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When Is Groundwater Recharge a Beneficial Use of Surface Water in California?

  • Author(s): Miller, Kathleen
  • Green Nylen, Nell
  • Doremus, Holly
  • Owen, Dave
  • Fisher, Andrew
  • et al.

This issue brief considers whether groundwater recharge currently qualifies, or should qualify, as a beneficial use of surface water under a California water right. Currently, the lack of an explicit policy regarding recharge for non-extractive purposes — that is, for purposes such as combatting subsidence, raising regional groundwater levels, or supporting baseflow or ground-water dependent wetlands — creates uncertainty and confusion. To bring much needed clarity, the State Water Resources Control Board (the Board) should provide guidance explaining that recharge for non-extractive purposes can be a beneficial use of water. That guidance should explain the conditions under which recharge for nonextractive purposes is beneficial and the evidence water managers should provide to support a beneficial use determination.

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