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Droughts Make Space for Water Storage

Although years of drought and over-pumping have significantly depleted groundwater in Arizona and California, a new study shows the situation has an upside: It has created underground reservoirs where extra surface water can be stored during wet times so it is available during drought.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters
in March 2016, also found that regions that actively store surface water in underground aquifers have increased their groundwater supply over time, even as surrounding areas depleted theirs.
“In many regions now we’re dealing with these extremes of drought and then intense floods, and that’s a real challenge for water
resource managers,” said lead author Bridget Scanlon, a senior
research scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology. “To try and resolve this disconnect between supply and demand, we can store water in depleted aquifers.”

The study examined decades’ worth of groundwater data from California’s Central Valley and active management areas across
central Arizona—both regions that collect extra water from surface reservoirs and store it in underground aquifers.
Robert Reedy and Kristine Uhlman from the bureau and Claudia Faunt and Don Pool from the U.S. Geological Survey in California and Arizona also worked on the ,study. The study was funded by the State of Texas Advanced Resource Recovery Program and the Jackson School of Geosciences.