How water managers can build recharge basins to boost resilience for farmers and birds alike

Anna Schiller writes,

I wasn’t expecting to see egrets, herons and pelicans on my first trip to the San Joaquin Valley — a region in the southern part of California’s Central Valley known for its impressive agricultural production and scorching summer heat. I didn’t find these birds at one of the valley’s few wildlife refuges, but at a groundwater recharge facility designed to spread and infiltrate surface water into the ground below.

Recharge basins are becoming increasingly popular in overdrafted regions in California, where water managers are seeking solutions to balance groundwater supply and demand to comply with the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). …

Continue reading at the Environmental Defense Fund’s Growing Returns blog.

ACWA releases technical framework for increasing groundwater replenishment

The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) has prepared A Technical Framework for Increasing Groundwater Replenishment in response to a growing need to promote groundwater replenishment activities as a strategy to maintain or improve groundwater levels statewide. This framework summarizes the tools and resources and provides a narrative framework and checklist for water managers to consider as they pursue groundwater recharge projects and activities.

Click here to download this document.

For more information on groundwater recharge,
Visit the groundwater recharge page at the Groundwater Exchange.

DR. MICHAEL KIPARSKY: Can Recharge Net Metering contribute to sustainable groundwater management?

Dr. Michael Kiparsky is the founding director of the Wheeler Water Institute within the Center for Law, Energy, and Environment at the UC Berkeley School of Law and has worked at the intersection of the technical and policy aspects of water resources management for 15 years. In this presentation from GRA’s 2019 Western Groundwater Congress, Dr. Kiparsky discussed a pilot project in the Pajaro Valley that is designed to incentivize private landowners to do groundwater recharge.

Click here to read this article at Maven’s Notebook.

Managing Flood Water for Aquifer Recharge: Economic Considerations for Policy

Ellen Bruno, University of California Berkeley; Andrew Ayres, Public Policy Institute of California; and Emmanuel Asinas, California Department of Water Resources.

Groundwater is a critical source of freshwater. As of 2015, groundwater contributed almost 40% of the public water supply in the U.S.1 Many groundwater basins, however, have suffered from declining groundwater stocks due to sustained over pumping, leading to higher pumping costs, land subsidence, and other negative consequences.

California’s Central Valley overlays one such declining aquifer system. Amid an extreme drought, the state passed a law in 2014, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The legislation requires local public agencies to address groundwater overdraft and its negative consequences by 2040.

As shown in Figure 1, SGMA applies to over 100 basins that, in total, account for over 90% of the state’s groundwater pumping.2 To meet their goals, groundwater agencies may either require or incentivize users to pump less (demand-side approach), find additional water to recharge the groundwater (supply-side approach), or undertake some combination of both.

This article discusses one supply-side approach: using flood water for managed aquifer recharge (flood-MAR). First, we discuss the availability of flood water for managed aquifer recharge in California.  Then, we showcase how an auction mechanism for this scarce resource could promote its efficient and equitable allocation.

Click here to read this article at the Global Water Forum.

Providing ‘Overdraft’ Protection for Groundwater in California’s Pajaro Valley

While California’s recent drought is officially over, more intense rainfall means more rain is running off, rather than soaking into the ground. But what if some of this water could be collected to help recharge thirsty aquifers and mitigate the effects of overdraft?

At Driscoll’s, we’ve long advocated for responsible and collaborative solutions to groundwater management, and seek to grow in harmony with our communities. Water is a shared resource, and we all must work together at the local level to ensure it’s being managed well to keep our communities, businesses and ecosystems healthy for generations.

That’s why, over the past few years, we’ve been working with UC Santa Cruz, the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency, and an independent grower on the Bokariza-Drobac stormwater infiltration system — an innovative groundwater-recharge project in the Pajaro Valley.

Click here to read more from Sustainable Brands.

State Water Board streamlines permitting process for diversions of floodwater and other high flows to support groundwater sustainability

Coachella Valley Water District’s Thomas E. Levy Groundwater Replenishment Facility.  Photo by Department of Water Resources

Press release from the State Water Resources Control Board:

In an effort to expedite its water right permitting process, the State Water Resources Control Board announced today it has streamlined requirements for applicants seeking to divert surface water to underground storage during floods and other high flow conditions.

The new measures are expected to directly benefit groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) and associated local entities striving to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and replenish overdrafted groundwater basins.

The changes, which have no impact on existing laws and regulations, simplify the permitting pathway for capturing water during high flow events and storing that water underground, a process known as recharge. The streamlined approach also reduces application filing fees and annual permit and license costs.

“Achieving groundwater sustainability is one of California’s most pressing water management challenges,” said State Water Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel. “With a more variable hydrology expected, it’s critical that we prepare to capture floodwaters and other high flows, increase groundwater recharge, and better prepare for the effects of climate change. These permitting revisions will help make that process more nimble and efficient, while still protecting fish and senior right holders.”

California depends on groundwater for a third of its annual water supply, and significantly more during droughts. Parties who divert to underground storage and choose this less complicated approach must meet certain criteria and comply with a water availability analysis that monitors diversion of high flows during the winter.

Within the December-to-March time frame, applicants can choose between two diversion triggers: (1) when a river or stream’s daily flows exceed the 90th percentile and no more than 20 percent of the total stream flow is taken; or (2) a flood control agency determines actions are needed to protect the public.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which became law in 2015, empowers local agencies to manage groundwater resources for long-term sustainability. The long-term planning requirement provides a buffer against drought and climate change and contributes to reliable water supplies, regardless of weather patterns.

New groundwater recharge projects will likely be proposed and implemented by many GSAs as part of sustainable groundwater management. The new streamlined recharge permitting measures are designed to help GSAs obtain water right permits faster to help meet timelines for achieving sustainability.

GSAs also are encouraged to pursue “umbrella” permitting to cover dozens and possibly hundreds of diversion locations in a watershed and large areas of use, such as a water district. This makes broadscale recharge, particularly on agricultural lands, more feasible. It allows a water right holder to manage the diversion, storage and extraction of water on a landowner-by-landowner basis, from one high flow event to the next, or from year to year, without additional approvals from the Board. This enhances efficiency in permitting and annual reporting, gaging and measurement requirements, and accounting.

The State Water Board intends to hold an informational item on the streamlined permitting pathway as part of its regularly scheduled board meeting on November 19.

Information about recharge and underground storage can be found on the State Water Board website.

Putting the ‘Flood’ in Flood-MAR: Reducing Flood Risk While Replenishing Aquifers

Water management in California includes a diverse range of strategies that often requires a community of water experts to come together, collaborate, and solve issues ranging from infrastructure to operations.

Scientists, water managers, and other stakeholders had an opportunity to do just that during the 2019 Flood-MAR Public Forum held Oct. 28 to 29 in Sacramento. Hosted by the Department of Water Resources (DWR), the event provided a venue to discuss the implementation of Flood-MAR projects throughout the state.

Click here to continue reading at DWR’s News page.

 

Water officials work to assist recharge projects

“A technique that would help California manage floodwater and replenish groundwater has gained more attention, and removing barriers to the strategy known as Flood-MAR provided the focus for a conference in Sacramento.  F

lood-managed aquifer recharge involves moving floodwater from surface streams onto land where it could percolate into a groundwater basin. Though the concept sounds simple, it brings complications that include managing the floodwater, finding appropriate land to accept it and establishing rights to the water involved. … ”

Read more from Ag Alert here: Water officials work to assist recharge projects

Recharging Depleted Aquifers No Easy Task, But It’s Key To California’s Water Supply Future

To survive the next drought and meet the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability law, California is going to have to put more water back in the ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging overpumped aquifers is no easy task.

Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though, landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally recharged.

Continue reading from Western Water by clicking here.

GROUNDWATER RECHARGE: Balancing our depleted groundwater supplies and ecosystem needs

Groundwater managers across the state are looking to groundwater recharge as a potential solution to their community’s water challenges. However, there are concerns about how groundwater recharge in the age of SGMA actually works and how to ensure sufficient instream flows to protect those beneficial uses.

To address these questions, the Local Government Commission and the Clean Water Fund held a webinar to find out more about recharge, environmental flows, water rights, and permitting from a panel of experts.  First, Stacey Sullivan from Sustainable Conservation talked about Flood MAR; next Sam Boland-Brien from the State Water Resources Control Board talked about the Environmental Flows Workgroup and permitting issues for groundwater recharge; and then Pablo Garza with the Environmental Defense Fund discussed policy issues related to groundwater recharge.

Read more at Maven’s Notebook here: GROUNDWATER RECHARGE: Balancing our depleted groundwater supplies and ecosystem needs