News

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.

Approximately 1,000 wells in the McMullin Area GSA identified in well canvass effort

Approximately 1,000 wells within the McMullin Area GSA have been matched with a well completion report as a part of the well canvass effort. Some of these wells may be included in the GSA’s monitoring network; a SGMA requirement, the well monitoring network will collect data that informs sustainability progress. The monitoring network density for MAGSA is about two wells per township/range. Wells must be accompanied by a well completion report to be included in the official monitoring network. A well completion report includes construction information including depth and perforated intervals, among other specifications. The GSA’s technical consultants successfully obtained matched reports for the wells within the GSA’s boundary (pictured below, click to enlarge).

McMullin Area GSA Wells 

Groundwater levels measured by wells in the network will be a key data component for monitoring sustainability goals in the McMullin Area GSA; the data is an important metric for the McMullin Area GSA to measure impacts of future projects and management actions on groundwater levels within the agency boundary.

Federal grant awarded to McMullin Area GSA to conduct water marketing study and groundwater credit system

The McMullin Area GSA has been awarded a WaterSMART Fiscal Year 2018 Water Marketing Strategy Grant from the Bureau of Reclamation. The McMullin Area application was among those receiving the highest scores. A major element of the scoring criteria was landowner support letters. Thanks to strong support from McMullin Area landowners, the grant application was successful.

The Bureau anticipates $193,000 of Federal funds will be awarded to the GSA for the development of a groundwater credit program for landowners including a water marketing strategy study. The award amount will be confirmed once the project scope and budget is refined.

A water marketing program includes proactive strategies for bringing surface water into the McMullin Area. The study will include inter-agency outreach efforts to coordinate and plan for future water transfers, as well as hydrologic studies, pricing and economic impact studies, legal water rights studies, and infrastructure evaluations.

A groundwater credit system creates a mechanism for allocating groundwater resources among landowners to either bank, trade, or sell. Developing the program will include pricing options, legal issues, economic values of local water, socioeconomic impacts, groundwater level impacts, project monitoring, as well as specific rules and regulations for implementation.

The grant award allows the McMullin Area GSA to move forward toward program study and development, and offsets the costs associated with developing this solution. The Bureau anticipates awarding the grant funds to McMullin Area GSA this year.

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.

MAGSA to utilize existing efforts in regional water quality monitoring

At the September 5th Board Meeting, McMullin Area GSA (MAGSA) technical consultant Lynn Groundwater, Provost & Pritchard, discussed the agency’s efficient approach to SGMA-mandated water quality management. The State measures sustainability using six sustainability indicators that when managed appropriately, should avoid “undesirable results”. Significant and unreasonable degraded water quality is included under SGMA as one of the six undesirable results. MAGSA plans to utilize the water quality monitoring efforts of existing regional programs including the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) and the County of Fresno’s Rural Domestic Well Groundwater Quality program.

Under ILRP, this fall 2018 the Kings River Water Quality Coalition will begin sampling groundwater monitoring wells for water quality indicators; designated constituent wells will be monitored annually for Nitrates, EC, DO, pH, and temperature, and every five years for additional indicators such as minerals. Additional sampling data compiled by Fresno County upon installation of new or deepened domestic wells will provide the GSA insight into potential presence of water quality contaminants such as Total Coliform Bacteria or E Coli Bacteria.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board oil field program is another potential resource for water quality information. The program addresses issues that arise with unlined ponds used to dispose water that is produced as a byproduct of oil and natural gas, a risk to groundwater quality.

The cooperative approach will inform MAGSA’s management decisions to prevent degraded water quality, without unduly repeating regional monitoring efforts.

Board Discusses Potential DWR Funding Opportunity

At the August 1, 2018 Board Meeting, GSA technical consultants Provost & Pritchard reported on a potential opportunity to receive funding and/or services through the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR). To assist efforts to reach sustainability locally, DWR’s Technical Support Services (TSS) provide an opportunity for GSAs to apply for technical services, data, and tools.

Services are offered through DWR regional offices and/or their selected contractors and may include monitoring well installation work, video logging of agricultural wells to assess for conversion to monitoring wells, groundwater level monitoring training, installing extensometers that monitor land subsidence, and/or model training and support.

DWR has a total of $3 million in Technical Support Services available to GSAs statewide, and critically overdrafted subbasins receive priority. The McMullin Area GSA lies within the Kings Subbasin, designated as critically overdrafted. The Board discussed the costs associated with applying versus the potential value of returns. The McMullin Area GSA’s consultants assured that the application process is straightforward and the services could help pay for tasks that have already been budgeted for, such as installing monitoring wells to fill data gaps.

Because applications must be submitted on behalf of an entire subbasin rather than by an individual GSA, the seven Kings Subbasin GSAs would need to agree to pursue the services. Once the general application is submitted by the Subbasin, the GSA could then submit individual requests for services.

The McMullin Area GSA is committed to continually seeking opportunities that lower the cost of reaching sustainability and will continue to assess the value of the TSS provided by DWR.

Groundwater Credit System would bring economic benefit to landowners, while increasing overall water use efficiency

The McMullin Area GSA submitted an application for a grant from the US Bureau of Reclamation to conduct a Water Marketing Strategy Study and Groundwater Credit System. At the July 11th Board Meeting the GSA’s technical consultants Provost&Pritchard discussed the mechanics of a groundwater credit system and its potential benefits for landowners.

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. The two concepts work hand-in-hand, as any additional surface water brought into the GSA offsets groundwater use whether used directly or for recharge.

Under a groundwater credit system landowners would be given a groundwater allocation based on acreage to either keep, trade, or sell to other landowners within the GSA. Under the credit system, a landowner could choose to convert a portion of their land for utilization that decreases their water demand, such as grazing or solar, resulting in surplus groundwater to trade or sell. On the supply side, surface water acquisition could be used to offset groundwater dependence allowing landowners to conserve a portion of their groundwater credit to trade.

Because of the economic benefit attached to unused groundwater under a credit system, landowners are incentivized to practice sustainable water management. With higher efficiency in water use across the GSA, there is potential for improved water reliability and increased flexibility in grower operations. A water marketing and groundwater credit system would work in tandem to bring long-term sustainability benefits while offsetting the potential burden of sustainable groundwater management experienced by landowners.

This is one of the programs the McMullin Area GSA Board is investigating to include in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. The program aligns with the Board’s goal of integrating flexibility into compliance on behalf of the landowners they represent.

McMullin Area GSA Pursues Grant for Water Marketing Study and Groundwater Credit System

The McMullin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA) is planning to submit a grant application to the United States Bureau of Reclamation for a Water Marketing Strategy Study.  The Study will involve a Water Marketing Study and development of a Groundwater Credit System.

The Water Marketing Study will include interagency outreach efforts to study, coordinate and plan for future surface water transfers.  Topics addressed will include hydrologic studies to identify the likely frequency and quantity of possible transfers, pricing and economic impact studies, legal and water rights studies, and infrastructure evaluations.

The study will also develop a Groundwater Credit System whereby landowners that do not use all of their groundwater allocation in the future can bank, sell or trade it to other landowners.  Topics investigated will include legal issues, pricing options, economic values of local water, socioeconomic impacts, groundwater level impacts, project monitoring, and specific rules and regulations for implementing the program.

Both of these programs will help to expand lines of communication, improve water reliability, improve water flexibility, reduce dependency on groundwater, and reduce future water conflicts.

The application will be due on July 17, 2018 and up to $200,000 is available to applicants.

 

Proposition 218 Election Passes, Keeps SGMA Implementation Local

The McMullin Area GSA Board successfully passed the Proposition 218 Election to adopt a $19/acre property-related fee in accordance with Water Code section 10730(c). Two valid protests were submitted to the GSA in opposition to the proposed fee that will be levied on landowners within the GSA. A majority protest was needed for the Election to fail.

The $19 per acre fee will fund GSA administration and activities related to planning and implementing local projects aimed at achieving State mandated sustainability. The nearest deadline is completion of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) by January 2020. Passing the election to fund this effort is a critical success for local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The McMullin Area GSA Board is committed to retaining local control over SGMA implementation, where landowner dollars are utilized most efficiently and beneficially.

The fee will be collected by the County of Fresno from all parcel owners within the McMullin Area GSA boundaries, excluding parcels of 2 acres or less that are assumed to be de minimus extractors of groundwater under SGMA. Parcels of 2 acres or less were excluded from the Election after the official rate study revealed the cost associated with billing outweighs potential funds received.

You can use the following DWR tool to determine if your property lies within the boundaries of the McMullin Area GSA: DWR GSA Map Tool

Proposition 218 is a Constitutional Initiative approved by the voters of California in November 1996. It requires new or increased fees and assessments be approved by affected landowners.

Consultants Propose GSP Project Concepts for McMullin Area

At the May 2nd Board Meeting, technical consultants Provost & Pritchard presented a comprehensive list of potential Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) project concepts for mitigating groundwater overdraft in the Raisin City Water District and McMullin Area GSA. The consultants actively sought public participation and input on the proposed concepts to help prioritize those most favored.

A score granted based on specified criteria will prioritize projects from a technical perspective. The higher the score, the more favorable the project based on the following criteria:

  • Areas of Favorable Recharge (For example, areas of hard pan are likely to receive a lower score on this criteria)
  • Land Use
  • Annual Cost per Acre-Foot
  • Land Owners
  • Project Time to Implement
  • Water Supply/Water Rights
  • Yield
  • Environmental/Regulatory
  • Project Outside of GSA
  • Number of Cooperating Agencies

The consultants presented 37 potential project concepts within five broad project categories: Conjunctive Use (the combined use of surface water and groundwater), Surface Water, Land Management, Water Conservation, and Other. All projects discussed have the ability to mitigate groundwater overdraft, but selecting those to pursue is pending Board and public input on high and low priority measures.

Presented were a number of Conjunctive Use projects, including solutions such as intentional flood irrigation or groundwater recharge in dedicated basins and grower reservoirs. Surface Water projects range from developing surface water storage to more innovative solutions, for instance internal surface water trading amongst growers in the McMullin Area GSA. Land Management solutions include crop conversion to lower water use crops, or landowners selling land but retaining groundwater rights.

Public comment expressed desires for the pursuance of least-cost project options; inquiry surrounded the possibility of incentive programs for projects that would entail voluntary adjustments in landowner water-use practices, such as purposeful flood irrigation for recharge.

Using the scoring criteria in conjunction with landowner feedback, the consultants are working to identify creative solutions that lessen the burden of reaching mandated sustainability as they move toward developing a more detailed project roadmap.