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California farms grow about a quarter of U.S. food, and that takes a lot of water. Many farmers rely on water pumped from the ground. But over time, pumping is depleting the aquifers. And severe droughts are making the problem worse.

“Eventually, you’re going to run out of water,” says Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch in California’s Central Valley.

To help protect the ranch, he’s been working for years to replenish groundwater supplies.

During the occasional wet year, when the nearby Kings River floods, he uses a system of canals, pipes, and pumps to redirect floodwater onto the farm — “essentially reconnecting the floodplain that had been here many, many years ago and allowing the water to come on the farm and percolate down to the underground aquifer,” Cameron says.

He says the approach is working.

“On the wet years, where we’ve been able to do groundwater recharge, we’ve seen an increase in the water table,” he says. “There’s no question.”

And now others plan to adopt the method. The local groundwater agency is working with Cameron and other farmers to expand the project.

Cameron hopes that as groundwater recharge becomes more common, California can continue feeding the nation even as the climate warms.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media