Groundwater Recharge and Management

UC Water actively pursues creative solutions to California's groundwater overdraft. Whether reducing pumping, operating reservoirs differently, or finding the best to infiltrate water to aquifers, our team of researchers are focused on improving integrated headwaters-to-groundwater management. 

Recharged: Improving Freshwater Supply and Quality

University of Santa Cruz hydrogeologist Andrew Fisher leads a team of researchers looking for better ways to capture runoff and use it to not only increase groundwater quantity, but also improve quality. They are using the Pajaro Valley on the central California coast, a productive and valuable agriculture area, as their practical laboratory, working with farmers and water managers to recharge groundwater. Recharge net metering is a novel practice of crediting groundwater. Learn more on UCTV Sustainable California.

Recharge Net Metering to Enhance Groundwater Sustainability

Recharge Net Metering (ReNeM) is a strategy that incentivizes MAR by offsetting costs incurred by landowners for operation and maintenance of water collection and infiltration systems that are placed on their land. ReNeM participants benefit directly through the rebate program; they also benefit indirectly (along with other resource users and regional aquatic systems) because MAR helps to improve and sustain the supply and quality of groundwater.

Our Issue Brief presents a concise conceptual description of ReNeM, as well as a brief account of its first implementation as a pilot program in the Pajaro Valley of California. 

Kiparsky, M, AT Fisher, WM Hanemann, J Bowie, R Kantor, C Coburn, and B Lockwood. 2018. Recharge Net Metering to Enhance Groundwater Sustainability. Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, UC Berkeley School of Law, Berkeley, CA. 4 pp. 

Recharge and Reservoir Management: Keys to Water Security

Professor Graham Fogg details the opportunities for managing "water storage as water security" by practicing alternative reservoir management. This primer given to the American Geosciences Institute in July 2018 describes UC Water's approach to integrated watershed management and implications for groundwater recharge.

Flooding Orchards to Replenish Groundwater:
A UC Experiment in Groundwater Replenishment Strategies

The long California drought forced many growers to pump groundwater to irrigate their crops. With the establishment of California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act replenishment of California's groundwater supplies is of utmost importance. To develop replenishment strategies, Professor Helen Dahlke joins fellow UC Davis researchers, UC Cooperative Extension and California farmers to test the impacts of irrigating almond orchards in the winter to recharge groundwater aquifers and to help manage water resources sustainably.

Learn more on UCTV Sustainable California.

When is Groundwater Recharge a Beneficial Use of Surface Water?

The Berkeley Law Center for Law, Energy & the Environment team tackled the murky issue of "beneficial use" and clarified that the specific purpose of recharge is key.

Although they may employ the same range of recharge techniques, there are important distinctions between (1) recharge for the purpose of storing water to be subsequently extracted by pumping for above-ground use under the water right and (2) recharge for a non-extractive use without the intention to later directly remove the water from below ground by pumping under the water right. Because most non-extractive uses are not explicitly listed as beneficial uses in statutes or regulations, the Board determines, on a case-by-case basis, whether a non-extractive use amounts to a beneficial use of surface water. And details on the process for applying for a surface water right or water right change for non-extractive use are slim to non-existent. This may discourage potential rechargers from submitting an application for such a use.

Learn more about beneficial use in the Issue Brief.

Designing Effective Groundwater Sustainability Agencies:
Criteria for Evaluation of Local Governance Options

MikeChartNarrowFontFinalOne of the first responses to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) was the question of implementation. UC Water and Wheeler Water Institute Director Michael Kiparsky led an in-depth implementation framework for groundwater governance under SGMA. With careful consideration of institutional design, groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) can hew to the spirit of local control that underlies SGMA, and retain local control and independence over the long term. This 2016 report remains relevant as many GSAs prepare their plans for 2020 and 2022. 


Local stakeholders and state agencies can use the nine criteria defined in this report to evaluate the institutional design of newly forming GSAs. These criteria support efficacy and fairness, two foundational elements of good governance. The criteria – scale, human capacity, funding, authority, independence, representation, participation, accountability, and transparency – form the basis for conceptual guidelines from which arise key questions that stakeholders and agencies can use to test the potential for a GSA to govern for groundwater sustainability.

Recharge Roundtable: Call to Action

With the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in mind, the Groundwater Resources Association of California and UC Water hosted some of the brightest minds in a one-day, focused workshop to address the question: what can we do to improve groundwater recharge in the next five years?  

Pre-press release for the Western Groundwater Congress
Recharge Roundtable Call to Action: Key Steps for Replenishing California Groundwater
(Please return in October for the final document)