Tulare Irrigation District applies for groundwater grant
By Kaitlin Washburn
TULARE – The Tulare Irrigation District is seeking a grant to develop a groundwater exchange market with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The grant would determine the viability of a water market for the Kaweah subbasin, which would involve the groundwater sustainability agencies managing the subbasin: Mid-Kaweah, Greater Kaweah and East Kaweah.
Paul Hendrix, the general manager for the Mid-Kaweah groundwater sustainability agency (GSA), said all three GSAs would be involved in developing a water market for the Kaweah subbasin and deciding how the market is shaped.
Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), groundwater users are allocated a certain amount of the water supply. Agencies can facilitate the exchange of those allocations among users, like growers, rural communities and municipalities, creating a market.
The Tulare Irrigation District is a member of the Mid-Kaweah groundwater sustainability agency (GSA), but the grant was submitted on behalf of the entire Kaweah subbasin, Hendrix said.
The grant will help the three GSAs to develop a potential strategy for creating a groundwater market. The plan would identify willing groundwater buyers and sellers, develop contracts, rules and policies for the market and administer the trading of groundwater allocations.
The Visalia City Council unanimously approved a letter supporting the grant application at a recent meeting. In the letter, Bob Link, Visalia’s mayor, said creating a water market is a necessity for the Kaweah subbasin.
“We believe strongly that this project will be an effective tool for implementing SGMA in a way that will allow greater irrigation and domestic water supply flexibility for growers, municipalities, rural communities and other individual water users within the Kaweah subbasin,” Link said in the letter.
On Thursday, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a plan, in partnership with the Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District, to build the first groundwater market in the Central Valley.
The market will be an online, open-source trading platform where groundwater users can trade water allocations, according to an EDF news release announcing the platform.
“Groundwater trading will be one of many strategies that will be needed to enable farmers to become much more innovative in how they manage their water. This new platform will serve as a valuable way to connect potential buyers and sellers,” said Christina Babbitt, senior manager of EDF’s California groundwater program.
An early design of the platform will be available in September. In early 2020, a group of landowners working with the organizations will test the platform with real water trades.
The platform will offer users an online account where they can see their annual groundwater allocation and post an offer to buy or sell water. Other users can respond to the offer, either countering or agreeing to the price. If a deal is reached, any financial transaction will happen outside of the platform, according to the news release.
“Designing trading programs the right way from the start to protect all groundwater stakeholders, including disadvantaged communities and ecosystems, will be critical to their success,” Babbitt said.