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Managed Aquifer Recharge

The Pajaro Valley Groundwater Basin includes about 75,000 acres in southern Santa Cruz County, northern Monterey County, and a small portion of western San Benito County. The area supports a unique and valuable agriculture industry producing high value fruit, vegetable, flower, and other crops. In addition to providing water for about 30,000 acres of commercial crop production, the basin supplies water for the City of Watsonville, rural residential homes, and supports riparian and estuarine habitat for protected species like steelhead and California red-legged frog.

An average of 55,000 acre-feet of water is used each year to meet the water demand in the Pajaro Valley. The vast majority of that water is extracted from the groundwater basin, and most of it is used to irrigate commercial crops. There is no imported water supply. Over the past several decades, groundwater pumping has led to an overdraft of the groundwater basin. Lowered water levels eventually caused seawater to intrude into freshwater aquifers.

Distributed Stormwater Collection and Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is a landscape management strategy that can help to reduce aquifer overdraft and maintain long-term water supply reliability. These types of projects collect and infiltrate excess hillslope runoff before it reaches a stream by using a variety of techniques including streambank filtration, dry wells, and dedicated infiltration basins.

In 2014, the RCD partnered with UCSC’s Hydrogeology Group, securing support from the California State Coastal Conservancy, to complete a Regional MAR and Runoff Analysis for Santa Cruz and Northern Monterey Counties, and to develop information and decision support tools to optimize storm runoff collection and MAR project design. More information about that work can be found by clicking here.

Distributed Stormwater Collection and Managed Aquifer Recharge Data

Recharge Net Metering Program

Through a local collaborative effort, private landowners, the RCD, Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency, and University of California Santa Cruz are implementing the Recharge Net Metering Program (ReNeM), that incentivizes private landowners to install MAR systems on their land. These MAR stormwater collection and infiltration systems are carefully designed and managed to provide benefits to both groundwater supply and water quality.

To promote the construction of MAR projects, the ReNeM Program gives rebates on a landowner’s water bill. The amount varies based on the volume of water infiltrated through the system that is installed. This helps offset the costs of operation and maintenance of the system. Participating landowners are making a valuable contribution to the Pajaro Valley groundwater supply.

Project Under Consideration:
Curtis Infiltration Pond

Selected Projects:
Bokariza-Drobac Infiltration Basin
Kelly Thompson Recharge Basin
Storrs Water and Sediment Control Project

Contact the RCD for assistance.

Conservation benefit: Supports long-term groundwater sustainability by adding high quality water to our groundwater supply.

Partners:
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency
Private Landowners
University of California Santa Cruz

Funders:
California Department of Water Resources
California State Coastal Conservancy
Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation (via UCSC)
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency
Private Landowners
State Water Resources Control Board
University of California at Santa Cruz

RCD Contact: Erin McCarthy

We would like to see efforts of this kind extended across the region and around the state, using successes from the Central Coast as a modifiable, flexible template for incentivizing more sustainable resource stewardship. - Dr. Andy Fisher, UCSC

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