Sacramento Branch Meeting - Potential of Using Agricultural Fields for Groundwater Recharge

The Sacramento Branch is pleased to present:


"Potential of Using Agricultural Fields for Groundwater Recharge: Soil Water Balance, Crop Suitability and Surface Water Availability"

 Presented By:

Helen E. Dahlke, Ph.D. 
Integrated Hydrologic Sciences

Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California, Davis



On-farm recharge (agricultural groundwater banking) is a promising form of managed aquifer recharge where agricultural land is flooded during the winter using surface water to recharge the underlying groundwater.  Flooding agricultural fields while the crop is dormant in winter or during fallow periods provides vast land areas connected to irrigation infrastructure that could allow capturing substantial amounts of surface water during wet periods. However, little is known about how much water can be recharged on fields planted with perennial crops like alfalfa or almonds without causing crop injury. The study presented here considers experiments conducted in the Central Valley and the Scott Valley, Siskiyou County between 2014-2016 to test the effect of different winter water application amounts (totals of 2-26 ft) and timings (January through April) on the water balance and crop health of established alfalfa stands and mature almond orchards. Using a water balance model and field observed soil moisture data we estimated that the majority of the applied water (>90%) went to deep percolation within less than 48 hours after the winter water application ceased. Further, yield measurements from the two alfalfa fields and two almond orchards indicate no significant yields loss for both crops. In addition, statistical analysis of daily streamflow records from 93 gauges within the Central Valley, CA reveal that high-magnitude (>90thpercentile) flows provide on average 1.6 and 1 million acre-feet in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basin for ag-recharge. Together these results highlight the opportunity and potential benefits for growers and water districts to implement on-farm recharge as part of their sustainable groundwater management plans. 



Helen E. Dahlke, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in Integrated Hydrologic Sciences at the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at the University of California. Her research focuses on contributing to a better mechanistic understanding of hydrological processes and their links to climate and biogeochemical cycling. She has extensive experience researching a wide range of hydrological processes in the field including the transport of various constituents (phosphorus, carbon, nitrate) and conservative tracers. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Geography from the Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena, Germany and her Ph.D. in 2011 in Environmental Engineering from Cornell University with emphasis on soil and water engineering, water resources and environmental geophysics. Before coming to UC Davis in 2013 Dr. Dahlke was a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Physical Geography at Stockholm University, Sweden where she studied climate change impacts on subarctic hydrologic systems and glaciers in the Scandinavian Mountains. Dr. Dahlke’s current research interests include surface water – groundwater interaction, water resources management, vadose zone transport processes, hydrologic response functions and transit time. On-going projects include testing a new type of environmental tracer consisting of synthetic DNA strands encapsulated by polymer microspheres for flow path characterization in porous media and exploring the feasibility of using agricultural fields as recharge sites for groundwater banking. She has given over 30 presentations and interviews on ag-recharge opportunities in California over the past 2 years.



All Proceeds to Benefit Science Students

The GRA Sacramento Branch has a history of supporting university-level science students.  Our Scholastic Sponsorship Program is an opportunity to publicize your business while contributing toward a good cause.  The cost is minimal; if interested, please contact Linda Bond at 916-651-9224 or 530-757-1500 or 



Geocon Consultants, Inc. is a California based multi-disciplined engineering firm specializing in environmental engineering and contracting, geotechnical engineering, engineering geology, materials testing, and special inspection services for State agencies, municipalities, and private entities.  With over 200 professionals and support staff housed in nine strategically located offices throughout California, Geocon can easily meet the needs of our clients.


Social Hour  5:30-6:30 p.m.
Announcements & Dinner 6:30-7:30 pm
Presentation 7:30-8:30 pm

Usual great food, including two meat entrées, salad, rice, potatoes, vegetable and Iced Tea. A No-host beer and wine bar will be available.

Members: $27.00
Non-Members: $32.00
Students: $10.00


Questions about the meeting or to contact the Sacramento Branch in general, including submittal of your ideas and/or desires for future presentations, please telephone Rodney Fricke at 916-407-8539 or email him at

April 17th (Monday): Dr. Rosemary Knight with Stanford University
Geophysical Methods for Groundwater Evaluation and Management,
Meeting Location: CSUS Alumni Center
May 10th: Rick Cramer with Burns & McDonnell
Geology-Focused Conceptual Models:  Applying Sequence Stratigraphy to Environmental and Groundwater Production Projects

If you RSVP after Noon on Monday, March 6th, or walk-in, a $3.00 surcharge will be added to the meeting costs. Cancellations must be made by Noon on Monday, March 6th.


Wed, March 8, 2017
5:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Event has ended


Aviators Restaurant
6151 Freeport Blvd
Sacramento, California 95822

Aviator's Restaurant within Sacramento Executive Airport
6151 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento, CA
Aviator's Restaurant at Executive Airport is located within the aircraft Terminal Building.
Thomas Bros. Map Book page 317, grid C6.
Plenty of free parking.