Largest ag water district in the US sees success with groundwater recharge

USDA photo or California irrigation of Leafy Crops
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June 22, 2023 — California’s Westlands Water DistrictOpens in a new tab. has released its latest report on groundwater recharge efforts.  Per its fact sheetOpens in a new tab., the District’s goal is to recharge 200,000 acre-feet of water by the end of February 2024.

The District is the largest agricultural water district in the United StatesOpens in a new tab., made up of more than 1,000 square miles of prime farmland in western Fresno and Kings Counties. Westlands has federal contracts to provide water to 700 family-owned farms that average 875 acres in size.  Agricultural production within Westlands Water District is responsible for generating over $4.7 billion in annual economic activityOpens in a new tab. and supporting over 35,000 jobs across the regional economy. These jobs produce the wages, tax revenue, and consumer spending that drive economic activity and livelihoods throughout the state.

Through its comprehensive water delivery system, the District has implemented various groundwater recharge projects since 2019. These projects aim to harness available water resources and improve groundwater levels in the lower and upper aquifers.

Importance of Groundwater Recharge.

To safeguard against future droughts and preserve water resources, groundwater recharge plays a crucial role. The Westlands Water District recognizes the inevitability of the next drought and strives to utilize excess water to prepare for such events. By maximizing water use efficiency and storage capacity, these recharge initiatives also enhance the resilience of the region in the face of climate change.  Allison Febbo, General Manager of Westlands Water DistrictOpens in a new tab., emphasized the importance of groundwater recharge efforts, saying that the initiatives align with the District’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan objectives and provide an opportunity for farmers to conserve water and plan their future crops effectively.

Groundwater Recharge Programs.

The Westlands Water District currently offers groundwater recharge programs to support landowners in refilling and replenishing the aquifers. These programs include percolation basins, flood irrigation, sublateral recharge, and dry well injection. The District is pleased to witness a high level of enthusiasm among landowners, as evidenced by the continuous submission of new applications.  According to the report, the District has processed 273 applications for:

  • 77 percolation basins
  • 61 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) projects
  • 131 Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) Project
  • 4 sublateral projects

Progress and Achievements.

With an increased supply of surface water this year, the Westlands Water District has seized the opportunity to prepare for the future. In May 2023 alone, the recharge efforts led to the storage of 24,000 acre-feet (af) of water. Since the beginning of the water year (March 1st to June 20th), approximately 60,000 af of water has been recharged.

Positive Impact on Groundwater Levels.

Thanks to the District’s recharge projects and in-lieu recharge practices (foregone pumping), groundwater levels have shown positive progress. In May 2023, the groundwater elevation levels in the Lower Aquifer rose to -54 mean sea level, representing a 40-foot increase compared to the average groundwater elevation in fall 2022. While these results are encouraging, continued efforts are necessary to ensure a water-secure future for California.

By collaborating with landowners and implementing various projects, the District strives to safeguard against future droughts, preserve water resources, and improve groundwater conditions. These efforts are crucial for ensuring a resilient and water-secure California.

[Image: USDA photo of irrigation in California via Wikimedia CommonsOpens in a new tab..]


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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