Baker Creek Upslope Groundwater Recharge Design and Implementation

Northern California rivers and tributaries once provided over-summering habitat for coho salmon but now experience perilously low summer flows. Contributing factors to low water levels include current and historic land disturbance, diversion for agricultural and domestic use, recent droughts, and climate change. Prior to human disturbance, groundwater was recharged through undisturbed topsoil acting like a sponge to soak up heavy winter precipitation and replenish subsurface reservoirs with sufficient water to provide dry season baseflows. Extensive disturbance of topsoil, impervious roads, cut/fill slopes, and ditches now reduce infiltration rates and route flows to major tributaries. Combined with dry season diversions for human consumptive use and agriculture, most small creeks are now extremely vulnerable to low water levels and high temperatures.

To provide a significant increase in summer flow in the Mattole watershed, Stillwater Sciences has teamed with Sanctuary Forest, Bureau of Land Management, and California Wildlife Conservation Board to design and implement an innovative groundwater recharge project. Hydrologic and hydraulic analyses were conducted and 100% engineered design plans were developed for a groundwater recharge project in Baker Creek, tributary to the Mattole River. The design includes five off-channel ponds with a total surface water storage volume of approximately 4 million gallons. The project has been designed with a series of ponds that will slow and infiltrate runoff over the duration of the winter, spring, and summer. 

In the summer of 2017, clearing and site preparation was conducted across the entire project area and construction of two ponds was completed. Three additional ponds will be constructed in 2018. The project team will be closely monitoring the ponds and stream flows over the coming months to demonstrate proof-of-concept and to understand how future work can be adjusted to improve functionality.


Location Mattole River Watershed, Northern California

Clients:  Sanctuary Forest, Inc.

Project Manager: Joel Monschke

Project Lead(s)

Joel Monschke
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Work Products

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100% Design Plans
"Bringing the Water Back" Article, Santuary Forest Winter 2017 Issue


Pond 2 overview taken from upgradient extent of pond.

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