From the air, scientists map ‘fast paths’ for recharging California’s groundwater aquifers
By Michael Winter and Kristian Williams, Reuters
A scientist looks at an electric vehicle charging station on Earth Day at The University of Texas at San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, March 21, 2017. Courtesy of University of Texas at San Antonio, University of San Antonio
California’s groundwater systems are being strained by rapid growth in population, irrigation and demand for water from hydropower plants.
Experts say there is a growing need for water storage, particularly while demand for water grows every year.
To help meet water supply needs, California is building a network of underground caverns and aquifers that hold the state’s most critical water.
To support their efforts, scientists have had to develop sophisticated tools for mapping and monitoring the state’s underground water system.
“It’s a very complex system that has never been fully understood and is continually being improved,” said James Kopp, executive director of the California Science Center.
The center, which has a team of more than 60 scientists and engineers, is one of the state’s leaders in the areas of geology, groundwater, hydrogeology and water geochemistry. Its research has been involved in solving many of the state’s water problems, Kopp said.
Researchers are using sophisticated geophysical sensors to map and monitor the state’s underground aquifers. California is the first state to use satellite images and ground-penetrating radar to study its aquifers.
The tools have helped California researchers identify “fast paths” in underground aquifers that are vulnerable to groundwater pumping and pumping technology upgrades, Kopp said.
Using GPS and other technology, they monitor the water levels within aquifers by sending data from sensors underground to the state’s Central Bureau of Water, which