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Water storage: Going underground

In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee published Friday, UC Davis hydrologist Graham Fogg offers a new possibility for managing California’s water supply: putting it underground, back into the natural aquifer systems of the Central Valley.

Much of California’s water supply is stored in the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada. But snowpacks are in long-term decline as more precipitation falls as rain and less as snow, Fogg says. Upgrading and building dams would not be enough to make up the shortfall.

But there is room for tens of millions of acre-feet of water below the Central Valley, Fogg says. The problems are in getting the water in there fast enough, and understanding how water moves through the system.  The first step is to understand the three-dimensional structure of channels and reservoirs under the valley, to work out where water could enter and move.

The bottom line? The subsurface storage potential in the Central Valley aquifer system is exciting, and the technical hurdles are not insurmountable. The first task is to better define the subsurface anatomy. Then the means and the will to manage our subsurface water as effectively as we manage our surface reservoirs will emerge.

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