Click the link to read the guest essay on The New York Times website (Erica Gies). Here’s an excerpt:
Ms. Gies is the author of “Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge.”
The big hope is that an array of paleo valleys could be turned into giant storm drains to quickly absorb heavy rain. Storm water spread over the valleys would sink underground and then move into the surrounding clays and silts, for more than 12 miles on either side of the valley and for hundreds of feet in depth, according to one study. It would raise the diminished water table, which is important because a healthier underground water system can feed rivers from below and allow people to continue to pump water from wells. It can also make more water available to plants and soil, help to sustain the rain cycle and reduce fire risk.
There is enough unmanaged surface water from rain and snow statewide to resupply Central Valley aquifers, making more water available to farmers, urban dwellers and the environment. Even with climate change, the state will most likely have enough water for recharge in the future in part because of more extreme weather, according to a 2021 study.
To use paleo valleys to store these big rains, the land above them must be conserved for groundwater recharge. And that’s already a challenge: One paleo valley found outside of Sacramento has been slated for housing developments, which would cover it with impermeable concrete and asphalt. Such decisions are typically governed by city and county governments, but the state could incentivize areas with paleo valleys to protect the land above them.
Land use isn’t the only issue. The state’s major aqueducts that move water from north to south can also play a big role in helping floodwater reach the paleo valleys. The aqueducts are underused in winter when fewer growers need to irrigate their crops and could transport excess storm water to depleted aquifers. Pipes could be added to them to move the water to the paleo valleys…
Erica Gies is a National Geographic explorer and journalist. She is the author of “Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge.”Erica Gies is a National Geographic explorer and journalist. She is the author of “Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge.”