GSP Updates

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.

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

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!

The planned pace of sustainability in the McMullin Area will provide early flexibility

The SGMA requires subbasins to become sustainable by 2040. Reaching sustainability objectives will not occur overnight, but rather will require the laying of a foundation at the onset of implementation that yields results in groundwater conditions over the entire 20 year stabilizing period and the 50 year planning horizon. As MAGSA takes stock of current groundwater conditions, the Board must consider the rate at which mitigation will occur.

The orderly implementation of sustainability efforts needs to strike a balance between practicality and intensity. Identified in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), the planned rate of mitigation must be approved by Department of Water Resources (DWR). The planned rate needs to set forth a path to achieve sustainability objectives on a feasible timeline.

MAGSA’s technical consultant Lynn Groundwater, Provost & Pritchard, reviewed three alternatives for the rate of mitigation: a constant rate, a phased rate, and a deferred rate. Constant mitigation sets an even pace of 25% improvement every 5 years toward the sustainability objectives. This option is likely acceptable to DWR, but may not be practical as initial projects and management actions will take time to develop. A phased mitigation schedule starts more slowly initially, with an increased rate of progress over time. This rate would allow time to develop management actions and build projects that may not yield the bulk of the intended results until further down the implementation timeline. Deferred mitigation delays 100% of improvement to the last 5 years of GSP implementation, leaving all progress to occur between 2035 and 2040. This rate is unlikely to be accepted by DWR.

The best fit for MAGSA’s sustainability timeline appears likely to be a phased mitigation schedule. Laying the foundation for the service area’s groundwater management will mean heavy lifting on the front end of the timeline to develop the nuts and bolts of projects and management action mechanisms. Phased mitigation grants flexibility to establish this foundation that will yield increased results in later implementation years.

MAGSA developing groundwater level metrics, sustainability criteria considered for individual wells

Setting metrics for groundwater level is underway in MAGSA. At the February 6th Board Meeting, technical consultant Lynn Groundwater, Provost & Pritchard, discussed MAGSA’s methodology for setting the criteria that indicates whether or not sustainable levels of groundwater are met. Known as sustainable management criteria, these levels are guided by historical groundwater level data. The Kings Subbasin coordinated effort has adopted MAGSA’s methodology, with a few variances such as time period of data used.

Sustainable Management Criteria are the SGMA metrics of success. The criteria will include numeric values for groundwater depth. These values will guide sustainability efforts. The first value is the measurable objective: the groundwater depth you must reach and maintain. The second value is the minimum threshold: the groundwater depth you cannot drop below. A range of flexible values, the operational flexibility, will also be determined. The operational flexibility takes into account historical declines and the potential for future drought occurrences. The intent of operational flexibility is to allow groundwater depths to drop for a time (e.g. during a drought) as long as recovery toward the measurable objective follows. 

Using data to determine historical rates of water level decline is important for setting reasonable sustainability objectives. Historical data helps set the objectives. Future data will inform Agency managers of progress occurring toward achievement of those objectives. MAGSA is using historical data beginning 1990-present from wells within its service area. Progress toward the sustainability objectives will be tracked using data collected from the monitoring network of spatially distributed wells.  Moving forward, MAGSA plans to collect groundwater level data from each well at least every March and October. Each well within the network will have its own minimum threshold and measurable objectives against which to measure new data.

Sustainability progress will follow a phased mitigation schedule, starting slowly at first with increased rate of progress over time. This allows time to begin developing management actions and building projects that may not yield the bulk of results until further down the GSP implementation road.  

As Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) draft chapters take shape for internal review, technical consultants are actively seeking public input early on from stakeholders during Board meetings and via the Undesirable Results online survey. The input received prior to the official GSP 90-day public review period allows maximum stakeholder concerns and preferences to be considered and included in early GSP chapter drafts.

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.

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