Securing California’s Water Future: A Decade of Aquifer Recharge

In 2021, we’re celebrating 10 years of Sustainable Conservation guiding groundwater recharge in the field and at the state level. Groundwater is critical to the health of our communities, farms, and wildlife habitat. This subterranean resource also makes up a whopping 2/3 of our water supply in drought years. Capturing water when it is available during big storm events and storing it in our vast underground aquifers is a critical climate adaptation strategy for California.

Over 1 million Californians don’t have secure access to water. Research indicates that groundwater recharge has the potential to offset up to 25% of California’s average annual overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley. Sustainable Conservation is proud to be a driving force behind this big slice of the solutions pie for California’s water future.


For over a decade, Sustainable Conservation has worked with farmers, water districts, policymakers, scientists, and community members to test, site, and plan recharge – in individual farmer fields, and in entire watersheds. We’ve built partnerships with recharge pioneers like Don Cameron, Brian Davis, and Mark McKean who helped spread the word to their peers about this technique to help shore up a reliable water supply for all Californians.

On a larger scale, we’ve worked with water districts to build dedicated recharge basins and implement district-wide recharge programs, and we’re expanding our field work to four more counties.

GRAT helps water managers site recharge in the best areas, at the right times.


We didn’t stop with on-the-ground projects, though. We also built a first-of-its-kind groundwater planning tool (GRAT) to help water managers learn where, when, and how to use recharge in regions suffering the most from depleted aquifers. We worked with the state to ensure recharge gets done right so it can also benefit ecosystem health and community safety. And, we developed key water quality guidance so growers can replenish our underground bank account and protect drinking water quality for the 600,000+ people who rely on contaminated groundwater in their domestic wells.

“Our water quality work is an important reminder for all of us that we need to be mindful of unintended consequences as we look to implement solutions to California’s water issues. It means a lot that Sustainable Conservation cares about all sides of this problem.

The evolution of our recharge work is exciting and means a lot to me because we are really aiming to advance the idea that sustainable solutions can have multiple benefits.” – Taylor Broadhead, Project Manager

“When we started working on groundwater recharge with Don Cameron, there was a lot of skepticism and not much motivation for other landowners to follow suit. It is so satisfying to me to see how this concept has taken hold through our steady outreach, involvement in new science, dialogue with state agencies, and collaboration with our academic, NGO, and private consultant partners. We are demonstrating practical solutions to our state’s intensifying water needs.” – Dr. Daniel Mountjoy, Director of Resource Stewardship

Aysha Massell headshot“As a promoter of Flood-MAR for over a decade, Sustainable Conservation responded to water quality concerns by funding and publishing key considerations on how to protect and potentially even improve water quality under on-farm recharge.

This work provides a solid foundation for our next stage: how to turn this guidance into decision tools that are useful for growers, water managers and communities.” – Aysha Massell, Water Program Director

To every partner, supporter, colleague, and water champion who’s walked this path with us: thank you. We can’t do it without you, and we’re so excited for the work ahead.


Join us for as little as $5 a month to get water back in the ground when it rains so we can weather future droughts.

With your help, we can make smart preparations for California’s water future – one where our communities have access to safe drinking water and our farms continue to feed the nation.

Become a California Conservationist today!


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