GSI is helping two farmers in a critical groundwater area use aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) to meet their irrigation needs.

Background

Madison Ranches, Inc., and McCarty Ranch are two large-scale agricultural operations that produce corn, canola, potatoes, alfalfa, ryegrass, bluegrass, fescue grass, and wheat in northeastern Oregon’s Umatilla Basin.

The Umatilla Basin supports more than 600,000 acres of irrigated agricultural land, which historically was irrigated by surface water, followed by aggressive development of groundwater from wells. Intense groundwater development has resulted in significant over-drafting of regional aquifers, causing groundwater levels to drop more than of 500 feet in some areas. As a result of these declines, the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD) curtailed groundwater use in 1986. OWRD determined that only a relatively small volume of groundwater could be sustainably pumped from regional aquifers and many farms in the basin no longer were able to irrigate crops using groundwater from this aquifer. With no alternative irrigation supply available, this curtailment severely limited the ability of Madison and McCarty to irrigate more than 1,100 acres of land.

GSI’s Solution

GSI assessed the feasibility of using ASR to recharge the regional aquifer with shallow alluvial groundwater, which is in excess supply during the non-irrigation season. Stored water can then be pumped out of the deeper regional aquifer for irrigation during the summer growing season. GSI assisted Madison and McCarty to obtain an ASR limited licensing from OWRD and outlined ASR pilot testing procedures, including water quality sampling and analysis plans and development of a groundwater monitoring network.

Both ASR facilities have been in operation since 2006, cumulatively recharging, storing, and recovering approximately 1,200 acre-feet of water annually for irrigation. GSI continues to provide operational support to these clients through ongoing assessments of water quality and groundwater data and preparation of annual reports to OWRD.

This small scale solution has been very successful and a combination of ASR and aquifer recharge is being explored by other operations and entities in the area as a sustainable groundwater management tool.