At a special board meeting on September 26, 2023, the Greater Kaweah GSA Board members approved the Water Year 2024 (WY 2024) Native 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, 2023- September 30, 2024) and are as follows (units are in evapotranspiration i.e., net usage):
- Native Sustainable Yield Allocation is 0.62 acre-feet/acre
- Tier 1 Penalty Allocation is 0.56 acre-feet/acre
- Tier 2 Penalty Allocation is 0.69 acre-feet/acre
The combined total for Native Sustainable Yield, Tier 1 and Tier 2 is 1.87 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 2024. 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.
For WY 2024, 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.