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What is The Recharge Initiative?
The Recharge Initiative is a focused effort to protect, enhance, and improve the availability and reliability of groundwater resources. These goals will be accomplished through research, teaching, service, and outreach, in collaboration with partners from academia, federal, state, and local agencies, municipalities, and citizen stakeholder groups. The Recharge Initiative will benefit both the quantity and the quality of water resources, and will result in improvements to the sustainability of both surface and groundwater through cooperation and empowerment of institutions, groups, and individuals to understand local resources and develop local solutions.

The United States, and especially California and the rest of the western U.S., is increasingly dependent on groundwater. Although total fresh water withdrawals in the U.S. peaked in the early 1980's, then leveled off for the next two decades, recent data shows that U.S. fresh water use is increasing again. There were enormous improvements in water efficiency in the last part of the 20th century, particularly in agricultural and urban settings, but increasing populations are overwhelming reductions in per-acre and per-capita use, and many regions are unable to meet demand. Surface supplies are the primary source of fresh water in most of the U.S. during "average" years, but for much of the country during dry periods, and for many parts of the western and southern U.S. in general, groundwater is at least as important as surface water.

California leads the nation in both overall fresh water demand and in use of groundwater. California also faces an ongoing water supply crisis, with many parts of the state not having access to high-quality water where and when it is needed. The problem is exacerbated by limitations in the availability of new surface water storage (and the political challenges in developing new surface storage facilities); a massive, complex, expensive, energy-demanding, and over-allocated system for state-wide conveyance of fresh water; rapid population growth and associated demand for housing, infrastructure, and services in some of the driest parts of the state; a changing climate that influences the magnitude, timing, locations, and forms of fresh water available throughout the year; and the need to plan for variability and uncertainty.

How Can The Recharge Initiative Help?
The Recharge Initiative comprises four primary components:

(1) Delineation of natural groundwater recharge and potential managed recharge areas, through analysis of surface and subsurface data, and generation of data products in formats that are most useful to local agencies and individual (e.g., digital well records, georeferenced "shape" files for use with Geographic Information Systems).

(2) Analysis of groundwater recharge areas, both to provide ground truth for predictions based on surface and subsurface map data, and to quantify recharge dynamics and impacts site-by-site and basin-by-basin. In addition to being valuable on its own, providing a snapshot of present day conditions, this information will be important for understanding changes occurring to the hydrologic cycle over time. In decades hence, data sets generated through The Recharge Initiative will provide baseline information that will allow stakeholders, resource managers, and others to quantify the impacts of climate, land use, and other changes to water resources, particularly groundwater. This information will also help to leverage externally funded research projects, and will provide student teaching and research opportunities.

(3) Development of research and implementation projects that straddle the boundary between basic and applied research, with specific application to groundwater recharge and related topics involving both water quantity and water quality. Projects will be developed from the ground up through collaboration with local stakeholders and resource managers, with participants bringing specific expertise, tools, and resources. Funding will be leveraged for each project from multiple sources, including in-kind support such as access to facilities and data sets and staff support. Examples of Recharge Initiative projects are described in the next section of this document. Several of these efforts address fundamental hydrogeologic questions – groundwater recharge remains a frontier topic in hydrology, and new methods and tools are needed to assess this important part of the water cycle.

(4) Education and outreach that is integrated with programmatic development. This includes training of undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral researchers, development of information and documentation that is accessible to a non-technical audiences, service on public panels and technical advisory committees by Recharge Initiative participants, and involvement in public forums and other events that include genuine conversations between technical experts and stakeholders, not just lecturing from a podium. Those involved in The Recharge Initiative recognize that, as scientists, we need to be educated about the challenging technical aspects of groundwater recharge research, and in terms of local issues, policies, history, economics, and social factors.

Here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about groundwater and The Recharge Initiative (opens a new window in your browser). Or see below for presentations and a short document with an overview of the program and a copy of the FAQ.

Recent Recharge Initiative Publications

Recent publications from the UCSC Hydrogeology research group related to The Recharge Initiative - please download a reprint or see all available papers on the Publications page:

former student

Russo, T. A., Fisher, A. T., Lockwood, B. S., Assessment of managed aquifer recharge potential and impacts using a geographical information system and numerical modeling, Groundwater, doi: 10.1111/gwat.12213 , 2014.

Russo, T. A., Fisher, A. T., Winslow, D. M, Regional and local increases in storm intensity in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA, between 1890 and 2010, J. Geophys. Res., Atmospheres, 118: 1–10, doi:10.1002/jgrd.502252013, 2013.

Russo, T. A., Fisher, A. T., Roche, J. W, Improving riparian wetland conditions based on infiltration and drainage behavior during and after controlled flooding, J. Hydrology, doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.02.022, 2012.

former student

Racz, A. J., Fisher, A. T., Schmidt, C. M., Lockwood, B. S., Los Huertos, M., Spatial and temporal infiltration dynamics during managed aquifer recharge, Ground Water, doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2011.00875.x, 2011.

former student

Schmidt, C. M., A. T. Fisher, A. Racz, C. G. Wheat, M. Los Huertos, B. Lockwood, Rapid nutrient load reduction during infiltration of managed aquifer recharge in an agricultural groundwater basin, Hydrol. Processes.doi: 10.1002/hyp.8320, 2011.

Schmidt, C. M., A. T. Fisher, A. J. Racz, B. Lockwood and M. Los Huertos, Linking denitrification and infiltration rates during managed groundwater recharge, Env. Science & Tech.,, 2011.

former student

Hatch, C. E., A. T. Fisher, C. Ruehl, G. Stemler, Temporal changes in streambed hydraulic conductivity quantified with time-series thermal methods, J. Hydrol., 389, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.05.046, 276-288, 2010.

Hatch, C. E., A. T. Fisher, J. S. Revenaugh, J. Constantz, and C. Ruehl, Quantifying surface water - ground water interactions using time series analysis of streambed thermal records: method development. Water Resources Research, 42(10): 10.1029/2005WR004787, 2006.

former student

Ruehl, C., Fisher, A. T., Los Huertos, M., Wankel, S., Kendall, C., Hatch, C., and Shennan, C., Nitrate dynamics within the Pajaro River, a nutrient-rich, losing stream, J. N. Am. Benthological Soc., 26(2): 191-206, 2007.

Ruehl, C., Fisher, A. T., Hatch, C., Los Huertos, M., Stemler, G., and Shennan, C., Differential gauging and tracer tests resolve seepage fluxes in a strongly-losing stream, J. Hydrology, 300: 235-248, 2006.

More work is underway...

Would you like to participate in or contribute to The Recharge Initiative?
We are looking for opportunities to develop partnerships, collaborate, and secure resources that will allow The Recharge Initiative to achieve critical goals, empower local institutions, and train the next generation of water resource specialists. If you would like to contribute to these efforts, or have suggestions as to how we might work together to achieve common goals, we would like to hear from you.

In addition, The Recharge Initiative welcomes donations in support of important research, outreach, and teaching goals. To make a monetary donation (tax deductable!), please go to the UCSC Development Online Giving web page [link will open a new page].

In addition to monetary support, which will help to offset field, lab, and student costs, The Recharge Initiative would benefit greatly from access to a newer field vehicle. Our current field truck is a 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 2WD. This vehicle is showing its age, is not fuel efficient, and provides limited field access during the rainy season. The Recharge Initiative would benefit greatly from access to a newer, more efficient, 4WD vehicle that we can use to transport people and tow experimental systems to/from the field. If you have such a vehicle and would be willing to donate it for use by The Recharge Initiative (tax deductable!), this would make a BIG difference to our ability to complete important regional water projects.

You can make direct contact with the PBSCI Development office: Abbi Davis, adavis4 .at. (831-459-2405) or Branwyn Wagman, bwagman .at. (831-459-4240).

All donations to The Recharge Initiative will be acknowledged in a format requested by donors (or can be anonymous, as you wish), including in talks, poster presentations, publications and Hydrogeology, EPS, and/or UCSC web sites. All donations to The Recharge Initiative will be handled according to standard UCSC policies with regard to accounting and categories of acceptable use, as discussed at the UCSC Donor Relations web site.

Would you like to know more?
Here is an overview describing The Recharge Initiative and a list of frequently asked questions (PDF format), including a brief description of program goals and active projects, water supplies in California, and groundwater recharge. You can also check out the FAQ in HTML format. Please feel free to email and offer encouragement, criticism, collaboration, or suggestions for the web site.

Andy Fisher can be reached by email at this address:

or use the phone and other contact information located here.

Hot topicIn case you are interested, here are some HTML and PDF versions of PowerPoint presentations that Andy made during recent public meetings. There is some overlap between these materials, but each emphasizes different aspects of The Recharge Initiative, particular to applicaiton of managed aquifer recharge (MAR). MAR is an important tool helping resource managers and stakeholders to address ongoing challenges in fresh water supply and quality. MAR is likely to be even more important in the future, around Santa Cruz and throughout California and the U.S.

NOTE: These presentations will open in a new window in your browser:

Presentation on Positioning Managed Recharge Systems, 2013 [PDF of the PPT presentation (23 MB)]

Lecture and Lunch program, Presentation on Groundwater Recharge, 2012 [PDF of the PPT presentation (25 MB)]

Engineers for Water Alternatives, Presentation on Groundwater Recharge, 2012 [PDF of the PPT presentation (25 MB)]

Santa Cruz County Land Trust (Board of Directors meeting), 2010

Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency (Board of Directors meeting), 2010

Recharge Subgroup of the Pajaro Valley Water Dialog, 2010

Watsonville Water Summit, 2008

Some of the later presentations above shows preliminary GIS analyses to identify potential areas for future MAR projects - this work is still underway, as is field testing to check on calculations made with the GIS. This approach emphasizes stormwater capture to supply water for MAR.

Here are a couple of related stories/links:

This story was written by a former EPS Undergraduate, Ariana Hall-Reinhard, as part of her work in the UCSC Science Communications program, CSIC-160: GW Projects in the Pajaro Valley

This is a link to a story at the Scientific American website, where former EPS graduate student, Tess Russo (now a professor at Penn State), talks about developing strategies for smarter use of water for irrigation: All the Food Using Half the Water (video and text, opens a new page)

Current collaborators include representatives, researchers, and students from UCSC (Departments of Earth and Planetary Science, Environmental Studies, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Engineering, the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, and the Institute of Marine Science), California State University-Monterey Bay, University of Alaska, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, Columbia University-Earth Institute, U.S. Geological Survey, Stanford University, Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency, the City of Watsonville, and Santa Cruz County.

Current and past support has come from many sources, including the U.S. National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the UCSC Committee on Research, the National Institute for Water Resources, the Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Pajaro Valley Water Management Agency, City of Watsonville, Santa Cruz County Resource Conservation District, the UC Water Resources Center, and the UC Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.

Please check back later and/or visit Andy Fisher's Hydrogeology web site for more information on related topics.