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Opportunity Alert: Got Fallowed Land? Recharge Water from Spring Snowmelt Runoff


The recent winter storms have reminded us that California must do more to use rain and snowmelt flood flows for recharging California’s groundwater aquifers. A key part of any strategy to utilize the excess water that comes from these atmospheric rivers and storm events is directing some of those flows to landowners who are able and willing to apply water to their land for groundwater recharge.  

Growers that are able to receive floodwater can help recharge local groundwater basins, ease pressure on flood control infrastructure by diverting water elsewhere and help support meeting the goals set in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). This practice can help ensure a sustainable and reliable source of groundwater for all: farmers, communities and the environment. 

Almond grower Christine Gemperle opens a valve to allow excess storm flows to flood a portion of her land.

A lot of snow to melt 

The Sierra snowpack – measuring nearly 200% of normal as of February 27 and more than 150% of the April 1 peak – will be a significant source of increased runoff flows this spring. When rapid snowmelt and reservoir releases occur, flood control agencies and local governments will again face the challenge of managing increased flows.  

The Almond Board of California (ABC) and the non-profit Sustainable Conservation have developed an Introduction to Groundwater Recharge Guide so California almond growers can begin evaluating their options for addressing local sub-basin overdraft through recharge, helping secure reliable, sufficient, and drought-resilient groundwater supplies. 

These on-farm recharge strategies can be adapted so almond growers can play a big part in helping to recharge groundwater with valuable runoff flows this spring and even into summer. 

A Turlock Irrigation canal flows from heavy February storms in 2023.

Not using a block this year? 

Many growers have fallowed fields that have yet to be replanted for the coming season, which can serve as potential recharge sites. Depending on local soil conditions and other factors, this temporarily fallowed acreage can be instrumental in ensuring that almond growers are helping to utilize the precious water supplies from the winter storms and snowmelt.  

If you are a grower with fallowed acreage and interested in helping to put surface water into groundwater aquifers, contact your local irrigation district to see if they will be making flows available to apply to lands for recharge. The more landowners that participate in this effort, the better off groundwater basins will be. A healthier basin will be more likely to come into compliance with SGMA and could be able to support larger allocations for growers.  

ABC and Sustainable Conservation are available to work with growers, irrigation districts and water managers to make sure that all available water can be recharged in this and future years.  

Got more questions? 

ABC: Jesse Roseman –

Sustainable Conservation: Rogell Rogers – 

Topics: Water