Groundwater is one of our community’s most important resources. Cities use it for drinking and many farmers rely upon it to grow our food. 

The vast majority of Merced Irrigation District’s water rights are associated with the water it stores and releases at Lake McClure. However, the District has a significant interest in the health and well-being of local groundwater. Since its inception, MID has operated as a “conjunctive-use” district. The District replenishes local groundwater with water from Lake McClure and withdraws it when needed during dryer years when the reservoir has insufficient supplies.


In 2014 the State of California enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, commonly known as SGMA. The law both enabled and required local communities to address their own local groundwater challenges through the implementation of Groundwater Sustainability Plans. Failure to comply with the state mandate would trigger the State Water Resources Control Board implementing its own plan for our local groundwater.

Today, MID continues to work with others in the community as a member of the joint Merced Irrigation Urban Groundwater Sustainability Agency, which includes the cities of Merced, Atwater and Livingston among other partners. The agency is collaboratively working to monitor and reduce overuse of groundwater in eastern Merced County. MID is also a partner to the East Turlock Groundwater Sustainability Agency which overlaps northern Merced County and borders the north side of the Merced River.

Among recent actions taken by MID to support groundwater sustainability:

  • MID enacted a policy to make its developed surface water — water MID recharges into the groundwater basin — available to growers as a tool to comply with SGMA. To learn more, watch a short video explaining MID’s water supply options under the state’s new SGMA law by clicking here. To read a letter to MID growers, click here.
  • MID entered an agreement with the City of Merced to exchange MID developed groundwater supply for tertiary-treated city wastewater. This new water supply will help MID meet its commitments while furthering efforts to manage groundwater supplies. Learn more here.
  • MID in collaboration with MIUGSA and other local groundwater sustainability agencies has successfully completed a sustainability plan for the Merced Subbasin which has been accepted by the California Department of Water Resources. Read the plan’s executive summary here.

Long before the state’s SGMA law began being implemented, MID had taken a lead role in the community’s efforts to address local groundwater challenges. Following the drought in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the City of Merced and MID collaborated on the
Merced Water Supply Plan Study. The plan recognized the significance of MID conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater and suggested the practice be expanded. As a result, the district completed numerous water-use and delivery improvements benefitting groundwater.

In 1997, local groundwater purveyors organized under the umbrella of MAGPI (Merced Area Groundwater Pool Interests) began monitoring groundwater conditions. The group also generated a groundwater management plan in 1998, updated in 2008. The plan addressed groundwater issues and made recommendations for use and recharge.

As MID looks to the future, the District has every intention of continuing its efforts to reach sustainable levels of groundwater in the local community and collaborate with community partners to protect this important resource.

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