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Water advisers up pace for 2019

Madera County’s three advisory committees for its Groundwater Sustainability Agency will meet as one this new year — and more often.

Members of the Madera, Chowchilla and Delta-Mendota committees requested a merger of the committees, more frequent meetings than quarterly, and daytime scheduling for meetings, which county supervisors approved early in December.

In the past, the committees struggled to achieve a quorum due to their small size, which made absences troublesome. The Delta-Mendota committee had only three members, so all had to attend to have a quorum.

The GSA boards appoint committee members annually. Members represent water user categories such as agricultural, disadvantaged communities, public water system, and residential.

As before, the advisory committee will help review new groundwater sustainability information, provide input on policy, and act as “water ambassadors,” according to Stephanie Anagnoson, director of the county’s Water and Natural Resource Department. Members must be adult U.S. citizens who either live or primarily work in the GSA area.

Already in 2018, the advisors dissuaded county staff from enacting well restrictions, including some adopted in Merced County, that they felt were “inadvisable at this time” and redundant due to the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, said Anagnoson.

Thirty farmers, including advisors, also explored water market concepts Nov. 16 by playing a game designed by ERA Economics to simulate the trading of water allocations.

“You had to offer up shares or bid on other people’s shares, and we saw what was happening with the price of water,” said Anagnoson. “Initially there were no trades because people wanted more money than people were willing to pay. But after we played a couple of rounds and the price of water came up a little bit we had matches. It seemed like it had some potential for working with some fine tuning.”

The county’s department of water resources has grant funding from the Bureau of Reclamation to research water market strategy. The grant is expected to be awarded in July with the research project to start soon after.

The committees have been meeting since May, and have been invited to sub-basin meetings, water market strategy meetings and presentations.

The committee’s next meeting will be 2 p.m. Jan. 3 on the fourth floor of the Madera County Government Center, 200 W. Fourth St. Future meetings are set bi-monthly for 2 p.m. March 7, May 2, July 11, Sept. 5 and Nov. 7.

The county’s Groundwater Sustainability Agency is not the only one of its kind locally. Others include the City of Madera GSA, Madera Irrigation District, Root Creek Water District, Madera Water District, Gravelly Ford Water District and New Stone Water District.

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