John Coelho is leading a decades-long, multi-generational farming career. He’s creating a sustainable operation for the generations that follow him.
John operates Casaca Vineyard with his brother, and thinks strategically about managing water supplies, especially when it comes to correcting groundwater overdraft. In 2017, he created a groundwater recharge pond where he started using his own acreage to recharge the aquifer. In 2022, he built another 320-acre pond. Though there were drought conditions between 2017 and 2022, the wet year in winter 2023 filled both ponds for groundwater recharge.
He says it’s important to be ready to capture surface water so that during wet years he can help keep surface water within the North Fork Kings GSA boundary.
“You’ve got to build it before you need it,” John said.
Landowners may see credits for their efforts down the line as North Fork Kings GSA pursues policies to support landowners who recharge. But for John, groundwater recharge is also a way to ensure sustainability for his family’s future farming operation.
“You want to hand something off to your children that’s sustainable,” John said. “Groundwater recharge provides a long-term solution to keep your operation sustainable.”
Performing groundwater recharge requires proper maintenance, but this maintenance has been worked into Casaca Vineyard’s ongoing operation. He says maintaining the ponds for groundwater recharge is an investment into his community.
“Our family has always believed in giving back to the community. Keeping water in our area is a way to do that,” John said.
This year’s record water year has led to a unique opportunity for North Fork Kings GSA growers to contribute to groundwater sustainability through grower recharge – the application of using available surface water during wet years to recharge the aquifer beneath grower’s land.
Reid Potter, a grower in the North Fork Kings GSA, was one of several within the agency to take the opportunity to perform grower recharge. To perform recharge, Reid flooded the open fields on his ranch. He also identified nearby landowners with surface water and open fields to help them perform recharge on their land.
Reid has a long history of farming, beginning in 1970 with his father’s purchase of a ranch within the North Fork Kings GSA area, which Reid took over in 2009.
Reid began practicing grower recharge on open land in March 2023. A major motivator for Reid’s participation was the status of the 2022-23 water year.
“Last year really hit home for me. I spent more time last summer working on wells in three months than in 40 years. So, this year when we had all this water, I knew I had to do something,” Reid said.
Although he’s doing what he can to make his land sustainable, Reid acknowledges that having more growers participate will be what it takes to make an impact and secure sustainability within the North Fork Kings GSA.
“We’re all in this together, and we have to help each other. We could solve our problems if we got everybody involved – if we can get a big part of the GSA involved,” he said.
Since practicing grower recharge, Reid has encouraged others in the GSA to understand its importance and do the same.
“It’s easy to talk about it [grower recharge], but when you do it, and people see it, it’s like, ‘okay, that’s something I can do.’ It’s not rocket science,” said Reid.
Reid strongly encourages others within the North Fork Kings GSA to contact General Manager Justin Mendes to learn more about practicing grower recharge.
To learn more about practicing recharge on your land, call us at 559.242.6118 or email General Manager Justin Mendes at email@example.com.
North Fork Kings GSA is performing a canal capacity study during the 2023-24 fiscal year to identify where potential improvements can be made to the canal and conveyance systems within the agency. The study will allow surface water units within the North Fork GSA to deliver as much available Kings River water as possible for irrigation and recharge to help comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
The study will gather information to estimate the existing canal capacity and constraints of existing conveyance systems through site visits and discussions with existing operations staff. Following the study, a second phase consisting of a more detailed survey of needed improvements and preliminary design of the highest priority systems may be conducted to help estimate the costs of the improvements and determine participation between North Fork Kings GSA and the applicable surface water unit.
By performing this study, North Fork Kings GSA aims to increase the capacity of the systems to bring more surface water in to offset groundwater pumping and conduct groundwater recharge.
The canal capacity study will be shared with irrigation districts and the mutual water companies within the North Fork Kings so they can quickly identify where to invest in improvements.
The North Fork Kings GSA has formed a Grower Advisory Committee comprised of local growers. The Grower Advisory Committee was formed to provide input and guidance on policies and programs that the North Fork Kings GSA is implementing, including the development of groundwater allocations, the launch of a well registration portal, and more.
The committee consists of nine local growers and is led by Chair Dan Errotabere and Vice Chair Adam Mendes. Most committee members have demonstrated active involvement in the North Fork Kings GSA or other relevant boards and organizations. When selecting members, geographic representation and acreage were taken into consideration, ensuring a diverse and inclusive representation within the committee.
The first Grower Advisory Committee meeting took place in March, with the early meetings focused on testing and providing feedback on an early version of the new well registration tool that will launch this fall.
“Having the ability to serve on one of the many North Fork Kings GSA committees provides the opportunity to participate and offer input to meet mandated objectives,” said committee member Matt Efird.
“Only by working collectively with fellow stakeholders and the Board, as well as the other GSAs within the subbasin, will we be able to move forward in a progressive and positive manner and develop successful solutions.”
The committee will continue to meet monthly and provide ongoing feedback from a grower’s perspective.
General Manager Justin Mendes envisions the committee to be the primary sounding board for future policies and plans, and to help with outreach by acting as ambassadors between the agency and growers within North Fork Kings GSA.
The Grower Advisory Committee is one of several committees of the North Forks Kings GSA, including the Technical, Rural Communities Advisory, Policy, and Financial committees that provide input and guidance to the Board as they work towards sustainability.
A new online tool to help growers and residents understand their water use and register wells will launch this fall. Currently in development by the North Fork Kings GSA’s consultant MLJ Environmental, the tool is being designed for users to easily view their historic water use data and register their wells.
The North Fork Kings GSA previously provided field-level water use data from Land IQ, reported as evapotranspiration, or ET, to stakeholders using static map images (www.northforkkings.org/maps). But the new tool will improve the usefulness of this information by allowing users to view the data for their own fields in a personalized and interactive way. Viewing the data will become increasingly important for growers who will benefit from routinely tracking water use once a groundwater allocation is implemented.
The tool is also designed to provide a streamlined method for well registration to help fill data gaps and manage groundwater sustainably. The North Fork Kings GSA recognizes it cannot effectively manage groundwater without partnering with its landowners to understand more about the infrastructure impacting supply. Registering wells with the agency is a simple way landowners can provide information for successful local groundwater management, ultimately keeping the State from stepping in to control the process.
Besides technical need, the tool creates a platform for streamlined communications between the North Fork Kings GSA and its stakeholders. For domestic well users, this could mean receiving notice and resources before their well goes dry during a drought. The tool will house information like well location and the user’s contact information so the North Fork Kings GSA can identify at-risk wells and notify households ahead of time.
Feedback from future users has been at the core of the tool’s development. Early development versions were tested by North Fork Kings GSA Grower Advisory Committee members how used their real-world experience to provide feedback. Their input was repeatedly implemented to improve the tool’s features and usability.
For those who want to learn more about the tool and receive assistance with onboarding, a series of outreach events will follow the tool’s launch to assist growers and residents with creating and using their accounts. Stay up to date on development and launch by signing up for emails from the North Fork Kings GSA at https://northforkkings.org/.
The North Fork Kings GSA Policy Committee will hold a meeting on Wednesday, July 26, 2023 at 9:30 AM. The meeting will be held in person at the Riverdale Education Center, Boardroom, 3160 W Mount Whitney Ave., Riverdale, CA 93656
The North Fork Kings GSA Policy Committee will hold a meeting on Wednesday, July 26, 2023 at 5:30 PM. The meeting will be held in person at the Riverdale Education Center, Boardroom, 3160 W Mount Whitney Ave., Riverdale, CA 93656
LOCATION: Riverdale Education Center
Meeting Convenes at 5:30 p.m.