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Master of Environmental Science and Management: Master's Group Project

Understanding Multiple Benefits of Floodplain Restoration from Flood Managed Aquifer Recharge in Madera County, California

Still lake water surrounded by boulders.

Group Members: Alex Ehrens, Annika Leiby, Alex Milward, Nicole Schmidt

Faculty Advisors: Scott Jasechko

Client: California Department of Water Resources, Environmental Defense Fund


Contact: gp‑


Group Project Proposal

Final Report


Executive Summary

Final Presentation


Groundwater is a critical component of California’s water supply portfolio. Due to excessive pumping, many groundwater basins have been depleted, causing undesirable results. The passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014 requires Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to implement strategies to bring groundwater use to sustainable levels. This requires balancing groundwater withdrawals with recharge, which is the process of replenishing aquifers through the infiltration of surface water. The California Department of Water Resources has emphasized Flood-Managed Aquifer Recharge (Flood-MAR) as a management strategy with the potential to provide multiple benefits in addition to groundwater recharge. However, the capacity of Flood-MAR to achieve those benefits is spatially dependent and remains largely unknown. This project provides an analytical framework for determining priority areas for achieving flood risk reduction benefits, ecosystem enhancement benefits, or both, while simultaneously replenishing groundwater through recharge. The results from this framework produce a spatial distribution of priority locations for multiple-benefit recharge projects within the two groundwater subbasins in Madera County. This project conducts a tradeoff analysis between the co-benefits of flood risk reduction and ecosystem enhancement to demonstrate its ability to make recommendations to stakeholders with various management preferences. This project provides an additional strategy to strengthen the management toolkit available for stakeholders seeking to bring their groundwater basins to sustainable levels under SGMA.


Bren School: Allison Horst, Lecturer; James Frew, Associate Professor; Arturo Keller, Professor; Robert Wilkinson, Adjunct Professor

California Department of Water Resources: Ajay Goyal, Chief of Statewide Infrastructure Investigations; Kamyar Guivetchi, Chief of Division of Planning & Local Assistance

Lisa Hunt, Director of California River Restoration Science, American Rivers

Sinan Abood, Research Scientist, United States Forest Service

Stephanie Anagnoson, Director of Water and Natural Resources, Madera County

Sustainable Conservation: Aysha Massell, Program Director; Daniel Mountjoy, Director of Resource Stewardship

Robyn Grimm, Senior Manager, Environmental Defense Fund

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