Upper Kings Basin Water Forum Awarded Regional Water Planning Grant

Fresno, CA – A joint effort among several public agencies and other organizations has received a $500,000 grant from the California Department of Water Resources that gave the unique integrated regional water management-planning proposal nearly a perfect review score. Local matching funds are also to be provided by the members of the Upper Kings Basin Water Forum, a group of local water districts, cities, counties and other stakeholders working to develop regional solutions to the area’s water resources issues.

“We are very pleased to receive this planning grant,” said David Orth, General Manager of the Kings River Conservation District, one of the Water Forum’s members. “The cities, counties and water agencies that have joined in this effort are well aware that solutions to problems and issues surrounding future water needs will best be met by using a regional approach.”

“We have to look at this region 10-20 years down the road,” said Chris Kapheim, who manages the Alta Irrigation District.

“It was the highest rated proposal of any application in interior California,” said Greg Bourne, a facilitator for the Upper Kings Basin Water Forum. “Our application received 88 out of 90 points and was second highest of all of the 54 applications received. Clearly, DWR is sending a message that what we are doing here on the Kings River is really terrific. It is what they have in mind in regional planning.”

Along with KRCD and Alta, Water Forum members include the Fresno and Consolidated irrigation districts, Raisin City Water District, Fresno County and the cities of Fresno, Clovis, Dinuba, Reedley, Kingsburg, Fowler, Sanger, Selma, Kerman and Parlier. Environmental and citizen groups are stakeholders involved in the process. This is the area’s first such broadly based effort into considering regional water management.

The grant funding, under proceeds of voter-approved Proposition 50, will launch an accelerated process under which an integrated regional water management plan is to be developed by the end 2006, followed by environmental review and permitting later that year.

The integrated regional water management plan project is to include five phases, each with specific work elements and separate budgeting. It is to include strategies to address a variety of issues and objectives. Those include ecosystem restoration, environmental and habitat protection and improvement, wetlands enhancement and creation, and watershed planning.

Other elements to be addressed are related to water usage. They include water supply reliability, flood management, groundwater management, recreation and public access, storm water capture and management, water quality protection and improvement, water recycling, conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water, imported water, surface storage, wastewater treatment and water transfers. Land use planning issues are also to be considered.

Water Forum participants believe the program will result in more effective groundwater overdraft reduction along with reducing the potential for political and legal conflicts between agencies while improving cost effectiveness of project development (compared with multiple small local projects). The planning process will use computer modeling and provide the necessary scientific basis for comparison of impacts and benefits of the water management alternatives that are to be developed.

Upper Kings River Water Forum participants stress that while the grant and regional plan development are important, their emphasis is going to be on implementation, not planning.

As a result, the Forum is moving ahead with proposals for more than $49 million in additional Proposition 50 grant funding with which to fund parts of four specific projects. They reflect concerns among Water Forum participants over the continuing groundwater overdraft (pumping more water from the aquifer than can be replenished) conditions that exist through much of the Kings River service area, adversely affecting householders, businesses, industries and agriculture. Those proposed projects, which the Water Forum hopes to learn soon whether or not state officials will consider grant-funding requests, include:

  • Construction of recycled water distribution facilities in Clovis that would use treated wastewater for parks and median landscaping and save 29,400 acre-feet of water that otherwise would have to be pumped each year.
  • A City of Dinuba and Alta Irrigation District project that will use 2-4 million gallons of groundwater daily from under Dinuba’s wastewater treatment plant to irrigate a proposed golf course and to supply its ponds, and construction of facilities to use stormwater and floodwater to recharge the District’s groundwater.
  • A storm water and floodwater-banking project proposed by Fresno and Consolidated irrigation districts.
  • A water distribution project in Raisin City Water District where there are presently no deliveries of surface water.

For more information, please contact:
Cristel Tufenkjian, 559.237.5567, Extension 118, cell 559.906.2952