San Joaquin River Basin, CA
PROJECT PARTNER: Sustainable Conservation and Kings River Conservation District
START UP DATE: 2015
PROJECT TYPE: Irrigation Infrastructure Upgrades and Water Management Agreements
WRCs GENERATED: No
The lower Kings River Basin faces significant water management challenges including groundwater overdraft and nitrate contamination of groundwater. Groundwater pumping here is occurring at an unsustainable rate, with annual pumping exceeding natural recharge by over 40 billion gallons per year. This overdraft has ironically been compounded by the widespread adoption of water conservation technologies. As farmers switch to drip and micro-sprinkler irrigation, they no longer flood irrigate their fields, which previously helped recharge the underlying groundwater aquifer.
This project works collaboratively with local farmers, water agencies, and researchers to capture surface waters during wet years and replenish groundwater reserves so that water can be available during dry years. The project serves as a cutting edge pilot demonstrating that local solutions can solve regional problems. The project directly benefits participating farmers and adjacent landowners because a significant proportion of the recharged water will replenish groundwater directly below the project site, allowing farmers to draw upon replenished groundwater when surface water is scarce.
Rural community members who depend on Kings River Basin groundwater also stand to indirectly benefit from this approach due to improved water quality and reliability of drinking water sources. A component of the project is to study the water quality improvements, including reducing nitrate concentrations, expected from a dilution effect of using large volumes of floodwater that come from clean rain and snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains that fill the Kings River. The project is expected to replenish 30 million gallons when flood flows are available.