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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.

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.

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.

(click to enlarge)

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. 

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.

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.

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