Earth & Environmental Sciences –
Groundwater—the water stored underneath the Earth’s surface between the cracks and spaces in soil, sand, and bedrock—is essential for the California residents and farmers who rely on it for up to 46 percent of their annual water use. Yet during the 2012-2017 drought, the state’s surface water supply was not sufficient to meet demand, resulting in excess groundwater pumping that caused land subsidence of up to 13 inches in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley.
Now a team of scientists at Berkeley Lab’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) is working with farmers and partners like the Almond Board of California and UC Davis to test on-farm banking, a new approach that has the potential to manage groundwater more sustainably. It’s an improvement on the age-old method of groundwater recharge, the process of replenishing aquifers by infiltrating water from the surface into shallow aquifers.
“On-farm banking has the promise of making the most productive use of the greatest amount of land possible while increasing the reliability and resiliency of California’s groundwater supply,” says EESA scientist Peter Nico, a soil and environmental biogeochemist.