In 2014, Governor Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which requires definitive timelines for local agencies to sustainability manage groundwater in the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Bulletin 118 defined basins and sub-basins. Sustainable groundwater management is defined as using groundwater during a period of time without causing undesirable results. (Water Code § 10721(v).) In Water Code section 10721(x), (1-6), undesirable results refer to chronic lowering of groundwater levels, reduction of groundwater storage, seawater intrusion, degraded water quality, subsidence, and surface/groundwater interconnection.
On or before January 31, 2020, a groundwater sustainability plan for the basin must be submitted for review by DWR. (Water Code § 10723.2(2).)
DWR – Department of Water Resources
GSA – Groundwater Sustainability Agency
GSP – Groundwater Sustainability Plan
SGMA – Sustainable Groundwater Management Act
SWRCB – State Water Resources Control Board
The two principal reasons are: (i) the necessity to have production agriculture as a voting member of the GSA governing board; and (ii) to protect the assets of the public agencies forming the GSA from the risk of liability and litigation. Production agriculture has a major influence on groundwater impacts, i.e., pumping levels and water quality. The public agencies within the Kings River East GSA determined that the process would not be successful without the inclusion of production agriculture’s perspective and input. The public agencies, individually, were not created to manage groundwater and have a concern with the litigious consequences of groundwater management. As a result, a special act district was formed by successfully introducing SB 37 (Vidak) and having such legislation signed into law in September 2016
A GSA has broad powers to provide the maximum degree of local control and flexibility to implement a GSP. A GSA may 1) require registration of groundwater extraction facilities, 2) require water-measuring device or other reasonable method to determine groundwater extraction, 3) report diversion of surface water to underground storage, 4) provide for a program of voluntary fallowing of agricultural lands, 5) impose spacing requirements on new groundwater well construction and impose operating restrictions, and 6) request a county forward well construction, modification, etc. to the GSA prior to approval (Water Code § 10725-6). Subject to statutory requirements, a GSA has fee authority to develop and implement the GSP. (Water Code § 10730).
The GSA is using Prop 26 as the mechanism to authorize collection of money to fund day-to-day administration and operations through fiscal year 2020 plus to cover costs associated with developing a groundwater sustainability plan (GSP). After the GSA submits its GSP to the California Department of Water Resources, then the GSA will determine out how to fund administration of the GSA and implementation of the GSP.
SGMA is an acronym for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – a collection of bills (Senate Bill 1168 (Pavley), Senate Bill 1319 (Pavley), and Assembly Bill 1739 (Dickenson)) signed into law by Governor Brown on September 16, 2014 – which requires groundwater to be managed sustainably in groundwater basins by local public agencies.
Some public outreach requirements in SGMA are prescriptive but others are left to the discretion of the exclusive GSAs recognized in a basin. DWR strongly recommends that GSAs engage a broad range of stakeholders, both within a basin and from the larger hydrologic region if necessary, prior to making local decisions to help build trust and promote public acceptance and support. GSAs are encouraged to appoint and consult with an advisory committee consisting of interested parties and to facilitate the active involvement of diverse social, cultural, and economic elements of the population within the basin prior to and during the development and implementation of a GSP. Water Code References: §10723 et seq., §10727.8, §10728.4, §10733 et seq
Section 302 of SB 37 allows boundary modification pursuant to the following conditions:
(1) The initial boundaries may be changed upon a petition to the boards of supervisors of the Counties of Fresno and Tulare after a noticed public hearing in the county in which the change is proposed. The boundaries shall be depicted on a map that shall be maintained by the boards of supervisors of those counties and thereafter recorded in the office of the county recorder of each county.
(2) The boundaries of an agency shall not be adjusted to include an area of the basin within the management area of another groundwater sustainability agency unless that agency has entered into a memorandum of agreement or other legal agreement with the groundwater sustainability agency that permits the area to the included.
(3) The boundaries of the agency shall not be adjusted to include any part of a proposed management area, as defined in a notice of intent submitted pursuant [to] Section 10723.8 of the Water Code, unless the agency has entered into a memorandum of agreement other legal agreement with all agencies listed n the notice of intent that permits the area to be included.
To manage and use groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results (Water Code §10721(v), meaning one or more of the following effects caused throughout the basin:
(1) Chronic lowering of groundwater levels indicating a significant and unreasonable depletion of supply over the planning and implementation horizon. Overdraft during a period of drought is not to establish a chronic lowering of groundwater levels if extractions and groundwater recharge are managed as necessary to ensure that reductions in groundwater levels or storage during a period of drought are offset by groundwater levels or storage during other periods.
(2) Significant and unreasonable reduction of groundwater storage.
(3) Significant and unreasonable seawater intrusion.
(4) Significant and unreasonable degraded water quality, including the migration of contaminate plumes that impair water supplies.
(5) Significant and unreasonable land subsidence that substantially interferes with surface land use.
(6) Depletions of interconnected surface water that have significant and unreasonable adverse impacts on uses of surface water (Water Code §10721(x)).
A person who extracts, for domestic purposes, two (2) acre-feet per year (Water Code §107221(e)).
The GSA’s billing schedule is as follows:
(1) March 2018
(2) January 2019
(3) January 2020
However, since the amount shown on a landowner’s bill will not vary from one billing cycle to the next, a landowner may choose to issue a lump sum payment in 2018 for all three invoices.
If a GSA does not demonstrate to the state that it will adequately fund the efforts to become sustainable then a basin may be deemed probationary as soon as 2025 and the State Water Resources Control could levee penalties such as a well fee, $100 per well, and groundwater pumping charge, $40 per acre-foot. In addition to these charges, State Water Resources Control Board will mandate meters on all wells, a cost borne solely by the landowner.
Kings River East GSA is one of seven GSAs – North Kings GSA, Consolidated Irrigation District GSA, South Kings GSA, North Fork Kings GSA, McMullin Group GSA, and James Irrigation District GSA – within the Kings Subbasin, which covers nearly 1 million acres of prime farm land within the San Joaquin Valley. This subbasin is bounded on the north by the San Joaquin River, on the east by the Sierra Nevada foothills, the southern boundary is coincident with Alta Irrigation District’s southern boundary and eventually following the Kings River and its south fork, and western boundary follows a northwest alignment parallel but generally offset about four (4) miles west of the north fork of the Kings River.
The GSA is establishing a nominal regulatory fee of $3,250 for agencies within the boundaries within the GSA that do not appear to have a significant impact on groundwater pumping with remaining lands paying a groundwater pumping fee of $1.45 per acre-foot. These charges will be used to fund GSA administration and development of a GSP. considering a groundwater pumping fee of $1.45 per acre-foot while volumetric water charges within Alta Irrigation District and Orange Cove Irrigation District (Tier 1 users) are $4.75 and $65 per acre-foot, respectively.
The GSA has a seven (7) member board that represents the following organizations or interests: Alta Irrigation District, County of Tulare, County of Fresno, drinking water communities (Cutler Public Utility District, East Orosi Public Utility District, London Community Services District, Orosi Public Utility District, and Sultana Community Services District), irrigation and water districts (Hills Valley Irrigation District, Kings River Water District, Orange Cove Irrigation District, and Tri-Valley Water District), cities (Dinuba, Orange Cove, and Reedley), and production agriculture.
Opportunities for stakeholder involvement with the Kings River East GSA range from participation in monthly board meetings to periodic meetings for the Advisory and Technical committees. Board and committee meetings are held at the Dinuba City Hall (405 East El Monte Way, Dinuba) and Alta Irrigation District (298 North L Street, Dinuba), respectively. See table below for a summary of the GSA meeting schedule. The meeting schedule is subject to change and stakeholders should check the GSA website, www.kingrivereast.org, for current information about meeting dates.
Board meetings: Every Month, 3rd Thursday @ 2pm
Advisory Meetings: Quarterly, 3rd Wednesday @ 3pm
Technical Meetings: Bi-Monthly, 3rd Tuesday @ 10am
In addition to definitions provided herein, below are a few key definitions from the Water Code §10721:
Basin – means a groundwater basin or subbasin identified and defined in Bulletin 118 or as modified pursuant to Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 10722).
In-lieu Use – the use of surface water by persons that could otherwise extract groundwater in order to leave groundwater in the basin.
Planning and Implementation Horizon – means a 50-year time period over which a groundwater sustainability agency determines that plans and measures will be implemented in a basin to ensure that the basin is operated within its sustainable yield.
Sustainability Goal – the existence and implementation of one or more groundwater sustainability plans that achieve sustainable groundwater management by identifying and causing the implementation of measures targeted to ensure that the applicable basin is operated within it sustainable yield.
Sustainable Groundwater Management – the management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without causing undesirable results.
Sustainable Yield – means the maximum quantity of water, calculated over a base period representative of long-term conditions in the basin and including any temporary surplus, that can be withdrawn annually from a groundwater supply without causing an undesirable result.
Water Year – means the period from October 1 through the following September 30, inclusive.
The GSA Board is proposing a groundwater fee of $1.45 per acre for lands within the saturated alluvium of the groundwater basin underlying the GSA. So, the fee for your parcel would be:
Water Demand: 40 acres x 3 (AF/ac) = 120 acre-feet
Surface Water Credit: None; no surface water delivery records
Groundwater Fee: 120 acre-feet x $1.45 per acre-feet = $175
If your parcel had access to surface water, then water demand is reduced according the volume of water shown on delivery records from the agency providing surface water.
Kings River East GSA will accept meter records from a well if a landowner complies with the following requirements: