Coordination Underpins Success for Kings Subbasin GSAs

  • Jun 23, 2020

The James ID K-Basin Recharge Project covers 200 acres and is used whenever the District has access to flood or excess waters.

Groundwater overdraft within the Central Valley is an unavoidable fact. Within the Kings Subbasin, seven groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) are working together and the James GSA is one of them.

Situated within the James Irrigation District (James ID), the James GSA formed from a memorandum of understanding by James ID and Reclamation District No. 1606. The San Joaquin-based GSA became one of the first GSAs established in California in 2017. It covers approximately 29,051 acres and is unique in that over 99% of its extracted groundwater is already metered, measured and reported.

Groundwater overdraft conditions are the common denominator behind concerns throughout the subbasin, linking to land subsidence, reduced groundwater storage and chronic lowering of groundwater levels. However, successful coordination between GSAs to address these undesirable results mark a significant and hard-won milestone.

“Entities in the Kings Subbasin have done a great job in their coordination and cooperation,” said James Irrigation District General Manager Steven Stadler, who administers the James GSA.  “Our greatest challenge was trying to reach an agreement on responsibility for overdraft, and our greatest success was reaching that agreement. That agreement served as the cornerstone for the remainder of the planning process.”

The James GSA continues to partner with other entities to achieve sustainability within the subbasin.  Most of the 21 James GSP projects focus on groundwater recharge and providing surface water to areas that are wholly reliant on groundwater for their water supply. Several projects and management actions focus on groundwater quality concerns and importing good-quality surface water supplies to reduce the quantity of salts being introduced into the aquifer.

James GSA has several key advantages going into the SGMA implementation phase. James ID holds pre-1914 water rights on both the Kings River and the San Joaquin River.  Throughout its 100-year existence, it has always operated as a conjunctive use district, recharging groundwater in wet years and relying on groundwater in dry years. Availability of surface water, particularly on the Kings River, will continue to change over time; however, conjunctive use of surface water resources throughout the subbasin will continue to be a strategy to employ.

“From an engineering viewpoint, I believe sustainability is easily achieved in the Kings Subbasin. From a management viewpoint, it is a far more difficult task,” Stadler said.  “Transitioning from a largely unregulated resource to a regulated resource and imposing a management structure for its use and replenishment will be a historic achievement.”