Central Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency expands aquifer recharge

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California's agricultural region scales first-of-its-kind On-Farm Recharge OFR implementation

The McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency (MAGSA), a groundwater sustainability agency in the Central Valley’s Kings Subbasin, has won a $10 million grant from the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The Prop. 1 storm water funding will help expand the existing McMullin On-Farm Recharge (OFR) Project in Fresno County.

In its groundwater sustainability plan, MAGSA has identified aquifer recharge as a key strategy to achieve water sustainability under state law. Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the Agency has been designated a "high-priority, critically overdrafted basin." As such MAGSA developed and submitted its plan in addition to a Kings Subbasin coordination agreement to California's Department of Water Resources (DWR) ahead of the January 31, 2020 deadline.

photo of a farm or orchard in Fresno County, California, credit McMullin Area Groundwater Sustainability Agency

McMullin's OFR projects are considered groundbreaking or innovative on a national scale. First, essential new infrastructure is being built to capture and convey stormwater and flood water to vast private farm acreage. Second, farmers / landowners will implement farm-scale storage and conveyance infrastructure and stormwater capture practices to use gray water on farmlands.

MAGSA is seeking to concurrently reduce vulnerability to regional flooding risk and increase groundwater recharge.

The OFR project expansion will also implement an experimental data collection program to monitor performance and further develop OFR with greater emphasis on topics such as better integration of OFR with farming practices, protecting groundwater quality, managing costs, and improving groundwater and farmer sustainability. Information from the McMullin project will help California develop the Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (FloodMAR) program as well as agriculture develop approaches to sustain water resources into the future.

McMullin continues to demonstrate local unified commitment towards greater sustainability.As MAGSA's General Manager Matt Hurley commented, “We have one of the most competent and cohesive professional, outreach and landowner collaborations on this team. We are in great hands as we develop the solutions for MAGSA’s future. We can’t wait to get this project moving forward!”

The Agency's OFR expansion was one of two projects awarded at the highest level, from among a total of 24 awards. In support of large-scale OFR implementation throughout the region, the state has awarded more than $10 million to subsidize large costs incurred by local entities. DWR granted $5 million in Prop 1E funding to the Kings River Conservation District in 2012, while $7 million was received by Raisin City Water District in 2018 via the National Resources Conservation Service's Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

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