By Carlos Correa

ACAMPO (CBS13) — Fourteen acres of vineyards in Acampo were flooded with water coming from the Mokelumne River as part of a program started by local farmers Thursday. The process is called groundwater recharge and has gained statewide attention since the practice launched two years ago.

Farmers in San Joaquin County intentionally flood water into a field to study how it can potentially help other growers down the road.

Farmers around the region are expecting 2019 to be a dry year. So work is already underway to figure out how to increase groundwater storage in processes that are easy and affordable.

“What we’re doing what is called groundwater recharge. It’s applying surface water to our vineyards right now, and that water will percolate into the aquifer and helped build up our aquifer underground water,” said Joe Valente, North San Joaquin Water Conservation District.

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The aquifer is the water supply underneath the soil. Farmers have teamed up with the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District to flood acres of old-vine Zinfandel grapes with up to 500 acre-feet of water in an effort to recharge it.

“It’s trying to make sure that we can do this on fields where we have crops and we can do it during the year when water is available and it won’t impact the crops negatively,” said Daniel Degraff, district engineer.

Project leaders hope the process of flood irrigation can be used in more vineyards and they say it could have a beneficial impact all over the state and not just with growers.

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“That water travels to various pumps in different parts of this groundwater basin so it’s not just helping this farmer, but it’s helping everybody else who has wells in these regions whether that’s wells for a rural home and their drinking water or another agriculture pump,” said Joe Choperena, Senior Project manager, Sustainable Conservation.

Four thousand gallons of water per minute were pumped into the field. Once the project is complete, managers will analyze the data to help future farmers.

“There is a lot of different methods, for example, there is flooding, there is drip method, there are sprinkler methods and its helping farmers in a way that you know, which way is more efficient,” said Crystal Huerta, a student at Modesto Junior College.

Huerta often helps her father, who takes care of irrigation management in the field being used for the pilot project.

The project is being funded by three different organizations. Next month, on November 5t, there will be a workshop to help educate other growers in Lodi.

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