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MAGSA’s McMullin On-Farm Flood Capture Expansion Project Underway

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) has been awarded a $10 million grant by the State Water Resources Control Board through the Prop 1 Stormwater Grant Program to expand the existing McMullin On-Farm Recharge (OFR) Project located near Helm in Fresno County.  The Project is identified in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan and is a key element in a vision developed by MAGSA to achieve groundwater sustainability under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act through innovative approaches in groundwater banking and crediting.

Phase 1 was constructed in 2012-2018 and diverts 150 cubic feet per second (cfs) of flood and storm flows at the James Bypass onto approximately 5,000 acres of private farmland. Phase 2 is currently under design and when constructed will increase the diversion and recharge capacity from 150 cfs to 450 cfs and increase the potential farmland acreage for receiving flood and storm flows for OFR by about 15,000 acres.

Phase 2 utilizes agreements between various public agencies and will be operated in partnership with Raisin City Water District, which will provide matching funds through a U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant award. Phase 2 will rely upon and promote regional collaboration in managing water resources and facilitate the setting of regional priorities and increased self-reliance.  Combined, the projects will deliver $22 million in benefits to the area and contribute substantially to the solutions required to offset the overdraft of the last century in MAGSA and the Kings Subbasin. This would certainly be a model for State and Federal cooperation.

The project represents a large-scale demonstration project of OFR for improved and more integrated groundwater and surface waters. The project is the type envisioned by the California Department of Water Resource’s FloodMAR approach, in which OFR projects are a key component in changing statewide management that ranges from local and regional water projects to re-operation of the state and federal reservoirs for an integrated surface water and groundwater storage system that can accommodate California’s variable water supply under the changing climate. 

MAGSA, through its contractor Tetra Tech, are preparing the required environmental analysis and documentation. A draft California Environmental Quality Assessment document is expected to be available for public review during the Fall of 2021. A draft National Environmental Policy Assessment document is expected to be available for public review during the Winter of 2021-22.

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!

MAGSA awarded $10 million grant to expand innovative On-Farm Recharge project

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) has been awarded a $10 million grant by the State Water Resources Control Board through the Prop 1 Stormwater Grant Program to expand the existing McMullin On-Farm Recharge (OFR) Project located near Helm in Fresno County.  The Project is identified in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan and is a key element in a vision developed by MAGSA to achieve groundwater sustainability under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) through innovative approaches in groundwater banking and crediting.

The grant builds off previous awards for large-scale OFR implementation:  a $5M Prop 1E grant award from California Department of Water Resources to the Kings River Conservation District in 2012, and a $7M grant award through the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to Raisin City Water District in 2018, both requiring substantial private cost share. 

The McMullin Projects represent the first-of-its-kind OFR projects in California and nationally. The Projects are 1) constructing necessary infrastructure to capture and convey storm waters and floodwaters to vast private farm acreage and 2) implementing farm-scale infrastructure and practices in partnership with farmers and landowners to infiltrate captured storm waters and floodwaters on those farmlands.  Through this approach, the McMullin Projects are helping to reduce the ever-increasing threat of regional flood risks and, at the same time, increasing groundwater recharge. 

The first McMullin Project was designed to divert and recharge 150 cubic feet per second of storm flow and floodwater from the Kings River across 5,000 acres of farmland.  This most recently awarded Project’s goal is to more than double the Kings River diversion rate and the total acreage enlisted for recharge. 

This expanded OFR project will implement an experimental data collection program to monitor performance and further develop OFR with greater emphasis on topics such as better integration of OFR with farming practices, protecting groundwater quality, managing costs, and improving groundwater and farmer sustainability.  Information garnered from this Project is important as California begins developing the Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (FloodMAR) program as a critical element of California’s water future.  It is also important for all of agriculture in developing approaches to sustain water resources while staying viable. 

Support letters from MAGSA landowners were critical for this award, and all the previous awarded McMullin Projects, demonstrating continued local unified commitment towards greater sustainability.  MAGSA was one of 24 projects funded through the Prop 1 Storm Water Grant Program. The $10M award was one of two awarded at the highest level.  Sixty-seven applications were submitted, totaling $300M in grant requests. Twenty-four projects were awarded, totaling $98 million.

Ideally, the most effective Project will be conducted through a partnership with Raisin City Water District who will provide matching funds through their (Federal) 2018 NRCS-RCPP award.  Prop 1 (State) authorized $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds for water projects including surface and groundwater storage, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking water protection. The State Water Resources Control Board administers Prop 1 funds.  This would certainly be a model for State and Federal cooperation. 

Combined, the projects will deliver $22 Million in benefits to the area and contribute substantially to the solutions required to offset the overdraft of the last century in the GSA and within the Kings Subbasin.  Each of the individual Project(s) are supported by the continuous assistance of both Bachand and Associates and Provost and Pritchard Engineers. MAGSA’s General Manager Matt Hurley commented that “We have one of the most competent and cohesive professional, outreach and landowner collaborations on this team.  We are in truly in great hands as we develop the solutions for MAGSA’s future. We can’t wait to get this Project moving forward!”

MAGSA is hitting the ground running in 2021!

Vision Event sets the stage for the new year

48 individuals attended MAGSA’s 2021 Vision Event on January 20th and heard from MAGSA’s General Manager and technical team on the top priorities for 2021. If you were unable to attend the event, click the video below to watch the recording and learn how to secure a thriving future this new year!

Gathering data on wells to achieve sustainability goals

Groundwater data measured by wells is a key data component for monitoring MAGSA’s sustainability goals. The data is an important metric to measure impacts of future projects and management actions on groundwater levels within the agency boundary and ensures MAGSA can effectively defend accurate groundwater use on behalf of its landowners.

So far, MAGSA has received a Proposition 68 grant which funded a well monitoring video survey, the gathering of well construction information, and site visits. This year, MAGSA is planning to continue collecting well construction information and begin the three-year process of metering wells within MAGSA. You can join the list of landowners interested in receiving a monetary incentive for being an early adopter of meters!

Join the list of landowners interested in receiving an incentive to help cover the cost of meter equipment and installation:

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Study on groundwater credit and water marketing program will conclude this spring

MAGSA received a WaterSMART Bureau of Reclamation grant to conduct a study on a groundwater credit and surface water marketing program. 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 study will conclude this spring.

Over the last year, Geosyntec has led a team of skilled individuals from organizations across disciplines to consider how a water market might operate within MAGSA. MAGSA held three public workshops to discuss identified market concepts, requirements, trading structures, rules, monitoring, administration, and reporting. MAGSA has also conducted stakeholder interviews and received input on market components.

A final workshop will be held before the study concludes. Look out for further details. Recordings of past workshops can be found on MAGSA’s website.

Learn more about MAGSA’s vision for 2021 HERE.

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.

Upcoming 2021 Vision Event – you’re invited!

Although 2020 was met with unique challenges, MAGSA’s team has continued to move forward meeting the great challenge of achieving groundwater sustainability for our landowners and stakeholders. There is still a lot more ground to cover in 2021 to reach our goal of reducing 10% of our overdraft (9,110 acre-feet) by 2025!

Join us for a 2021 Vision Event to recap on 2020’s progress and hear from MAGSA’s General Manager and technical team on the most pressing activities planned in 2021.

MAGSA’s resilient landowners and stakeholders are invited to learn how they can participate to secure a thriving future starting in the new year. All are welcome to join us for this event to kick off 2021.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday, January 20th from 4:00 – 5:00 PM via Zoom. A link will be shared closer to the event date.

Board adopts Groundwater Banking and Groundwater Export policies after second round of public review

The MAGSA Board unanimously adopted the Groundwater Banking and Groundwater Export policies at the December 9th meeting. The draft policies were available for public review and comment early September, with updated versions available for a second round of public review early November.

The Groundwater Export Policy clarifies and expands on the groundwater pumping restriction referenced in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) as a management action to achieve sustainability. The policy will allow MAGSA to oversee, manage, and reasonably regulate groundwater extraction within its boundaries effectively and equitably. This includes groundwater pumping within MAGSA for any use outside of MAGSA.

The Water Banking Policy establishes guidelines and principles for MAGSA on water banking within its service area, outlining measures MAGSA may implement for its oversight of any water banking activities within its boundaries.

The final policies are available on the website policy page.

MAGSA will continue its work to develop policies that will guide the agency in its sustainability efforts in the years to come. Signing up for the MAGSA email list is the fastest way to stay up to date on upcoming drafts available for review and comment. If you are not already on the list, sign up here!

MAGSA Video Provides Narrative for Achieving Sustainability

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA), in collaboration with J Comm, Inc., has created a visually engaging video highlighting MAGSA growers’ vision for achieving groundwater sustainability. The inspirational video features General Manager Matt Hurley and local MAGSA growers.

As MAGSA enters a new phase of SGMA implementation, landowners will need to begin adjusting practices to contribute to overall sustainability goals of the service area. It is not a job for any one landowner, rather it will require a concerted group effort by a cooperative landowner base. Learn how MAGSA growers are now taking responsibility for reaching sustainability.  Click HERE to view MAGSA’s video.

Water market study update

The water market study team is currently conducting stakeholder interviews, working to understand the perspective of individuals representative of MAGSA’s service area. Interviews are an opportunity for the study team to gather in depth feedback on preferences and perceptions for how a water market might be structured and will ultimately result in a water market design that fits the needs of MAGSA stakeholders and landowners. Once completed, the team will bring its findings to the Board for discussion.

The team is also working on developing varying water market options. The options look at different water supply scenarios such as groundwater allocation based on sustainable yield and potential surface water imports.

Stakeholders and landowners are encouraged to join the next Water Market Study workshop on Wednesday, October 21st from 4:00-6:00 PM. Check the website regularly for event updates.

Two draft policies released for stakeholder input

Two new draft policies were released for public and committee review at the September 2nd Board Meeting. The Groundwater Export and Water Banking policies are open for public comment until September 30th. Their proposed adoption date is October 7th.

The Groundwater Export Policy clarifies and expands on the groundwater pumping restriction referenced in MAGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) as a management action to achieve sustainability. The policy will allow MAGSA to oversee, manage, and reasonably regulate groundwater extraction within its boundaries effectively and equitably. This includes groundwater pumping within MAGSA for any use outside of MAGSA.

The Water Banking Policy establishes guidelines and principles for MAGSA on water banking within its service area. The policy outlines measures MAGSA may implement for its oversight of any water banking activities within its boundaries.

The draft policies can be reviewed and comments submitted via MAGSA’s Board Policy page. MAGSA stakeholders and landowners are encouraged to engage in this foundational aspect of the groundwater management process.

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