When drought strikes, California farmers often pump water from underground aquifers to water their crops. But increasingly dry conditions are straining that resource.
“On average, over time, we have been extracting more water from the subsurface than has been recharged,” says David Freyberg of Stanford University.
He says many people are looking at ways to replenish the state’s dwindling groundwater supplies.
In California, a lot of water typically comes from winter snow that falls high in the mountains. During warmer months, that snow melts and trickles down to farmland.
But as the climate warms, more precipitation is falling as rain instead of snow. So it rushes into rivers and runs past many areas where it’s needed.
Freyberg says one idea is to divert some of this water from the rivers and allow it to spread across farm fields.
“It will infiltrate into the soil and move down into the places where there is groundwater — what are called aquifers,” he says.
He says before scaling up this approach, researchers need to evaluate the best methods to use and the impacts on farms and water quality.
But he says it’s worth taking those steps because the idea holds promise.
Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media