By Elizabeth Jonasson
Today, Westlands Water District (District) released new data on the District’s groundwater recharge efforts. Since 2019, the District has been working with District landowners to establish on-farm recharge projects, with the goal of taking advantage of abundant water supply (when available) to improve groundwater levels in the lower and upper aquifers.
Sustainability is at the core of the District’s comprehensive water delivery system and groundwater recharge is a key strategy to both store and preserve water for future dry years or droughts and improve groundwater conditions in the subbasin. The District is committed to ensuring a sustainable water future by investing in recharge projects and encouraging landowners to explore and implement creative approaches that maximize water use efficiency and storage while improving climate resilience.
“We recognize the next drought is not if but when and it is critical we use extra water to prepare for future years when water may be sparse,” said Allison Febbo, General Manager, Westlands Water District. “The District’s groundwater recharge efforts will help ensure we meet our Groundwater Sustainability Plan objectives while allowing our farmers the opportunity to save water and plan next year’s crop.”
The District is currently offering three groundwater recharge programs to help landowners refill and replenish the aquifers in the District. Project types include percolation basins, flood irrigation, sublateral recharge, and dry well injection. The District is seeing strong enthusiasm and interest from landowners as new applications continue to be submitted.
With increased surface water supply this year, the District has been able to take advantage of the opportunity to prepare for the future. In May 2023 alone, recharge efforts resulted in 24,000 acre-feet (af) being stored. Water year to date, (March 1st through June 20th) the District has recharged approximately 60,000 af. The District is aiming to get to over 200,000 af of total recharge by the end of this water year (February 29,2024).
Additional recharge projects will be online in the coming months as the District has processed 273 applications for 61 Aquifer Storage and Recovery, 131 flood Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) projects, 77 percolation basins and 4 sublateral projects.
District recharge projects and in-lieu recharge (also known as foregone pumping) have had a positive impact on groundwater levels. In May 2023, groundwater elevation levels in the Lower Aquifer registered at –54 mean sea level, which is an increase of 40 feet compared to average groundwater elevation in the fall of 2022. Though these results have been encouraging, there is more work that needs to be done for a water-secure California.
“Strengthening water security in California isn’t something that can be done by just one water district, one water agency, or even one region,” Febbo added. “This is a statewide problem where we need to prioritize collaboration and develop multifaceted solutions to address California’s water crisis. That’s why we are committed to exploring and implementing creative approaches to maximize water use efficiency and storage and improve climate resilience.”
To learn more about the District’s recharge efforts see our groundwater recharge factsheet.