California city aims to 'recharge water' to fight drought

STORY: This is the Arroyo Pasajero Creek - halfway between Sacramento and Los Angeles.

It's parched from California's historic drought - but in other years, it's been dangerously flooded.

Climate change has exacerbated both extremes.

But what if you could use the floods - to recharge the land when it's dry?

A group of local farmers and a nearby city are trying to do just that.

The idea is simple: turn unused fields into giant ponds that can hold water in wet years and recharge the groundwater below.

California's agricultural economy is one of the largest in the world.

It relies largely on irrigation, which further taxes an already over-tapped system.

Dams and reservoirs are a more traditional way to store water - but they can damage the environment.

In the state’s Central Valley, water was so scarce this year that the city of Huron had to buy it on the open market.

That led to a bill hike for the city’s 7,000 residents.

And that’s in a city that Mayor Rey Leon says is already one of the state’s poorest.

“To have such a high cost on something that's so critical for life is just mind boggling." [FLASH]

"The climate crisis is real, the science is real, and the solutions should be innovative and implementable. And that's what we're doing right now."

The nearby pond project - known as a recharge system - aims to harness floodwater that would otherwise go out to sea or cause damage to towns, cities and crops.

Sarah Woolf is a water consultant whose family owns some of the farmland being used for the project.

“We're in the third year of a drought and very challenging water supply issues." [FLASH]

"When there's excess supplies, we want to put it onto the land and recharge it into the groundwater."

As the water percolates from unused fields into the earth below, it builds up an aquifer.

There’s enough room to store about 326 billion gallons of water - which can serve 2 million households for a year.

Huron is building a new well that will be fed from that aquifer.

The city isn’t alone.

The Huron project is one of about 340 that have been proposed by water agencies in California.

Storing water underground isn’t a new idea, but a recent state law regulating its use has sparked a number of projects.

The state’s Department of Water Resources says - if they’re built by 2030 - they would provide enough water for 4.4 million households a year.