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John Coelho Creates Generational Sustainability with Recharge

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.

Working towards a future of sustainability through grower recharge

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

North Fork Kings GSA to perform a canal capacity study

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.

North Fork Kings GSA establishes Grower Advisory Committee

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.

New tool for growers to understand their water use and register wells is launching this year

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 ( 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

New Groundwater Recharge Project Registration Form to Help Landowners Receive Credits

The North Fork Kings GSA has developed a new recharge project registration form for compliant landowner-driven recharge operations. The form is now available online here.

The recharge project registration form benefits landowners within the North Fork Kings GSA who conducted intentional surface water recharge in 2023 and wish to seek future groundwater extraction credits.  Being aware of the recharge projects allows the North Fork Kings GSA to give proper credit to stakeholders performing recharge once policies governing groundwater credits are in place.

The North Fork Kings GSA will use the registration form to recognize the efforts of landowners in recharging the groundwater. The GSA gives landowners freedom to operate their own groundwater recharge project operations in concert with their surface water provider.  

Beyond landowner credits, recharge project registration helps quantify the current capacity available for groundwater recharge within the North Fork Kings GSA to help the agency assess progress toward sustainability goals.

Under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the North Fork Kings GSA is working to address groundwater overdraft and stabilize groundwater levels. A key component of achieving sustainability, while striving for continued viability of irrigated agriculture in the area, is to increase the use of available surface water as groundwater use is reduced. One way to increase the water supply is by capturing excess surface water when available and storing it underground through active recharge projects.

The North Fork Kings GSA thanks every landowner playing an active role by conducting recharge activities. Privately operated recharge projects help the GSA maintain local control over sustainability goals, while replenishing the aquifer.

Stakeholders can access the registration form on the website here, and should email the completed form to


California flipped from dry to wet. The Kings Subbasin is capitalizing, recharging the aquifer to recover from drought period losses identified in the latest Annual Report.

The Kings Subbasin strategy to build recharge basins during the drought is paying off as it captures additional surface water for recharge during this historic wet year.

Water managers in the Kings Subbasin are moving with urgency to recharge the groundwater aquifer during what could amount to be the Kings River’s largest water year ever. New recharge basins built through the previous drought period have been filled for the first time with surface water flows to help replenish the aquifer following multiple water years with groundwater storage loss.

Laguna Irrigation District’s 30-acre Casa Loma Pond in the foreground and 20-acre Vaz Pond in the distance. Casa Loma recently underwent improvements ahead of this wet year to increase the rate water is recharged into the aquifer. Laguna ID is a member of the North Fork Kings GSA.

Surface water deliveries in the Kings Subbasin are projected to reach an estimated 1.8 million acre-feet this year, enough water to fill up Pine Flat’s 1-million-acre-foot reservoir nearly two times. The golden opportunity to capture as much water as possible is not lost on the Kings Subbasin. In fact, local water managers have been planning for it.

Since 2020, the seven Kings Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) and their members have collectively invested in 600 acres of prime groundwater recharge land to construct 15 dedicated recharge basins yielding over 15,000 acre-feet of new recharge capacity annually. This is in addition to the network of existing basins throughout the region that have been used to replenish groundwater supply for decades. 

Fresno Irrigation District’s Savory Basin completed in 2022. Fresno ID is a member of the North Kings GSA.

The nearby Consolidated Irrigation District in Central Kings GSA has recharged an estimated 160,000 acre-feet since February. Phil Desatoff, General Manager, expects the district will be able to recharge through October to put 320,000 acre-feet of water back into the ground.

As of April, the Laguna Irrigation District in the North Fork Kings GSA has recharged 10,000 acre-feet. General Manager Scott Sills expects to recharge around 6,000 acre-feet per month moving forward, and forecasts nearly 60,000 acre-feet will be recharged within the district.

Beyond just basins, many of the Kings Subbasin agencies have encouraged landowners to take part in groundwater sustainability through On-Farm Recharge. McMullin Area GSA to the west just wrapped up a pilot of On-Farm Recharge University, “OFR-U”, specifically designed to train growers into becoming confident recharge practitioners. Fresno ID received a grant from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to launch its Groundwater Recharge Pilot Program for growers to get funding for doing recharge on their farm.

With an emphasis on recharge, the Kings Subbasin is progressing toward groundwater sustainability off the heels of several dry years. The region’s latest SGMA Annual Report estimates 680,000 acre-feet of groundwater storage reduction occurred during the 2022 Water Year (October 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022) illustrating the real impacts of drought on groundwater supply. Kings River deliveries were 47% of normal totaling 529,000 acre-feet, a stark contrast to the extreme precipitation this year.

Kings Subbasin Water Year Type (2015 – 2022)
Kings Subbasin Annual Report Table 2-1

Drought comes as no surprise; the Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) outlining sustainability objectives accounted for fluctuations between dry and wet periods. The Kings Subbasin leaders remain hopeful that groundwater storage will begin to rebound thanks to the increasing network of recharge locations to capture the massive amounts of Kings River snowmelt for direct groundwater recharge.

It will take time, patience, and still more recharge to recover the aquifer from the last 3 drier years, but the Kings Subbasin is on track to make it happen.

Local Groundwater Plans Receive Green Light from State

Groundwater managers in the Kings Subbasin recently received positive news from the State that their Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSPs) were approved. “The Department of Water Resources approval of the GSP is a huge milestone for our groundwater sustainability agency,” stated Fresno County grower and North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board Chair Mark McKean. “It allows us to continue our local efforts to bring our groundwater into balance without State intervention.” The North Fork Kings GSA is one of seven Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) within the Kings Subbasin located in Fresno County that received approval from the State.

GSPs are technical documents that can be hundreds of pages long but are, in simple terms, roadmaps on how to sustainability manage groundwater subbasins. “We appreciate the Department of Water Resources thorough review of our GSP, their approval, and their professional insight on how to improve our GSP,” stated North Fork Kings GSA General Manager Justin Mendes. “With the approval behind us, our energy is focused on executing groundwater projects that achieve the best results for our residents, landowners, and businesses who are users of our groundwater supply.” The North Fork Kings GSA is advancing several groundwater sustainability efforts including partnering with Fresno County on the construction of a recharge basin, developing a well mitigation program, and registering landowner wells. Each of these efforts are pieces of a puzzle to solve the groundwater overdraft under the North Fork Kings area.

Of the 12 subbasins reviewed by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), six were approved and six were not. Those subbasins not approved will now be under the jurisdiction of the State Water Resources Control Board. For the North Fork Kings GSA, the next check in with DWR will be in 2025. At that time, DWR will review the North Fork Kings update to the GSP and the work accomplished toward sustainability.

Fresno County Supervisors Approve Recharge Project in North Fork Kings GSA

The North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency is partnering with Fresno County to build a sixty-acre groundwater recharge facility near Highway 41 and Elkhorn Avenue. The County is working with the North Fork Kings GSA to offset groundwater overdraft in the unincorporated land within the North Fork Kings GSA boundaries. The County will use State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to fund the $6,000,000 design and construction of the Elkhorn Recharge Facility along with a conveyance system to transfer surface water from the Liberty Canal to the project.

Diverted water from the Liberty Canal will be used to recharge the groundwater aquifer, increasing the reliability of clean drinking water for member agencies of the North Fork Kings GSA. The project will also benefit the water supplies of disadvantaged communities within the North Fork Kings GSA including Riverdale and Lanare, which are down gradient from the project location. The Elkhorn Recharge Facility’s estimated completion date is December 2026.

Online Portal will Support Well Registration and Future Sustainability Programs

At their Board meeting on the evening of September 21st, the North Fork Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency (North Fork Kings GSA) Board discussed and approved a proposal by MLJ Environmental to develop a North Fork Kings GSA online portal. The Board members expressed their desire for a portal that was easy to use by landowners, cost-efficient, and could be expanded to support future sustainability programs. The immediate use of the portal will be to register existing wells within the boundaries of the North Fork Kings GSA. Well registration is an essential undertaking to better manage groundwater.

To provide a user-friendly experience for landowners, the portal will be similar in function to the Kings River Water Quality Coalition member portal. Coalition members will have the ability to streamline well registration using their member portal to share contact information and other data, such as crop, parcel, and management practices with the North Fork Kings GSA portal. No data from the Coalition member would be accessed or shared with the North Fork Kings GSA without the member’s consent and authorization.

It is anticipated the North Fork Kings GSA portal will be available for use by early 2023. The North Fork Kings GSA will provide instructional workshops and tools to assist landowners with account setup and use. Those landowners or residents who use less than 2 acre-feet (an acre foot is approximately 326,000 gallons) per year of groundwater will not be required to register their wells.

The contract with MLJ Environmental is a 4-year commitment with a monthly subscription cost of $3,400. If additional GSAs within the Kings Subbasin decide to subscribe to the portal with MLJ Environmental, the monthly subscription will be reduced based on the number of participating GSAs. Costs associated with development of the portal have also been moderated through the work already completed by MLJ Environmental in building a similar tool for Greater Kaweah GSA that allows Kings River Water Quality Coalition members within the Greater Kaweah GSA to share data with the Greater Kaweah GSA Portal.  

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