Identifying Agricultural Managed Aquifer Recharge Locations to Benefit Drinking Water Supply in Rural Communities

Nisha Marwaha, George Kourakos, Elad Levintal, Helen E. Dahlke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The southern Central Valley of California is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Yet, decades of groundwater use beyond sustainable yield have left rural communities highly vulnerable to shortages and contamination of their drinking water supply. As state regulation begins to address these issues, a need exists to design adaptive and appropriate management systems to increase resilience of rural communities. Targeted managed aquifer recharge on agricultural land (Ag-MAR) near rural communities is one such strategy that could potentially stabilize groundwater tables and maintain or improve groundwater quality in domestic supply wells. Here we present a geographic information system-based multicriteria decision analysis that combines biophysical data (soils, land use, and surface water conveyance) with groundwater modeling and particle tracking to identify suitable agricultural land parcels for multibenefit groundwater recharge within well capture zones of 288 rural communities. Parcels are prioritized using a vulnerability index to change in groundwater supply, derived from well reliance and failures, pesticide applications, land subsidence, and socio-economic data. Our analysis identifies 2,998 suitable land parcels for Ag-MAR within the well capture zones of 149 of the 288 communities, of which 144 rely mainly on groundwater for drinking water. The majority of identified Ag-MAR parcels serve communities ranked as having extreme or very high vulnerability to changes in groundwater supply. Our research produces new understanding of factors contributing to community vulnerability and resilience to changes in drinking water supply and can be used to discuss actions to help achieve a stable and high-quality water supply.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020WR028811
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • agricultural managed aquifer recharge
  • California
  • geographic information systems
  • groundwater modeling
  • particle tracking
  • site suitability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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