At a special board meeting on September 27, 2022, the Greater Kaweah GSA Board members approved the Water Year 2023 (WY 2023) Sustainable Yield Allocation along with Tier 1 and 2 Penalty Allocations for the Greater Kaweah Agricultural Management Area, an area which includes irrigated and non-irrigated ag land. The approved groundwater allocations set a limit on groundwater pumping for WY 2023 (October 1, 2022 – September 30, 2023) and are as follows (units are in evapotranspiration i.e., net usage):
- Sustainable Yield Allocation is 0.83 acre-feet/acre
- Tier 1 Penalty Allocation is 0.83 acre-feet/acre
- Tier 2 Penalty Allocation is 1.04 acre-feet/acre
The combined total for Sustainable Yield, Tier 1 and Tier 2 is 2.70 acre-feet/acre.
The Board’s objective in setting the allocations was to respond to the current and anticipated long-term groundwater conditions of the Kaweah Subbasin taking into account the requirement by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to have a sustainable groundwater supply by 2040.
Due to an oversubscribed dependence on groundwater in the Kaweah Subbasin, long-term analysis shows groundwater levels declining over the past 20 years and earlier. For the years from 1997 to 2017, the region has experienced average groundwater declines in the range of 100 feet. The Kaweah Subbasin is currently estimated to have an annual average overdraft in excess of 80,000 acre-feet per year (an acre-foot of water equals about 326,000 gallons of water- enough to cover a football field 1-foot deep).
The allocations are based on technical data for the Kaweah Subbasin, the GKGSA Rules and Regulations, and the GKGSA 2022 Amended Groundwater Sustainability Plan. The Sustainable Yield allocation has been agreed upon by all three GSAs in the Kaweah Subbasin and is the amount of groundwater that can be used for WY 2023. Tier 1 and Tier 2 Penalty Allocations are temporary and are based on a ramp down schedule by reducing overdraft groundwater pumping gradually until reaching sustainable pumping by 2040 as required by SGMA.
If a landowner uses more than the Sustainable Yield Allocation of 0.83 acre-feet/acre of groundwater there will be penalty costs. For WY 2023 Tier 1, the Penalty Rate is $125 per acre foot, and for Tier 2, the Penalty Rate is $250 per acre foot. If a landowner exceeds the Tier 2 allocation, a $500 penalty per acre foot will be imposed. In addition, the following year’s allocation will be reduced by the amount of Tier 2 exceedance (a 1:1 ratio).
For WY 2023, GKGSA will track groundwater use through a “consumptive use” model utilized by Land IQ. The Kaweah Subbasin has contracted with Land IQ to collect monthly evapotranspiration (ET) data at the field level. Water use estimation is calculated as ET, or the amount of water consumed by the plant through evaporation and transpiration. The allocations are based on consumptive use and are not based on physical extractions of groundwater. For those landowners opting to use meters, instead of Land IQ, metered data will be reconciled to account for the difference between consumption and metered data.
The Kaweah Subbasin GSAs have developed an online Water Dashboard to allow landowners to track their own groundwater use and credits. Landowners who create an account on the Water Dashboard will be able to visualize and understand their ET data at the field level in the context of their farming operations and groundwater pumping. This is the same ET data the GKGSA is using to track landowners’ groundwater use and allocation. The Water Dashboard will also allow landowners to identify and report back any issues with the data and information the Greater Kaweah GSA is using to ensure transparent and accurate groundwater allocation accounting. Landowners can create a Water Dashboard account at www.gsawd.com.
The GKGSA Board understands the groundwater allocation changes the way landowners manage their groundwater use on their farms and fields. After a robust public comment and review process, the GKGSA Board has worked on shaping a groundwater allocation and Rules and Regulations that give landowners a level of certainty to their available groundwater supply and flexibility in how to manage that supply over time. Both the Sustainable Yield and Rules and Regulations that guide how the allocation is implemented reflect thoughtful input and discussions amongst diverse stakeholders over many months of extended public comment and review periods. The GKGSA Board members believe the path to groundwater sustainability is best accomplished locally by GKGSA leadership and stakeholders working together on the types of solutions that work best for the Kaweah Subbasin.