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Improving groundwater recharge


Improving aquifer storage recovery operations can help to reduce nutrient loads and increase water supplies. This analysis of managed aquifer recharge in central coastal California quantified variability in infiltration, recharge, groundwater movement, and water quality. Results suggest that managed recharge systems might be operated for simultaneous improvements to both water supply and quality.


Andrew Fisher
University of California, Santa Cruz

Project description:

This project focused on how improvements can be made to water supply and water quality during managed aquifer recharge (MAR). We collaborated with a local water agency, researchers at other academic institutions and the U.S. Geological Survey, the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, the Community Water Dialog (a grassroots community group involved in water issues), and numerous landowners, growers, and other regional stakeholders. 

The first several years of this project focused on a MAR project that is operated by the Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency. This project included an infiltration pond that is used to recharge fresh water into a shallow, perched aquifer. This water is used by local growers in lieu of pumping groundwater from a regional aquifer that is impacted by overdraft and resulting seawater intrusion. The water put into the pond is diverted from a nearby wetland system during the wet (rainy) season, when flows are sufficient high and water quality is good. During the last two years, we have extended these results by transitioning the project to two additional settings: a recharge basin established by a local grower to capture stormwater, and a field site owned by the State of California being considered for managed recharge using recycled waste water. We also extended this work regionally through use of a Geographic Information System and a sophisticated regional groundwater model. All of these developments have helped to bring research results into a phase of water supply project implementation.

Select publications:

Russo, T.A., A.T. Fisher, and D.M. Winslow. 2013. Regional and local increases in storm intensity in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA, between 1890 and 2010. Journal of Geophysical Research, Atmospheres 10.1002/jgrd.502252013.

Racz, A.J., A.T. Fisher, C. Schmidt, B. Lockwood, and M. Los Huertos. 2011. The spatial and temporal dynamics of infiltration during managed aquifer recharge, as quantified using mass balance and thermal methods. Groundwater 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2011.00875.x.

Schmidt, C.M., A.T. Fisher, A.J. Racz, C.G. Wheat, M. Los Huertos, and B. Lockwood. 2011. Rapid nutrient load reduction during infiltration as part of managed aquifer recharge in an agricultural groundwater basin: Pajaro Valley, California. Hydrological Processes 10.1002/hyp.8320.

Schmidt, C.M., A.T. Fisher, A.J. Racz, B. Lockwood, and M. Los Huertos. 2011. Linking denitrification and infiltration rates during managed groundwater recharge. Environmental Science and Technology 10.1021/es2023626.

Final Project Report

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