By Elizabeth Zach, staff writerGroundwater

As El Niño rains are expected in the coming months, the idea of building groundwater banks – as opposed to dams and reservoirs – is gaining traction in California.

Storing water underground is generally cheaper and less damaging to the environment, say experts. California’s governor-appointed nine member water commission will review projects around the state to determine which ones get funded in 2017.

One site already up and running is the Boswell Groundwater Banking Facility near Fresno; another potential site could be the Semitropic Water Storage District on the area that was once Tulare Lake, south of Fresno.

The extra storage is important as climate change effects become more intense. Global warming means less snow, which fills reservoirs in the spring as seasonal demand increases. Such climate change can also mean sudden winter runoff.

“We don’t have a pattern of runoff that we once did when most of our big projects were built,” Lester Snow, a former secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency and now the head of the California Water Foundation, told the Los Angeles Times. “To compensate for that, we need to be able to capture some of the pack flows we’ll have … and get that into long-term storage.” He says underground storage is the best way.

To learn more, go here: