JWARP  Vol.9 No.7 , June 2017
The Modeled Effects of Rice Field Idling on Groundwater Storage in California’s Sacramento Valley
Abstract: Rice farmers occupy a potentially important intersection between economics and hydrology in Northern California. While drought makes water an increasingly precious commodity across California, the monetary worth of water is not uniform across different localities and uses. As a result, circumstances have given many Sacramento Valley rice farmers the option to sell their water to users elsewhere, in lieu of using it themselves. Because the sold water is typically surface water that would normally help recharge local aquifers when applied to a field; it is reasonable to suspect that transferring that water elsewhere could adversely affect local aquifers since that recharge would be reduced. This study performs numerical experiments using the United States Geological Survey’s Central Valley Hydrologic Model (CVHM) to better understand the temporal effects of a set of land idling scenarios. CVHM is capable of modeling the entire Central Valley, which encompasses the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, and of representing rice field idling on a large scale. These experiments were executed using historical data to contrast recently typical amounts of rice field idling with scenarios reflecting varying degrees of hypothetical, increased idling. In doing so, this study aims to characterize the nature and potential magnitude of idling rice fields on groundwater storage in the Sacramento Valley. The impact of these scenarios on groundwater storage was quantified relative to an unaltered baseline model scenario. The results of this research show rice field idling will reduce recharge and groundwater storage levels; these results may provide useful information for future policy decisions and provide a basis for future study.
Cite this paper: Anderson, K. , Houk, E. , Mehl, S. and Brown, D. (2017) The Modeled Effects of Rice Field Idling on Groundwater Storage in California’s Sacramento Valley. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 9, 786-798. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2017.97052.

[1]   Bay Delta Conservation Plan (2015) California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Public Review Partially Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (RDEIR/SDEIS).

[2]   Plant and Soil Sciences eLibrary (2016) Chapter 8, Irrigation Efficiencies, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

[3]   Faunt, C.C. (2009) Groundwater Availability of the Central Valley Aquifer, California: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1766.

[4]   California Environmental Protection Agency, State Water Resources Control Board (2015) The Water Rights Process.

[5]   California Environmental Protection Agency, State Water Resources Control Board (2015) State Water Resources Control Board Water Transfer Program Information.

[6]   California Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region (2014) Draft Technical Information for Preparing Water Transfer Proposals (Water Transfer White Paper), Information for Parties Preparing Proposals for Water Transfers Requiring Department of Water Resources or Bureau of Reclamation Approval.

[7]   Houk, E. (2016) The Contribution of Agriculture to Northeastern California’s Economy. California State University, Chico Agribusiness Institute Report.

[8]   Hafeez, M.M., Bouman, B.A.M, Van de Giesen, N. and Vlek, P. (2007) Scale Effects on Water Use and Water Productivity in a Rice-Based Irrigation System (UPRIIS) in the Philippines. Agricultural Water Management, 92, 81-89.

[9]   Hanson, R.T., Schmid, W., Faunt, C.C. and Lockwood, B. (2010) Simulation and Analysis of Conjunctive Use with MODFLOW’s Farm Process. Ground Water, 48, 674-689.

[10]   Scanlon, B.R., Faunt, C.C., Longuevergne, L., Reedy, R.C., Alley, W.M., McGuire, V.L. and McMahon, P.B. (2012) Groundwater depletion and sustainability of irrigation in the US High Plains and Central Valley. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109, 9320-9325.

[11]   Scanlon, B.R., Longuevergne, L. and Long, D. (2012) Ground Referencing GRACE Satellite Estimates of Groundwater Storage Changes in the California Central Valley, USA. Water Resource Research, 48, W04520.