Document Details

FLOOD- MAR Using Flood Water for Managed Aquifer Recharge to Support Sustainable Water Resources

California Department of Water Resources (DWR) | June 26th, 2018

The effects of climate change are necessitating wholesale changes in how water is managed in California.  With less water storage from snowpack, California needs to leverage both the current water system and new opportunities to provide sustainable alternatives that can simultaneously accommodate longer and deeper droughts, and more severe, and frequent, episodic and seasonal flooding. This recent cycle of drought and flood, and the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), provide an enhanced opportunity to modernize State policies related to the nexus between flood management, land use, groundwater management, and ecosystem enhancement.

Partnerships, among DWR; other State, federal, tribal, regional, and local entities; and university and private researchers, are actively exploring opportunities to determine how flood and groundwater management can be integrated for multiple benefits. Although integrating flood and groundwater management is not a new concept, the time is ripe to implement an expanded, large-scale integrated program. With the passage and early implementation of SGMA, in combination with climate-induced extreme events, the logic for communities to partner and integrate is evident and imperative. This partnership will help reduce the impacts of future swings between high- and low-flow periods while meeting their communities’ objectives, with the added benefits of improving floodplain ecosystems, preserving working landscapes, and engaging California’s agricultural community in needed solutions, among others.

This white paper explores “Flood-MAR”, an integrated and voluntary resource management strategy that uses flood water resulting from, or in anticipation of, rainfall or snowmelt for groundwater recharge on agricultural lands and working landscapes, including but not limited to refuges, floodplains, and flood bypasses. Large-scale implementation of Flood-MAR will fundamentally change how flood and groundwater management are managed. Flood-MAR can be implemented at multiple scales, from individual landowners diverting flood water with existing infrastructure, to using extensive detention/recharge areas and modernizing flood protection infrastructure/operations. Flood-MAR’s potential and value for California is achieved by integrating Flood-MAR with other regional recharge efforts, changing management of California’s water system to better integrate surface water and groundwater, upgrading conveyance, storage, and operations, and considering Flood-MAR’s opportunities as related to water transport and transfers are some of the system integration considerations.

This white paper demonstrates the need for Flood-MAR to become an important part of California’s portfolio of water resource management strategies, now and in the future, to help significantly improve water resources sustainability and climate resiliency throughout the state.  Using Flood Water for Managed Aquifer Recharge Can Provide Broad Benefits. There is a clear State interest in encouraging, and participating in, Flood-MAR projects because they can provide broad and multiple public and private benefits for Californians and the ecosystems of the state.

Potential public benefits include:
– Flood Risk Reduction.
– Drought Preparedness.
– Aquifer Replenishment.
– Ecosystem Enhancement.
– Subsidence Mitigation.
– Water Quality Improvement.
– Working Landscape Preservation and Stewardship.


ecosystem management, flood management, floodplain restoration, Groundwater Exchange, groundwater recharge, land use, Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)

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