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Managed Aquifer Recharge as a Tool to Enhance Sustainable Groundwater Management in California: Examples From Field and Modeling Studies


A growing population and an increased demand for water resources have resulted in a global trend of groundwater depletion. Arid and semi-arid climates are particularly susceptible, often relying on groundwater to support large population centers or irrigated agriculture in the absence of sufficient surface water resources. In an effort to increase the security of groundwater resources, managed aquifer recharge (MAR) programs have been developed and implemented globally. MAR is the approach of intentionally harvesting and infiltrating water to recharge depleted aquifer storage. California is a prime example of this growing problem, with three cities that have over a million residents and an agricultural industry that was valued at 47 billion dollars in 2015. The present-day groundwater overdraft of over 100 km3 (since 1962) indicates a clear disparity between surface water supply and water demand within the state. In the face of groundwater overdraft and the anticipated effects of climate change, many new MAR projects are being constructed or investigated throughout California, adding to those that have existed for decades. Some common MAR types utilized in California include injection wells, infiltration basins (also known as spreading basins, percolation basins, or recharge basins), and low-impact development. An emerging MAR type that is actively being investigated is the winter flooding of agricultural fields using existing irrigation infrastructure and excess surface water resources, known as agricultural MAR. California therefore provides an excellent case study to look at the historical use and performance of MAR, ongoing and emerging challenges, novel MAR applications, and the potential for expansion of MAR. Effective MAR projects are an essential tool for increasing groundwater security, both in California and on a global scale. This chapter aims to provide an overview of the most common MAR types and applications within the State of California and neighboring semi-arid regions.

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