Based upon the near term expectations for costs that may arise with this new and complex regulation, the Board supported the recommendation to maintain the $19.00 rate for the upcoming fiscal year 2019-20.

Public encouraged to review and comment on MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan, first released in the Kings Subbasin

At the July 10, 2019 Board Meeting, the MAGSA Board approved opening the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) 90-day public review and comment period. Members of the public are invited to take part in this important process by reviewing a copy of the GSP document, available for download on MAGSA’s website at mcmullinarea.org/gspcomment, and submitting comments.

Input from the public is important as GSP policies and plans will impact stakeholders in the region for the years to come. The GSP documents historic and current conditions, and defines a path forward for how groundwater will be sustainably managed.

First in the Kings Subbasin to release a full draft GSP, MAGSA staff and consultants are intent to allow ample time to consider comments and make any necessary revisions to the draft prior to submittal to the State by the January 31, 2020 deadline.

The MAGSA Board and staff have welcomed broad public participation in the development of the draft GSP over the last two years, holding numerous public GSP technical update meetings to provide an in-depth look at GSP progress. Technical consultants and the Board consistently present the opportunity for members of the public to provide guiding feedback on the GSP’s components during Board Meetings. MAGSA hopes to continue this trend of public participation through the official 90-day public review and comment period.

Stakeholders can submit comments a number of ways: an online comment form at mcmullinarea.org/gspcommentform, by email to comments@mcmullinarea.org, or by mail/hand deliver to the MAGSA office in Kerman (275 S Madera Ave., Suite 301, Kerman 93630).

The review period will conclude at the MAGSA Public Hearing set to take place Wednesday, October 16th at 2:10 pm at the Kerman Community Center.


Click below to download the GSP, and to find more information regarding the Public Review period.

Ready to comment? Click below to access our online comment form:

Technical Advisory Committee completes GSP draft review, commits hours to development

MAGSA’s Technical Advisory Committee completed their review of the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP).

Committee members have given many hours of invaluable GSP draft review and comment as a service to their fellow landowners. Members of the Committee which includes landowners, a County representative, technical consultants and staff, and two Board members, met over the last two years to provide guidance and input on GSP development. The Committee was formed by the Board in August of 2017.

The full Board will review and release the GSP for public review at the July 10th meeting.

Maintaining Status Quo for Water Quality is the Objective

Monitoring groundwater conditions is critical to successfully implement SGMA. Monitoring requires knowing the current groundwater conditions and then checking them regularly to see if conditions have changed. It is similar to regular checkups with your doctor to make sure you are in good health or if there are any changes that may cause concern. With the goal of being sustainable by 2040, checking in regularly on the “health” of the groundwater gives the MAGSA Board an indication whether conditions are okay are if adjustments need to be made. 

At the June 5 technical update, MAGSA’s technical consultant, Provost & Pritchard, presented information on water quality monitoring, one of the six criteria under SGMA that must be monitored. Research and analysis of water quality data shows MAGSA is currently not subject to any chronic drinking water issues.  Based on this analysis of current groundwater conditions, the objective to be sustainable is to maintain the status quo for water quality.

MAGSA will use data provided by GAMA (Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment Program) to monitor and record groundwater quality on an annual basis. GAMA is an online tool provided by the State Water Resources Control Board. GAMA integrates and displays groundwater quality data from several different sources on an interactive map. Analytical tools and reporting features help users assess groundwater quality and identify potential groundwater issues.

Several contaminants listed by GAMA were identified as being present in various locations within MAGSA but not at levels to cause health concerns. The contaminants include nitrates, 123TCP (trichloropropane), DBCP (1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane), arsenic, chloride, sodium, manganese, and total dissolved solids. These will be monitored going forward to make sure levels stay within the standards set by the government for drinking water quality.

Water Quality Monitoring Wells
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