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On-farm flood capture could reduce groundwater overdraft in Kings River Basin

  • Author(s): Bachand, Philip A.M.
  • Roy, Sujoy B
  • Stern, Nicole
  • Choperena, Joseph
  • Cameron, Don
  • Horwath, William R
  • et al.
Abstract

Chronic groundwater overdraft threatens agricultural sustainability in California's Central Valley. Diverting flood flows onto farmland for groundwater recharge offers an opportunity to help address this challenge. We studied the infiltration rate of floodwater diverted from the Kings River at a turnout upstream of the James Weir onto adjoining cropland; and calculated how much land would be necessary to capture the available floodwater, how much recharge of groundwater might be achieved, and the costs. The 1,000-acre pilot study included fields growing tomatoes, wine grapes, alfalfa and pistachios. Flood flows diverted onto vineyards infiltrated at an average rate of 2.5 inches per day under sustained flooding. At that relatively high infiltration rate, 10 acres are needed to capture one CFS of diverted flood flow. We considered these findings in the context of regional expansion. Based upon a 30-year record of Kings Basin surplus flood flows, we estimate 30,000 acres operated for on-farm flood recharge would have had the capacity to capture 80% of available flood flows and potentially offset overdraft rates in the Kings Basin. Costs of on-farm flood capture for this study were estimated at $36 per acre-foot, less than the cost for surface water storage and dedicated recharge basins.

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