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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.

In spirit of cooperation, MAGSA delays adoption of Groundwater Sustainability Plan to address comments

Having received several comments in the last few days leading up to the October 16th Public Hearing on its draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan, the MAGSA Board agreed to hold off on consideration of Plan adoption until the November meeting. Matt Hurley, MAGSA’s General Manager, recommended the delay in an effort to appropriately address the comments received.

This will include re-convening the Technical Advisory Committee for review of the latest comments submitted and for an updated TAC recommendation to the Board. Considering stakeholder input has been foundational to MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan development, MAGSA wanted to be sure to give adequate and respectful consideration to those who took the the time to provide comment.

Comments received prior to the October 9th Technical Advisory Committee meeting were previously addressed in the latest updated draft version of the GSP.

Once the review of the latest comments is complete, it is expected the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan will be in front of the MAGSA Board once again for adoption at the November 6, 2019 meeting in Kerman. The final adopted GSP will be made available on the MAGSA website.

Recent outreach activities engage MAGSA stakeholders in Groundwater Sustainability Plan review

A workshop held in Kerman followed by an online webinar brought both seasoned and newly engaged stakeholders to the table, as MAGSA’s technical consultants explained the ins and outs of groundwater conditions and the plan to meet SGMA-mandated sustainability by 2040. Both events took place in August during the draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan 90-day comment period.

A September “office hours” chat offered both online and at MAGSA’s Kerman office presented another opportunity to connect with MAGSA’s General Manager and technical staff.

Engaged stakeholders posed thoughtful questions related to MAGSA’s priorities for GSP implementation when it comes to projects and management actions. MAGSA staff highlighted the importance of improved groundwater data gathering, citing working with growers on a data gathering program as a top priority.

Visit our GSP Portal resources page for workshop materials, videos, and powerpoint slides: GSP Resources

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.

Kings Subbasin community residents and GSA leaders gather for groundwater discussion in Riverdale

Panelists discuss complexity of the nearly 1 million acre service area

June 10, Riverdale – A community discussion on groundwater and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) highlighted the complexity of the groundwater Subbasin that covers nearly 1 million acres and gave attendees a better understanding of how groundwater quality will be monitored in the Kings Subbasin.

GSA leaders representing five Kings Subbasin GSAs participated in a panel discussion, emphasizing the feat to coordinate and map out groundwater conditions in a Subbasin that includes 7 GSAs. Panelists included Gary Serrato, Executive OfficerNorth Kings GSA; Matt Hurley, General ManagerMcMullin Area GSA; Steven Stadler, Administrator, James Irrigation District GSA; Mark McKean, ChairNorth Fork Kings GSA; Chad Wegley, AdministratorKings River East GSA; and Ronald (Ronnie) Samuelian, Kings Subbasin Coordinator and Principal EngineerProvost & Pritchard Consulting Group.

Panelists discussed their plans to monitor water quality as it relates to groundwater pumping. Under SGMA, GSAs are required to ensure water quality degradation resulting from groundwater pumping is not significant and unreasonable. The Kings Subbasin GSA leaders emphasized water quality concerns are localized and must be individually looked at due to high variability; there is no one-size-fits-all management tool or threshold for the Subbasin.

Panelists also noted the GSAs will be looking for changes in trends, not one-time spikes in water quality measurements, to determine if there is a water quality concern that needs to be addressed. The GSAs have outlined a network of wells that will be used to monitor water quality moving forward. In many cases this well network is similar to the network used by existing water quality regulating programs, such as the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program that monitors nitrates for irrigated agriculture.

Additional workshop topics included an overview of SGMA, groundwater conditions in the Kings Subbasin, and why it is important for rural communities to participate in groundwater planning. The workshop was hosted by the Kings River Conservation District in association with Self-Help Enterprises.

Stakeholders indicate priorities on potential effects of groundwater conditions

In an effort to identify and prioritize stakeholder concerns relating to potential impacts that may result from groundwater conditions, MAGSA conducted a survey. The survey asked participants to rank potential effects that can occur across five sustainability indicators (in bold below) from most important to avoid to least important to avoid.

Top responses across the five sustainability indicators for the effects most important to avoid are:

  1. Reduction in groundwater storage: need to drill new wells
  2. Degraded water quality: impact to crop yield, water treatment for domestic use
  3. Land subsidence: damage to wells, damage to infrastructure
  4. Chronic lowering of groundwater levels: irrigation wells becoming unproductive, reduction of well pumping capacity
  5. Interconnected surface water depletion: concern the trees and riparian habitat will dry up

Survey results ensure stakeholder concerns are considered in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan.

Adopting Kings Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan provides avenue for future project funding

At the February 6th meeting, the Board unanimously approved the adoption of the updated Kings Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP). As an interested party of the Kings Basin Water Authority, MAGSA can add Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) projects to the Water Authority’s project list allowing for future consideration in grant proposals.

Through IRWMP, the Water Authority supports the development of local solutions through projects and programs for the region’s most pressing water issues. Over the past decade, the Water Authority has brought in over $55 million in state and private grant funding to the region, which has been leveraged into over $87 million for planning and expanding local water management projects.

Stakeholders can impact MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan development with survey participation

Stakeholders in the McMullin Area GSA (MAGSA) are being asked to provide their opinion on potentially adverse effects resulting from groundwater conditions. A survey has been created specifically for MAGSA stakeholders to share their concerns and help prioritize preferences of the GSA’s interested persons.

The responses gathered from the Undesirable Results survey will be used to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that considers stakeholder preferences for groundwater management. Input from stakeholders at this point of GSP development (timeline below) is important to ensure the GSA’s technical consultants are able to consider public feedback in the GSP chapters’ early drafts. The information from the survey will be considered when the criteria that measures MAGSA’s sustainability progress is established.

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The Undesirable Results survey will serve to prioritize participants’ concerns on the potential effects of reduction in groundwater storage, degraded water quality, land subsidence, chronic lowering of groundwater, and depletion of interconnected surface waters.

For survey purposes, MAGSA’s service area is divided into five survey areas allowing stakeholders to provide input based on knowledge from their specific area of residence and/or work. Because of these different areas, the survey will better inform regional trends within the GSA service area.

MAGSA’s technical consultants are committed in their effort to solicit and implement the feedback of interested parties throughout the development of a GSP.

CLICK HERE to take the survey and impact GSP development.

Matt Hurley Will Lead McMullin Area GSA

At the January 10 Board Meeting, the McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) Board announced the appointment of Matt Hurley as MAGSA’s general manager. Hurley will lead MAGSA in the development, adoption, and implementation of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan for the sustainable management of groundwater within the MAGSA service area.

As CEO of Water Management Professionals, Inc, Hurley has extensive SGMA knowledge and background having been heavily involved at the State and local levels with the development of the regulations and implementation of SGMA. He served on the Department of Water Resources SGMA Practitioner’s Advisory Panel and the Association of California Water Agencies SGMA Task Force. “I am grateful to the Board for putting their trust in me as the new general manager of MAGSA. I will bring all the energy and expertise I have to implement SGMA for the best possible outcome for the landowners and communities served by MAGSA,” stated Hurley.

As a licensed attorney, Hurley is fully versed in water law, especially groundwater, in the State of California along with having broad experience in water resource and special district management. In addition to his role as General Manager of Angiola Water District, Deer Creek Storm Water District, and Green Valley Water District for the last ten years, Hurley organized and managed the Tri-County Water Authority GSA in the Tulare Lake Subbasin since 2016. He also served as Board Chair for several local water agencies including the Fresno Slough Water District, Atwell Island Water District, and the Tri-County Water Authority GSA. “Groundwater availability is essential for businesses, farms, and residents to thrive in the McMullin Area. Hurley has the experience and knowledge to navigate MAGSA through the challenges of implementing the State’s new groundwater regulations while minimizing the impacts to our local economy,” stated MAGSA Board Chair Don Cameron.

As a newly formed agency, MAGSA is responsible for developing and implementing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) that will describe localized groundwater issues and identify appropriate solutions. The focus of the MAGSA Board is on local needs, local solutions, and local success. 

Board Approves Joining Regional Water Authority

At the October 3rd meeting, the Board approved requesting to become an Interested Party of the Kings Basin Water Authority. As an Interested Party, McMullin Area GSA can add Groundwater Sustainability Plan projects to the Water Authority’s project list allowing for future consideration in grant proposals.

The Water Authority is a regional water agency formed to develop and implement an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. The Water Authority supports the development of local solutions through projects and programs for the region’s most pressing water issues, like groundwater overdraft. Over the past decade, the Water Authority has brought in over $55 million in State and private grant funding to the region. The funding has been leveraged into over $87 million for planning and expanding local water management projects. The regional goals for the Kings Basin Water Authority are intended to address the primary problems and resource conflicts in the region. The coequal goals are to:

  • Halt, and ultimately reverse, the current overdraft and provide for sustainable management of surface and groundwater;
  • Increase the water supply reliability, enhance operational flexibility, and reduce system constraints;
  • Improve and protect water quality;
  • Provide additional flood protection; and
  • Protect and enhance aquatic ecosystems and wildlife habitat.

The process for becoming an Interested Party requires completing the Water Authority’s Interested Party Questionnaire, formally adopting the Kings Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, and a voluntary contribution of $250.

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