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East Turlock Subbasin forming sustainability agency
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With tighter water conservation laws affecting California, the East Turlock Subbasin has begun the process of forming its very own Groundwater Sustainability Agency.

After Governor Jerry Brown signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in September, the East Turlock Subbasin has been given a timeline to adopt and implement its own groundwater sustainability plan by Jan. 31, 2022.

The Turlock groundwater basin is contained almost entirely within Stanislaus County with a portion of it reaching into Merced County. According to SGMA, agencies electing to become GSA’s are given broad powers and authority regarding groundwater management which includes the limiting of groundwater extractions, enforcing the terms of a GSP and determining sustainable yields of the basin itself.

The legislation also allows multiple agencies to operate within a single or multiple groundwater basins. The GSA developed a Joint Powers Agreement, which outlines the governing bodies and representatives of the new GSA.

There will be a seven member Board of Directors including three seats from Eastside Water District, one seat from Ballico-Cortez Water District, two seats from Merced County and one seat from Stanislaus County. There will be additional associate members from the City of Turlock and the Eastside Water Quality Coalition.

Management of the basin’s groundwater levels serves a vital role for Turlock in particular. Not only is the water provided by the basin pivotal in the area’s agriculture industry, it also serves as the source for nearly all of Turlock’s drinking water.

 “We brainstormed on who the stakeholders are,” said Kevin Kauffman from Eastside Water District. “It’s not just public agencies, it’s landowners, it’s environmentalists, it’s disadvantaged communities, it’s CSAs that aren’t represented here and some other people we need to meet with to let them know what we’re doing and what we’re forming here makes sense for them as well.”

 With the GSA formation deadline of June 1 having passed, the agency’s next priority will be to begin preparation of the GSP including monitoring networks, projects and management actions and sustainable management criteria for the basin.

“We will be working out a plan to do outreach to landowners so they know who their representation is,” said Lacey Kiriakou, water resources coordinator from Merced County. “Right now that’s the focus is to make sure that our incorporated areas are well represented and that we’re working in partnership with the other couple agencies to meet the requirements of the law and have a simple plan that covers the Turlock Subbasin.”