Could This New Method of Water Retention Save California from the Drought?

Could This New Method of Water Retention Save California from the Drought?

Many places on the planet have arid climates and harvest rainwater in order to stay irrigated even when the sun blazes hot. California scientists have taken a hint from those who take the rain when it comes in order to help the state survive one of the worst droughts in its history.

This is no new technology. China recently commemorated a 2000-year old irrigation system. Proper irrigation systems not only save water in times of drought, but also save entire cities from flooding when rivers and lakes overflow.

Now, researchers from UC Davis and UC Cooperative Extension are testing a new method for capturing excess water flows during California’s rainy season by diverting it to canals that run through the state’s farmland valleys.

SFGate reports that the system remains empty during rainy months and redirects water during the wetter season for the benefit of crops at times when water demand is high and there is little water.

The scientists are exploring the possibility of filling some canals with water and directing it directly onto farmland where it can seep underground in a method called ‘on-farm recharge.’

With heavy rains expected in coming months from El Nino, the water could be redirected to save California’s dwindling groundwater supply.

The researchers have identified 3.6 million acres of California farmland that’s suitable for the recharge method and say that flooding it with only one foot of water could add as much as 3.5 million acre-feet of groundwater. This could help to replenish the 6 million acre-feet growers had to pump this year alone to cope with California’s drought.

Image Credit: Flickr, Tim Keegan