Agronomic Minute: Potential of On-Farm Groundwater Recharge

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Drought conditions and the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) are putting a squeeze on California growers. Principal Analyst with the Almond Board of California, Jesse Roseman said efforts to improve statewide water storage and conveyance are underway. However, those are more long-term solutions to current water constraints. Implementing groundwater recharge projects in almond orchards presents a more immediate option for helping to address water issues in California.

Groundwater Recharge

“In the shorter term, groundwater recharge is something that shows a lot of promise,” said Roseman. “If we can take the flood flows that we see in California periodically, because we are in this Mediterranean climate, and quickly take those and spread them out across these millions of acres that we’ve got in the Valley, we can recharge our aquifers and hopefully get our way through SGMA.”

Implementing groundwater recharge projects in orchards can require frequent communication with local irrigation districts and Groundwater Sustainability Agencies. Roseman explained that projects can often require new water rights, permits, and new conveyance. However, the efforts can prove exceptionally beneficial when surplus water is available. “When it’s flooding, take that water, spread it out in your orchard, and let it soak into the ground. That’s really, we think, one of the best ways to address this shortfall and get more water into the ground, using the extensive nature of orchards and the fact that they’re dormant,” said Roseman.

Groundwater recharge can be accomplished in a variety of ways in almond orchards and producers have several management considerations to take into account. One approach is to take advantage of flood conditions and excess water available at times of the year when reservoirs can make releases. “There are also smaller recharge basins that can be installed in an orchard. Or also subsurface, reverse tile drains that can also take recharge water below the rootzone,” Roseman noted.

Listen to the full episode below.