Almond Board Funding Groundwater Recharge Research

The Almond Board of California (ABC) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy lab managed by the University of California, are partnering to understand the mechanics of using almond orchards to recharge subsurface groundwater.

As drought conditions deplete groundwater supplies in California, it may be possible to recharge underground aquifers through managed seasonal floodwater. ABC is funding the Berkeley Lab with $105,840 to study what’s happening underground at almond orchard groundwater recharge test sites. The research will be led by Peter Nico, head of Berkeley Lab’s Geochemistry Department.

“We have a lot of expertise in understanding the subsurface, using various geophysical imaging techniques, measuring chemical changes and using different types of hydrologic and reactive transport models to simulate what’s happening in the soil,” Nico says. “So our expertise matches up very well with the need to evaluate which test sites have the most potential.”

The Berkeley Lab will use technology called geophysical imaging, which allows them to “see” underground without drilling wells. Scientists will be able to better understand subsurface water storage, quality and movement in relation to almond orchard groundwater recharge test sites. They will be able to predict where water will go and how its chemistry may change during storage and retrieval.

“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,” says Gabriele Ludwig, 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 Lab will bring even more insight into the progress to date.”

The partnership is part of the Almond Board’s Accelerated Innovation Management (AIM) program, which focuses on creating more sustainable water resources. The Almond Board already finds work to identify which orchards are suitable for recharge and the effect of recharge on almond trees, among other projects.

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