Almond Board of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) recently announced a new partnership focused on better understanding subsurface water storage, quality and movement in relation to almond orchard groundwater recharge test sites. This important research builds on the Almond Board’s ongoing research efforts to understand the potential of using California’s almond orchards for groundwater recharge.
Groundwater has always been a vital resource in California and plays a critical role in maintaining California's economic and environmental sustainability during normal and dry years. Given the extended drought and its associated shortage of surface water supplies, the volume of pumped groundwater has been more than can be reasonably expected to be recharged without coordinated efforts to increase recharge.
The Almond Board has funded Berkeley Lab, a member of the national laboratory system charged with conducting unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines, with $105,840 to study what’s happening underground at almond orchard groundwater recharge test sites.
This project is part of the Almond Board’s larger Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM) program, which includes an emphasis on creating more sustainable water resources for farmers as well as all Californians. This can be achieved, in part, by maximizing the capture of excess flood flows for recharge during wet years to replenish groundwater supplies for use during dry years, with the added benefit of also reducing downstream flood risk.
“The potential for using almond orchards for groundwater recharge is an increasingly important research area for us to understand as California's precipitation begins to shift from winter snow to rain, which is more difficult to time and store,” said Gabriele Ludwig, PhD, Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs at the Almond Board. “Preliminary analysis of almond acreage indicates that nearly 675,000 acres are moderately good or better in their ability to recharge groundwater, and the new research with Berkeley Labs will bring even more insight into the progress to date.”
Berkeley Lab scientists have expertise in using geophysical imaging, which allows them to “see” underground without drilling a well.
“We have very sophisticated hydrologic and geochemical computer codes we think we can couple with imaging to predict where water will go, and also importantly, how its chemistry may change through storage or retrieval,” said Peter Nico, PhD, Head of Berkeley Lab’s Geochemistry Department.
The new Berkeley Lab partnership expands ongoing existing Almond Board-funded work underway to identify which orchards are suitable for recharge; gauge groundwater recharge efforts’ effects on almond trees; and conduct advocacy work to ensure groundwater storage is a policy priority. Current partners include University of California, Davis; the environmental non-profit group Sustainable Conservation; and the agricultural sciences and private research firm Land IQ. For more information on this project, click here.
In addition to groundwater recharge, the California Almond community is committed to sustainable use of California’s water resources. Through more than 100 innovative Almond Board-funded research projects since 1982, California almond growers have incorporated state-of-the-art, research-proven irrigation practices that have reduced the amount of water needed to grow each pound of almonds by 33 percent.
1 University of California. UC Drought Management. Feb. 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 66 – Crop yield in response to water. 2012. Almond Board of California. Almond Almanac 1990-94, 2000-14.