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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.

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