Basic notion of ecological economics [aka “social-ecological services” per Lynn Huntsinger and J. L. Oviedo (2014)] is that human economies that benefit from ecosystem services would be willing to pay for those benefits – if they could see the connections with their livelihoods. Same principle holds for ecohydrological economics.
Who should pay for implementing Rainfall to Groundwater? The global answer is
Water users stand to benefit from this approach since it promises expanded groundwater recharge at significantly lower costs than engineered infrastructure. Moreover, it’s an opportunity overlooked by engineering approaches to date, with one notable exception (Ponce 1989a and related lit).
In California, exchanges of payment for enhanced groundwater storage will be worked out locally by the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies mandated by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
Official approaches proposed to date for overdrafted groundwater basins essentially point to conservation as the only option, since they have not identified new sources of water for recharge, only taking what currently comes down the drainages – actually just what may be captured of that – and routing it to engineered infiltration structures at point locations, however key those locations may be.
Doesn’t it make sense to capture more rainfall wherever it hits the ground instead of waiting for it to become runoff?
Subject to existing water rights, of course, which does complicate things. Perhaps more so in basins whose sources are tapped for export.
Such inherent complexities can be worked out to ensure benefit to all stakeholders.
The following pages summarize Ecohydrological Economics aspects of the Rainfall to Groundwater approach.
Huntsinger, L. and J. L. Oviedo. 2014. Ecosystem services are social-ecological services in a traditional pastoral system: the case of California’s Mediterranean rangelands. Ecology and Society 19:8 doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06143-190108