Harvesting ‘Atmospheric Rivers’ to Replenish Aquifers and Fill Reservoirs

A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle caught my attention. It spoke of harvesting the rainfall from otherwise catastrophic “atmospheric rivers” to refill reservoirs. Another piece by the Environment Defense Fund in Oct. 2021 discussed research being conducted by the California Department of Water Resources and UC Santa Barbara on harvesting excessive rainfall to replenish underground aquifers.

Meanwhile, we are reminded daily that the Colorado River is drying up and both Lake Mead and Lake Powell, as a result, are suffering reduced levels that threaten the water supply and could even sideline vital hydro-electric turbines.

 I’m reminded of those amazing 20th Century California projects which moved water all over that state to meet both agricultural and urban demands, and it got me thinking about the possibility of creating another grand project to divert some of those ocean-bound flood waters to both in-state reservoirs and to the Colorado River.

Not only could that help with the Colorado River shortfall, but it might help in some small way to reduce flooding. 

Replenishing aquifers is a good idea, but can that be done at speed? I’m not knowledgeable in this area, but it seems to me that new reservoirs would have to be built to hold the water that is to be pumped into those aquifers.

Capturing flood waters on our side of the Continental Divide is already handled by the many reservoirs such as Chatfield and Cherry Creek Reservoirs designed for that purpose. Chatfield is owned by Denver Water, but Cherry Creek is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. The dams for each are higher than needed in order to accommodate sudden downpours, flooding only open land and park facilities.

PS: Here’s a related article from TheConversation.com: