NEW REPORT: Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Water Security through Resilience

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Institute for Water Resources (IWR) released a report titled Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Water Security through Resilience.

With the water needs of society increasing and becoming increasingly diverse, water management and planning are more challenging than ever. Water security in all its forms is as important, but seems progressively difficult to achieve. Additional water storage and flood risk management is needed, but major new surface infrastructure projects seem unlikely.  Water storage underground (managed aquifer recharge, or MAR) is an alternative to augment surface storage and increase resilience of USACE projects while improving the Nation’s water security.

MAR is a term that covers artificial recharge, aquifer storage and recovery, riverbank and riverbed filtration, groundwater banking, and other mechanisms of purposeful water recharge to aquifers for later recovery.  MAR use has grown rapidly over the last two decades, progressing from an often-experimental concept to a management tool used in over 1000 sites around the world.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and its partners have engaged, or considered engaging, in the use of MAR in a variety of settings and purposes, throughout the United States. These purposes include:

      • Flood risk management -Recharge of floodwaters, in combination with surface storage, can dampen the flood peak.
      • Aquatic ecosystem restoration – Discharging stored groundwater may help maintain timely environmental flows.
      • Drought resilience – MAR can provide back-up storage for multi-year droughts without losses due to evaporation.
      • Salt-water intrusion prevention – Replenishing coastal aquifers can provide additional agricultural and potable water supply while keeping salt water at a safe distance.
      • Multi-purpose projects – Urban water projects can combine wastewater reuse, wetlands restoration, recreational and educational opportunities, and MAR.

This report examines how MAR has been, is being, or could be used in conjunction with USACE Civil Works water resources projects. The report summarizes some of USACE’s authorities for using MAR, provides numerous examples of USACE activities involving MAR, reviews the experience of other US government agencies and Departments, and considers how MAR can be integrated into the USACE civil works planning process and new initiatives.

The report is available for free download from the IWR Library.

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Recharge Roundtable Call to Action

From UC Water and the Groundwater Resources Association:

There are only two ways to reduce groundwater overdraft: decrease pumping or increase recharge.

While addressing California’s overdraft will certainly require both actions, we convened a meeting of water management experts around groundwater recharge. The goal of the “Recharge Roundtable” was to address California’s severe groundwater overdraft problem through actions that would produce substantial increases in recharge in the next five years.

As a collaboration between the Groundwater Resources Association of California and the University of California Water Security and Sustainability Research Initiative, we aimed to motivate focused actions that effect large quantities of recharge and produce regional benefits. The Recharge Roundtable participants and organizers produced a call to action, organized around six key questions and related action steps:

  1. How much water is hydrologically available for recharge?
  2. How much water can be recharged in different hydrogeologic environments?
  3. What are the legal and regulatory bottlenecks, and how can they be eliminated or reduced?
  4. How can hundreds to thousands of recharge projects be incentivized?
  5. What changes in reservoir reoperation and conveyance are needed?
  6. What are the water quality benefits and concerns for recharge?

It is increasingly obvious that tantalizing possibilities for increasing recharge to California’s aquifers exist, yet state and local water agencies and stakeholders are not sufficiently prepared to capitalize on those possibilities. This call to action is intended to help our state prepare.

Download the Call to Action:Recharge Roundtable Call to Action: Key Steps for Replenishing California Groundwater (Updated January 2019)

RESEARCH BRIEF: AquaCharge: A Design Tool for Balancing Groundwater Management Trade-Offs

From Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment:

“Many arid regions face groundwater security and reliability challenges, such as overdraft and climate change-driven precipitation shifts. Increasingly, water managers are considering recharging aquifers using stormwater and recycled water–Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR). These projects are hindered by a lack of tools to evaluate system design costs and trade-offs. Stanford researchers have developed AquaCharge, a planning tool that can optimize system costs and performance to help water managers make more informed decisions about how MAR can fit into water management strategies. … ”

Read this research brief here:  AquaCharge: A Design Tool for Balancing Groundwater Management Trade-Offs

‘Incentivized Managed Aquifer Recharge’ – Basin Scale Implementation of MAR

From Michael Campana at the Water Wired blog:

“A process of Incentivized Managed Aquifer Recharge, utilizing ownership of marketable Aquifer Recharge Units is being implemented within Idaho’s Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. A powerful tool in establishing balanced and sustainable aquifer management, the Incentivized Managed Aquifer Recharge program could have beneficial application in suitable water basins throughout the West.

Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) may be defined as processes designed to move water from land surface to aquifer storage. MAR has been conducted in various locations throughout the world since ancient times. Modern MAR efforts in the western United States have been frequently documented in The Water Report (see Recharge References below). Virtually all of these efforts, however, have been undertaken by or through a governmental entity (state or municipal), or by a private entity at a local scale involving one or just a few wells. The State of Arizona created a basin-wide opportunity for crediting recharge water but this system applies only in Arizona. While localized efforts in other basins have been implemented, to date they do not provide cost-effective incentivized solutions at a basin scale.

The Recharge Development Corporation (RDC) is an Idaho corporation created for the purpose of developing infrastructure, processes, and strategies that will facilitate water retention projects to benefit residents and water users in the State of Idaho.

RDC is helping incentivize Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer entities to be involved in MAR through the application of Incentivized Managed Aquifer Recharge (patent-pending). …

Click here to read more and download article at the Water Wired blog.