Urban, Ag and Environmental Interests Join Together To Develop Regional Water Management Plan

Fresno, CA – On July 30, 2007, the Kings River Conservation District Board of Directors adopted the Upper Kings Basin Water Forum’s (Water Forum) Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. The Water Management Plan is a result of over two years of collaborative planning by the Water Forum, a multi-stakeholder group made up of local cities, counties, water districts and environmental organizations.

Historically, the management of water resources has been limited to independent operations by overlying local water agencies and individual water users. The Water Forum was formed to increase communication and collaboration to create regional solutions for water resources management. “This is the first time that all of the varying stakeholders have come together to work on developing a long-term, basin-wide plan to address water issues for the Kings River Basin,” stated Dave Orth, Kings River Conservation District General Manager. KRCD is the lead agency for the Water Forum.

Members of the Water Forum include the cities of Clovis, Dinuba, Fresno, Fowler, Kerman, Kingsburg, Parlier, Reedley, Sanger and Selma; the counties of Kings, Tulare and Fresno; environmental organizations including the Fresno Audubon Society, Sierra Club, California Native Plant Society, and the Kings River Fisheries Public Advisory Group; water agencies including the Fresno, Consolidated and Alta irrigation districts, Kings River Conservation District, Kings River Water Association, the California Water Institute, the Department of Water Resources, Department of Fish & Game and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

As identified in the Regional Water Plan, overdraft of the groundwater resource is the primary issue to be addressed in the Kings River Basin. Over the past 40 years, water levels in the Fresno area have dropped by 40 feet. In the Raisin City area, they have dropped by 150 feet. This is a result of water demand that has exceeded the available surface and groundwater supplies as they are currently developed and managed. The continued groundwater overdraft is not sustainable and the urban growth pressure in the region, coupled with the need to sustain the agricultural economy, call for improved water resource management in the Kings Basin.

New water supply infrastructure is needed today to meet future demands from urban growth, environmental needs and agricultural usage. Having an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan makes the Water Forum competitive for current and future funding opportunities from the State to support the construction of infrastructure. On August 1, KRCD submitted, on behalf of the Water Forum, a $9 million grant application to the Department of Water Resources to provide funding for projects identified in the Regional Water Plan. “Upon award of any monies, it is anticipated that the Forum will work collaboratively to allocate those monies for optimum benefit,” said KRCD General Manager David Orth.

Projects proposed for development in the Water Management Plan have been identified through an integrated hydrologic model of the Kings River Basin to determine the optimal benefits they provide to water resources planning. The Regional Water Plan evaluates alternatives to determine the greatest positive impact to manage, and develop the surface and groundwater supplies in a sustainable manner.

The Grant is part of the Integrated Regional Water Management Implementation Grants Program, funded by Proposition 50. The Grants Program intentions are as follows: (1) to encourage integrated regional strategies for management of water resources and, (2) to provide funding for projects that protect communities from drought, improve and protect water quality, and improve local water security by minimizing imported water dependence.