College - Author 1
College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences
Department - Author 1
Agricultural Education and Communication Department
Degree Name - Author 1
BS in Agricultural Science
Megan Silcott, College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Education and Communication Department
Over the past several decades, groundwater has become a primary source of water used for agriculture in California. Surface water available for agricultural use has depleted due to declining rain totals and reallocation to environmental purposes. As a result, groundwater overdraft has become a severe challenge, especially in the San Joaquin Valley of California. This excessive overdraft causes a plethora of issues, one of the most serious being land subsidence (Faunt, Sneed, Traum, & Brandt, 2016). Studies suggest some areas of the San Joaquin Valley have experienced more than a 28-foot drop in the land level since the 1970’s (Alley & Alley, 2017). This is both an environmental issue and one of economics considering land subsidence is estimated to have caused in excess of $1.3 billion dollars (in terms of 2013 dollars) in damages between 1955-1972 alone (Borchers, Carpenter, Grabert, Dalgish, & Cannon, 2014). This large economic toll has grown so large that today it is difficult for economists to estimate.
To correct the detrimental course that California’s water management system is on, regulations pertaining to and the monitoring of, groundwater pumping have begun to be implemented. One of these recent programs is the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) policy of 2014 which will affect California as a whole but, will put major focus on the San Joaquin Valley (Thomas, 2019). Though it is important to regulate groundwater pumping, more effort needs to be put into groundwater recharge, the process by which water is returned to the aquifers. As aquifers have water pumped out of them, there is limited time for the water to be recharged back in before the aquifers are compacted, and the space is lost forever (Alley & Alley, 2017).
California needs to immediately take advantage of this time and use excess surface water, especially in the cold wet months and “wet years”, to recharge the aquifers. This, however, is a costly and unregulated endeavor for agriculturists. The author’s research will focus on the development of recharge credit programs that have begun attracting attention in recent years. This information will be combined with testimony straight from the industry in order to develop a detailed look into the economic, environmental, and agricultural benefits of these recharge credit programs, in the hopes of increasing their use and answer the question, ‘Why should I invest in recharge?’