Early season runoff creates an opportunity for water users in Teton Valley to manage water in a way that improves and enhances aquifer levels, an activity often referred to as groundwater recharge. By encouraging water to seep into Teton Valley’s local aquifer in the spring, when water is abundant, water is retained in the Valley’s sponge-like aquifer serving to slow the water’s journey downstream by ~60-90 days. Managing water in this way increases the quantity of water in the Teton River in the later part of the summer when water becomes short, benefitting irrigators, wildlife, and fish. By managing water in this way, Teton Valley’s irrigators are creating water resiliency throughout the region, something which is particularly valuable as severe drought conditions emerge throughout much of the West. In Teton Valley, much of the groundwater recharge which occurs is termed incidental recharge. This means that Teton Valley’s irrigators utilize their existing irrigation water rights to improve aquifer levels by diverting water into unlined canals and using flood irrigation methods. These historic methods of water delivery, often thought of as wasteful, are incredibly effective at improving aquifer levels.
Did you Know?
Incidental recharge is the placement of water into an aquifer as a byproduct of another water related activity, such as irrigation or the diversion of water into an unlined canal. This type of recharge occurs, incidentally, when managing water for other purposes, like the irrigation of crops.
Managed recharge is the intentional placement of water into an aquifer, such as diverting water into a designated site, like an open gravel pit, to allow seepage into an aquifer. This type of recharge requires a water right that specifically authorizes the diversion of water for recharge.