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Author: Rebecca Quist

$200,000 Grant Awarded to Support Groundwater Sustainability in the South Fork Kings GSA

The South Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency (SFKGSA) along with their technical consultant, Geosyntec Consultants and Kings River Conservation District, successfully obtained a $200,000 grant to support groundwater sustainability activities. Located in a region with variable water supply and susceptible to drought, the California Resilience Challenge grant awarded by the Bay Area Council Foundation will support SFKGSA’s groundwater sustainability by funding an Aquifer Storage and Recovery pilot program and a crucial data collection effort.

Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) is an innovative groundwater management method used in many parts of the United States to inject water for underground storage to be withdrawn later when surface water is limited, especially during periods of drought.

ASR is ideal for areas where conditions are not ideally suited for putting water back into the ground using recharge basins. Much of the land within the SFKGSA features dense soil types and clay layers making percolation to deeper groundwater zones inefficient. The work associated with the grant will evaluate the feasibility of ASR in the SFKGSA and determine if it is viable to scale with landowners on-farm.

The SFKGSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan, a roadmap to sustainable groundwater management, includes ASR as a high priority among the portfolio of projects to bring groundwater supplies into balance. The grant funding will allow the South Fork Kings GSA to conduct a pilot test of ASR and accelerate implementation of this supply-side solution to support groundwater recovery.

In addition to the ASR pilot program, landowner and community outreach will be used to obtain data on groundwater use and irrigation practices. To kick off work on the grant, a survey will be sent to all SFKGSA landowners and community residents in the coming months. The survey will assist in filling in crucial information for a more accurate picture of groundwater use.

The California Resilience Challenge grant is a statewide effort led by businesses, utilities, and a diverse range of partners, to build local and regional climate resilience and to support a shared vision for a resilient California in the face of climate threats, like drought. The South Fork Kings GSA is among twelve diverse, replicable, and innovative climate change adaptation projects across California to receive a grant. To view the other winning projects, click here.

Board Approves $8.71 Assessment, Secures Budget Revenue to Implement the Groundwater Sustainability Plan

The Board approved an assessment of $8.71 per acre for Fiscal Year 2021 at their June 18th meeting. Based on assessable acreage of 71,277.6 acres, this generates a projected revenue of $620,828 for agency administration and professional services to implement the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. The approved assessment is a decrease from the $9.80 per acre assessment collected in the previous fiscal year, which was the maximum amount approved by South Fork Kings GSA landowners in the Proposition 218 assessment election passed in 2018.

Items in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget include $75,324 for administrative costs, $488,948 for professional services including legal expense and technical tasks, and a $35,532 contingency. The remaining balance includes funds to repay member agencies for their start-up contribution to form and administer the South Fork Kings GSA prior to the assessment election revenues.

Especially critical is beginning the process of implementing the tasks and projects outlined in the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) adopted earlier this year in January. Professional services to be carried out by the South Fork Kings GSA’s technical consultant, Geosyntec, include work on a groundwater accounting program, a groundwater monitoring program and associated data management system, coordination with surrounding basins, and the initiation of an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) pilot project, among others. The cost of the ASR pilot project and related stakeholder outreach activities will be offset with the awarding of the California Resiliency Challenge grant (read more).

To view the approved Fiscal Year 2021 budget, click here.

First Annual Report submitted to the State; improvements in data are needed to maximize efficiency moving forward

Higher data accuracy will help South Fork Kings GSA landowners take advantage of every drop

The South Fork Kings GSA, together with the four other Tulare Lake Subbasin GSAs, submitted the first Annual Report on groundwater conditions to the CA Department of Water Resources on May 5, 2020. The Annual Report focuses on groundwater conditions in water year 2019 (Sept 2018 – Oct 2019) informed by water data, both directly measured and estimated, to update the State and stakeholders on groundwater sustainability progress.

Information includes both surface water and groundwater data that when used together, provide a picture of water use in the Subbasin. Surface water supplies provided a heavy lift to meet water demands in the Subbasin, totaling 584,906 acre-feet for the period, with local river supplies accounting for 91% of the total.

A substantial 90% of the 480,390 acre-feet groundwater extraction estimate was derived from land use information, including agricultural crop demand using imaging collected by satellite. Land use estimates using satellite imagery are useful to develop an understanding of groundwater demand but are less accurate than direct measurement tools like meters or verified crop information reported by landowners. Because groundwater extraction data is key to understanding groundwater balance, the South Fork Kings GSA is aiming to achieve higher accuracy.

Improving the accuracy of data, starting with more precise groundwater extraction measurement, will help water managers strategically manage supplies to benefit landowners while achieving sustainability under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).

With an accurate read on groundwater conditions, water managers gain a firmer grasp on how much groundwater can sustainably be used. Overreliance on land use estimates can inhibit maximum groundwater use efficiency and carries a higher risk of creating pumping deficits that then must be retroactively and stringently corrected. By removing uncertainty, landowners have the opportunity to take advantage of every drop available.

An upcoming landowner survey in the South Fork Kings GSA is part of the agency’s efforts to fine tune data on groundwater supply within its service area. The focus on gathering accurate groundwater data moving forward will help the South Fork Kings GSA maximize its water supplies for stakeholders while ensuring long-term use is balanced.

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