Our almond growers in California know that water is a critical resource. With California experiencing frequent droughts and water scarcity, it’s essential to find ways to manage water resources effectively. One solution that’s gaining popularity is managed groundwater recharge. This is a particularly relevant topic in 2023 with a steady supply of atmospheric rivers raising creek beds and restoring previously dry lakes.
Managed groundwater recharge involves capturing and storing water during wet periods, such as during the winter months, when it’s abundant and using it during drier periods, such as during summer. This practice helps replenish underground water resources and reduce the impact of droughts.
California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires that all groundwater basins in the state be sustainably managed by 2040. Managed groundwater recharge is an essential strategy that can help farmers achieve the SGMA’s goals.
There are several opportunities for managed groundwater recharge in California almond farming. Some that are getting attention include:
- Cover crops: Cover crops can help reduce soil erosion and increase water infiltration into the ground. By planting cover crops during the winter months, you can capture and store more water in the soil.
- Furrow irrigation: Furrow irrigation is a common irrigation method used in almond farming. By creating furrows in the soil, you can direct water towards the root zone of the almond trees, reducing water loss due to runoff.
- Tailwater recovery: Tailwater is the runoff water that collects at the end of a field after irrigation. By capturing tailwater, you can reuse the water for irrigation, reducing the amount of groundwater you need to pump.
There are several strategies that almond farmers can use to implement managed groundwater recharge, including:
- Flood irrigation: Flood irrigation involves flooding a field with water to saturate the soil and recharge groundwater. This method can be effective for fields with high infiltration rates.
- Infiltration basins: Infiltration basins are depressions in the ground that collect water and allow it to percolate into the soil. Almond farmers can create infiltration basins by excavating shallow pits or depressions in the soil.
- Managed aquifer recharge: Managed aquifer recharge involves diverting surface water into groundwater basins to replenish groundwater resources. This method requires infrastructure such as canals, pipelines, and recharge basins.
While managed groundwater recharge can be an effective solution for managing water resources, there are also risks to consider. Some of the risks of managed groundwater recharge include:
- Water quality: Recharging water into the ground can result in contamination of the groundwater if the water is not properly treated. It’s essential to ensure that the water being recharged is of high quality and that proper treatment processes are in place.
- Land subsidence: Over-pumping of groundwater can result in land subsidence, which can damage infrastructure and cause long-term damage to the land. It’s important to monitor groundwater levels and implement sustainable groundwater management practices to avoid land subsidence.
- Legal and regulatory compliance: Almond farmers must comply with all relevant laws and regulations related to groundwater management. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines and penalties.
Managed groundwater recharge is an essential strategy for almond farmers in California to manage water resources sustainably. By capturing and storing water during wet periods, almond farmers can replenish groundwater resources and reduce the impact of droughts. However, it’s important to carefully consider the risks and implement sustainable groundwater management practices to ensure the long-term viability of almond farming in California. With proper planning and implementation, managed groundwater recharge can be an effective solution for managing water resources in almond farming.