UC Davis Scientists Flood Modesto Orchards In Hopes Of Finding Way To Restore Groundwater

MODESTO (CBS13) — Scientists are purposely flooding a Modesto almond orchard on Tuesday as part of an experiment to put water back into the underground aquifer.

A Modesto almond orchard is going underwater in the experiment.

“The idea is, if we apply water to an almond orchard in the winter time when the trees aren’t using much water, then almost all of that water will go down through the roots and help to recharge the groundwater,” said UC Davis professor Ken Shackle.

But is it even legal?

As rain falls from the sky, the water is fair game to collect after 2012’s Rainwater Recapture Act, but once it hits the ground, it falls into California’s complex water rights system. In many cases, it’s illegal to to divert surface water.

“If a party is collecting water in a stream or river, they need to come to the State Water Resources Control Board and get a permit,” said spokeswoman Amanda Montgomery.

UC Davis is doing just that for a similar experiment in Scott Valley. The state issued its first temporary groundwater storage permit for the experiment, and it’s interested in giving out more permits and streamlining the process.

“This is definitely something that we’re doing new now. It is coming from the drought and the fact that our aquifers have been depleted from the drought,” she said.

The state and the scientists say they hope the solution to the drought it here, but they have to recapture the rain before it runs off.

If farmers will be using less than 10,000 acre-feet of water, the six-month permit costs only $100.

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