Sierra Valley Groundwater Studies

Sierra Valley Groundwater Studies

Developing recharge and pumping reduction strategies to help Sierra Valley groundwater basin develop their Groundwater Sustainability Plan and achieve sustainability.

Collaborating Organizations

Bachand & Associates, UC Davis Cooperative Extension, Sierra Valley Groundwater Management District, Feather River Land Trust, Northern Sierra Partnership

Funding Organizations

Feather River Land Trust, Northern Sierra Partnership

Project Description

The Sierra Valley at the headwaters of the Middle Fork Feather River is coming to terms with decades of groundwater overdraft and limited water supply ahead of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act deadline of January 2022. Medium priority basins, Sierra Valley included, must develop a Groundwater Sustainability Plan to address the increasing impact of groundwater pumping for summer irrigation of agricultural crops.

Bachand & Associates have drawn upon previous investigations and publicly available hydrologic data for the basin to assess challenges and opportunities for reaching sustainability. We determined that the most immediately accessible strategy for amelioration of overdraft is conversion of the many overhead sprinkler center pivot irrigation systems, used to irrigate primarily alfalfa crops, to Low Energy Spray or Precision Application systems (LESA/LEPA). These systems reduce water losses to wind evaporation and bring down both the energy costs and consumptive use of pumping groundwater. Bachand & Associates are working with the UC Cooperative Extension to implement studies on converted LESA systems in Sierra Valley to demonstrate the effectiveness of this strategy for the basin and identify other agronomic benefits this strategy might provide.