How California, Arizona and other states are attempting to generate a whole new water supply

(The hill) – Underground storage may be a key for western states to cope with water scarcity and extreme weather conditions.

Underground aquifers have served as a reliable source of water for years. During rainy years, the aquifers naturally filled, helping areas to make ends meet during the dry years.

But growing demand for water coupled with climate change has created shortages as states are pumping water out of aquifers faster than they can be replenished.

The fallout can also cause damage vegetation and wildlife B. Streams dry up and damage occurs to aqueducts and flood protection structures sinking country.

Municipalities and researchers across the country are working on ways to more efficiently refill depleted aquifers.

By pumping over aquifers, “you created space. There is space underground that used to be filled with water,” explained Michael Kiparsky, director of the water program at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

“And what we can do with these aquifer recharge projects is use that space, which is far larger than the sum of all surface storage that now exists or could be built,” he said.

Several communities in California, Arizona and other states have been using controlled groundwater replenishment for years to better regulate the local water supply.

If implemented on a large enough scale, Recharge projects have the potential to strengthen water security in drought-affected regions while improving environmental health.

Kiparsky said that if it can be pulled through, “it holds the promise of being able to create a whole new water supply that we really didn’t even know we had.”

Regional Efforts

In California – where 85 percent of the population depends on groundwater for part of their supply – more than 340 replenishment projects have already been proposed.

The California Department of Water Resources announced this month It will speed up the approval process for recharge projects to aid in compliance its goal the expansion of average groundwater recharge by at least 500,000 acre feet per year.

In Orange County alone, officials pump 65 million gallons of treated water into Anaheim reservoirs every day. The county began replenishing water through infiltration basins in 1936 and serves as a model for other communities wishing to implement aquifer regeneration projects.

“If we’re going to conserve and conserve our groundwater systems, not deplete them, not deplete the water and have enough water for everything else — for agriculture, for cities, for the environment, for the streams — and so on, we’re going to have to have plenty of water into the ground,” said Andrew Fisher, professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “There’s literally no choice if we don’t.”

Groundwater recharge projects can take many different forms.

Communities could create infiltration basins to collect rainwater or excess river currents in ponds that are deliberately left open. Over time, water settles into the underlying soil and eventually into aquifers. Dry wells that end above the water table and allow the water to seep the rest of the way can be built along with injection wells that inject water directly into aquifers.

Arizona has a long history of aquifer recharge efforts, thanks in part to the establishment of the 1996 Arizona Water Banking Authority (AWBA). Since its inception, the authority has used charging to save almost 5,600 million cubic meters Surface water from the Colorado River as of 2019.

The number and capacity of recharge projects increased across Arizona in the early 2000s, with researchers attributing the project’s success to local policy consensus, favorable hydrogeology, and public funding, among other factors.

“AWBA is an important example of how a strong regulatory framework coupled with public institutions and funding can help support the uptake of [managed aquifer recharge] on a large scale, and how [managed aquifer recharge] can achieve comprehensive water management and public policy goals”, a Unesco report 2021 said of practice.

The city of Tucson also serves as model example thanks to its flexible approach to using renewable surface water resources.

In 2018, the city emplaced and recovered 76 million cubic meters in the same year, while storing another 76 million cubic meters for long-term use.

The city uses “soils as a treatment method for surface water,” said Sharon B. Megdal, director of the University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center, in an interview with Changing America.

The surface water enters the aquifers and mixes with the existing groundwater, and then officials can pull out this mixed, mixed water to serve customers, she said.

Despite the established nature of Arizona’s programs, groundwater is still being over-pumped in some areas and water tables are holding up decline.

“Arizona has a fairly long history of successfully using managed aquifer replenishment, and yet there are more opportunities,” Megdal said. “We don’t have all the answers. We still have a lot to do. But basically we have done a lot successfully.”

When it comes to expanding the scope of recharges, “it’s very important that you have the right regulatory framework to do it, both for adequate protection — as there are impacts on water quality and other types of impacts — and for predictability ‘ said Megdal.

challenges remain

One type of groundwater recharge project is mentioned Flood MAR, or flood-driven aquifer replenishment. As part of this process, water managers could divert water accumulated in rivers during large flows to other areas and flood land in the winteror rainy season, and till the land in the summer.

“Part of the challenge of flood replenishment is finding land that isn’t already being used for other things, houses or fields. And finding areas where there is enough infiltration capacity, which is a term meaning water can quickly flow underground and into aquifers,” explained Kiparsky. Legal questions also arise when projects are aimed at catching flood water, since claims to lower reaches may already exist.

Additional challenges in recharge projects arise when water is collected in urban environments. Cities must not be located above favorable geological conditions for water to enter aquifers. Groundwater in urban areas can also be contaminated by oil drips or car tire fragments. Although this water can be treated before it is discharged into the aquifer, the treatment can be expensive.

Other projects require communities to identify the best locations for charging to reduce the need to build new transfer infrastructure.

“In some cases, some of the stored water has to remain in the aquifer and can’t be extracted later,” says Megdal. That’s because groundwater is on the move and communities may not be able to reclaim all the water they put in before it keeps flowing.

Despite the many challenges involved in collecting different types of water at different times, by different means and in different areas, “there are many ways to implement it [managed aquifer recharge] depending on what water source you’re talking about, what end-use you’re talking about,” Megdal said.

“People are realizing that we need to look at all water sources and opportunities to use them wisely,” Megdal added.

Not only can increased water storage contribute to water security in the future, but higher groundwater levels can reconnect with rivers and improve conditions for fish and vegetation along the river corridor.

“We have and will continue to have too much water when we don’t want it and not enough when we need it, and so storage is key,” Kiparsky said.

“The fact that we created this huge underground space is key to this problem,” Kiparsky added. How California, Arizona and other states are attempting to generate a whole new water supply

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