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GSP Updates

CA Department of Water Resources Recommends Kings Subbasin GSPs for Approval

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced that the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) for the Kings Subbasin, which includes the McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) and 6 other GSAs, are recommended for approval.

“I’m glad our region was compliant and worked hard together to get to this point,” says Don Cameron, Chair of MAGSA’s Board of Directors.

“We’re happy to hear about our current success as a Subbasin!” says Matt Hurley, MAGSA’s General Manager. “The Kings Subbasin is a good group of people to work with and I’m confident we will reach sustainability in a timely manner. I’m also confident MAGSA is on the right path to achieve sustainability for our landowners.”

The Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) is a requirement of the 2014 California law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). A GSP outlines a region’s strategy to achieve groundwater sustainability by 2040. The Kings Subbasin GSAs developed and submitted their initial GSPs to DWR in January 2020. DWR had two years to review the original GSPs. On January 28, 2022, DWR deemed 12 of the 21 critically-over drafted basin GSPs, including the Kings Subbasin GSPs, incomplete.

The Kings Subbasin GSAs, including MAGSA, the North Fork Kings, Kings River East, North Kings, James, South Kings, and Central Kings GSAs, worked diligently and collaboratively to review DWR’s notes on what changes needed to be made. The Kings Subbasin GSAs submitted their revised GSPs in July 2022.

On March 2, 2023, DWR announced which subbasins’ revised GSPs are recommended for approval and which subbasins’ GSPs are inadequate. Subbasins with inadequate GSPs will be transitioning to the State Water Board for State intervention and oversight at this point, with the ultimate goal still being to have all basins return to local management. Subbasins with GSPs recommended for approval adequately refined their sustainable groundwater management criteria and made appropriate corrections to their plans in relation to the analysis of groundwater levels, water quality, and inter-connected surface waters. The Kings Subbasin and other basins with plans recommended for approval will continue to work with DWR to report on their progress and include any additional corrective actions recommended by DWR in the 2025 GSP periodic update.

“This approval is many years in the making and all the hard work has paid off,” says Lynn Groundwater, MAGSA technical consultant and lead author on MAGSA’s GSP. “Now… we can continue to work on filling data gaps and implementing the GSP. Implementation includes design and construction of canals throughout MAGSA to be able to utilize surface water especially in wet years like we are having this year to capture flood water when available.”

MAGSA is deeply thankful for landowner engagement throughout the GSP development and implementation process. Together, we can achieve a sustainable future in our region for generations to come.

Read DWR’s full announcement HERE.

Public comment period on revised Groundwater Sustainability Plans ends September 30

All Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) in the Kings Subbasin, including MAGSA, submitted their revised Groundwater Sustainability Plans to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) by the July 27, 2022 deadline. These plans were posted on the DWR SGMA Portal and are open to public comment through September 30, 2022.

About MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan: MAGSA is authorized by the 2014 California law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), to develop, adopt, and implement a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) for the area it serves. A GSP is a plan outlining a region’s strategy to achieve groundwater sustainability.

The development and implementation of GSPs is a phased, iterative process. It includes key periods where the Plans are reviewed and refined. MAGSA is committed to actively communicating and engaging with stakeholders throughout all phases of this process. Please contact MAGSA with any regional groundwater or GSP-related questions!

Groundwater Sustainability Plan revisions submitted to the State

After extensive coordination between MAGSA and the six other Groundwater Sustainability Agencies in the Kings Subbasin, the revised Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) was submitted to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on the July 27, 2022 submission deadline. The MAGSA Board approved revisions to its GSP at its July 6th Board Meeting.

The revisions came in response to the incomplete determination of the GSP provided by DWR in January 2022. During their 2-year review period, DWR outlined the GSP improvements GSAs needed to make. Their review initiated a 180-day revision period with a July 27 due date. During this time, MAGSA participated in subbasin-wide coordination and communications with DWR to ensure revisions were on the right track.

The revisions include addressing impacts of groundwater level decline and land subsidence impacts to canals and rivers, clarification of minimum thresholds for wells with water quality already over the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), and a commitment to gather further data on interconnected surface water and groundwater.

The comments provided by DWR and MAGSA’s submitted revisions are an expected part of the iterative SGMA implementation process. MAGSA believes the revisions submitted to the State seriously considered the concerns of the State while keeping our local stakeholders and landowners in mind. 

Board approves Implementing Rules and Regulations and Proposed Fee Schedule for the McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency Groundwater Export Policy

The Board approved the Implementing Rules and Regulations and Proposed Fee Schedule for groundwater exports at the April 6, 2022 Board Meeting. The rules and regulations serve to manage, protect, and sustain groundwater supply for the benefit of local landowners within MAGSA.

The Rules and Regulations provide specific guidance to landowners on the annual permitting process and fees related to groundwater exports extracted from land within MAGSA to any location outside of the agency boundaries.

To view requirements and export fee schedule, review the adopted Implementing Rules and Regulations on here.

Landowners who own parcels located both within and without MAGSA’s boundaries are exempt from groundwater export fees but still require appropriate export permits and reporting. The Rules and Regulations exclude entirely de minimus use (domestic wells), and production of water stored and extracted from the Aquaterra Groundwater Bank project.

MAGSA’s priority continues to be the success of its landowners. Any policies and rules and regulations will continue to be for the betterment of the area by achieving groundwater sustainability through local control under SGMA.

A draft document including an economic analysis was available on MAGSA’s website for public review and comment on December 13, 2021. MAGSA adopted its Groundwater Export Policy on December 9, 2020, providing a framework for pumping groundwater within MAGSA for use outside of the agency. The recently adopted Rules and Regulations and Fee Schedule provide the specific guidelines for implementing that policy.

Kings Subbasin GSAs coordinate in response to DWR’s comments on Groundwater Sustainability Plans

The Kings Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), including MAGSA, are meeting to discuss and respond to the California Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) comments on the subbasin’s Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs). 

As the regulating and assisting agency under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), DWR had two years to evaluate the GSPs. The agency submitted its evaluation prior to the January 31, 2022 review deadline, determining the plans to be incomplete. This status was given to all San Joaquin Valley GSPs. DWR’s comments indicate they are looking for further information about the data MAGSA used to establish certain criteria in the GSP along with greater consistency among the subbasin’s GSPs. DWR’s full assessment of the Kings Subbasin GSPs can be accessed here.

The Kings Subbasin GSAs are coordinating on revisions based on DWR’s comments, and each GSA will resubmit their GSP within the mandated 180 days after receiving the comments.  Groundwater is managed locally by MAGSA through policies, programs and projects, but long-term sustainability requires the collaboration of the entire Kings Subbasin. Click here to read more about how the subbasin has already collaborated through investment in 600 acres of prime groundwater recharge land. 

ABOUT THE GSP: MAGSA’s GSP is a roadmap for how the region will avoid negative effects of groundwater overdraft and achieve sustainability by 2040. MAGSA actively sought landowner feedback during GSP development and continues to do so through the Stakeholder Committee and other channels. MAGSA is committed to securing a sustainable groundwater supply through collaboration with landowners and the implementation of innovative recharge projects. To learn more about MAGSA’s GSP, visit the Groundwater Sustainability Portal on the MAGSA website. 

Kings Subbasin Builds for Drought Resilience at Record Pace

15 basins representing 600 acres of prime groundwater recharge land with a singular goal of groundwater sustainability

Click here to view the StoryMap outlining project details, locations, and more, and to view the highlight video.

In the short span of two years, the Kings Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agencies have invested in 600 acres of prime groundwater recharge land. This land represents 15 dedicated basins that are constructed or in development.

Local water managers have taken the long view as they invest in infrastructure now with the goal to bring sustainability to the groundwater supply shared by all within the Kings Subbasin region.

The additional water infrastructure is anticipated to provide over 15,000 acre-feet of recharge per year on average, directly benefitting groundwater levels for communities and ag lands in the area. An acre foot equals 325,900 gallons, or enough water to cover a football field to a depth of one foot.

Since the Kings Subbasin submitted seven Groundwater Sustainability Plan Plans (GSP) in January 2020, there has been a driven effort to successfully build groundwater recharge capacity to support Kings Subbasin sustainability goals.

Full details of the Subbasin’s efforts are outlined in a StoryMap and video here.

Groundwater in MAGSA: Annual Report Update

The McMullin Area GSA (MAGSA) together with the six other GSAs in the Kings Subbasin submitted the second Annual Report to the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) by the April 1, 2021 deadline.  MAGSA took every opportunity in Water Year 2020 (Sept 2019 – Oct 2020) to begin work on projects that will lead to a sustainable groundwater supply for its landowners and for the region, leveraging grant funds to begin implementing key projects in its Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). Although the report indicates dryer conditions put a strain on groundwater supplies across the Kings Subbasin, the ongoing efforts of MAGSA and the collective work of the Kings Subbasin GSAs will ultimately lead to long-term sustainability.

The Annual Report provides an overview of groundwater conditions in the region including groundwater extraction, surface water supply used for groundwater recharge, total water use, change in groundwater storage, and a description of progress made toward implementing the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) since the last Annual Report.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to submit annual reports to the Department of Water Resources (DWR) on April 1 of every year.

Here are highlights from the Kings Subbasin’s 2020 Water Year:

Water years 2017-2019 were overall wetter than average but were preceded by an extremely dry period.  Overall, the last five years result in near average conditions, but they include an extreme dry and an extreme wet year.

Water use for Water Year 2020 consisted of 1,353,000 acre-feet of groundwater and 958,000 of surface water. Total water use for Water Year 2020 (WY 2020) equaled 2,311,000 acre-feet, with 2,011,000 acre-feet of the total used for agricultural purposes and 300,000 for urban use.

GSAs have identified different data gaps within their GSPs that they intend to fill and are still reviewing their monitoring networks.  During this water year, the GSAs have spent significant effort to gather construction information on wells through video equipment. As construction information is gathered, updates will be made through the SGMA monitoring network portal.  Work will continue into the 2021 water year to gather the remaining construction information for wells in the water level monitoring network. MAGSA’s Groundwater Monitoring Project and metering incentive program are important projects that will help to achieve this goal in the region.

Click HERE to read full Annual Report.

The Kings Subbasin saw improvements in groundwater storage in the 2019 water year, but 2020’s reduction  illustrates the importance of continuing to coordinate with the Kings Subbasin GSAs and engage with MAGSA landowners  to implement innovative projects that will lead to a sustainable and resilient, groundwater supply  for the region.

One such project is the MAGSA Groundwater Monitoring Project funded by a $75,000 Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART Small Scale Grant.  Under this grant, MAGSA has teamed with the McCrometer Company to install totalizing flowmeters, pressure transducers and remote telemetry units on each of the twenty-three representative indicator monitoring wells located within the MAGSA boundary. These wells are part of the basin-wide indicator monitoring network. The data collected from these wells will be remotely communicated, downloaded into a data management system, and allow for accurate and efficient logging of required SGMA reporting information. 

In addition to monitoring groundwater, MAGSA is working to recharge groundwater levels in the region. MAGSA’s  On-Farm Recharge (OFR) project is the first-of-its-kind in the nation. Leveraging $22 million in grant funds, the project involves constructing infrastructure to capture storm and flood waters and then conveying the water to farmland. The project will also build partnerships with farmers and landowners to capture surface water for groundwater recharge on those farmlands. This project, in partnership with the work carried out through Raisin City Water District’s 2018 Natural resources Conservation Services- Regional Conservation Partnership Program (NRCS-RCPP) award, will significantly offset groundwater overdraft for the entire Kings Subbasin.

Another important project that will further groundwater sustainability in the region is the Aquaterra Water Bank project. Preliminary work on a water bank project in MAGSA began in 2020 and will continue into 2021. Located between the Kings and San Joaquin rivers, MAGSA provides an ideal location for the Aquaterra Water Bank project. Water from multiple major water systems will be delivered via new and existing channels and pump stations for recharge and storage within the Aquaterra Water Bank. In drier years, MAGSA will work with project participants to schedule extraction and return water based on participants’ share of extraction capacity and available operational exchange and delivery capability. This project will improve sustainability of local groundwater supply to help the subbasin achieve its sustainability goals while increasing resiliency and flexibility for water suppliers across the State.

Finally, MAGSA is developing a metering incentive program to incentivize early placement of flow meters, pressure transducers, and remote telemetry to comply with the metering policy and accomplish reliable extraction data at the earliest possible time. To express interest in MAGSA’s meter incentive program click HERE!

We are on the road to sustainability, and we need the contribution of our incredible landowners and stakeholders to continue reaching our goals. To receive regular updates on these projects and groundwater conditions in the region, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our E-Updates. Click HERE learn more about how you can get involved with MAGSA this year!

Third water market study workshop will focus on market structure

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to participate in a MAGSA water market, join us for the January 27th water market study workshop. Landowners and interested stakeholders are encouraged to participate in this interactive workshop via Zoom.

Participants will hear from MAGSA’s General Manager, Matt Hurley, and the technical consulting team, who will present a project update as well as a couple of alternate scenarios describing how the market could be structured. The workshop will include a demonstration illustrating the differences between a “bulletin board” and “electronic clearinghouse” structure. Participants will have an opportunity to offer feedback on the market structure concepts as well as ask other questions regarding the study, which is currently underway.

The workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, January 27, 2021 from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. If you are interested in attending, watch this space or sign up for updates here. The workshop is part of a water market study funded through a WaterSMART grant awarded to MAGSA by the US Bureau of Reclamation.

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!

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