FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – As the great snow melt kicks off in the Sierra, the California Department of Water Resources is working with local agencies like the Fresno Irrigation District to capture as much of the run-off as possible, to store in a heavily depleted groundwater supply.
Typically, the Fresno Irrigation District recharge basins would be empty this time of year, as water deliveries are underway. But in a wet year like this one, as floods have already destroyed, or threaten to destroy parts of the Valley, it’s a chance to hit two birds with one stone.
“That much more water that we bring in our system, is that much less water that’s going down there and potentially flooding them,” said Bill Stretch, general manager of the Fresno Irrigation District.
Stretch says the district wants to put water back into the aquifer to sustain ag and communities for the future.
“In those drought years like we just came out of, three drought years, we did not have enough surface water supplies for the growers and for the cities. And so they have to turn on their wells and rely on that aquifer,” said Stretch.
And while it might sound like a complete win-win…
“It’s not totally going to eliminate some areas. The impacts some areas are going to experience but, it will really demonstrate that we’re doing everything we can to minimize those impacts,” said Paul Gosselin, deputy director for the California Department of Water Resources Sustainable Groundwater Management Office.
108 other recharge banks along the Sierra Nevada are also receiving water diversions. The DWR has also allocated funds for things like pumps and additional basins so more water can be captured.
“Groundwater is a very important part of California’s water supply. It’s typically 40-60% of our total use. It’s really a prime opportunity to divert as much flood flows from our river systems and recharge the alluvial groundwater systems as much as we can,” said Dane Mathis, supervising engineering geologist with the California Department of Water Resources South Central Region Office.
It’s a shimmer of good news from the excess moisture, but the DWR claims it would take years off similar moisture and recharge to get California out of a water crisis.