Experts say it could take two years to replenish region's groundwater

Oct 27, 2016

 

This year's drought has left wells dry across the region. After some rain, farmers are wondering when their groundwater will be replenished. 

The good news is groundwater levels are higher than they've been in months, Cornell University hydrologist Todd Walter told farmers and agriculture leaders in Watertown Wednesday.

The bad news, he said, is it could take a couple of good years before the groundwater reaches normal levels. Walter said water tables in western, central and northern New York are lower than they've been in 100 years. It’s going to take a lot of rain, especially in Jefferson County, to fill it back up.

“The county has bedrock that is very shallow so you usually need to get the soil completely wet before you start recharging the groundwater. So what that means, in Jefferson County, it doesn’t take that much water to get that wet and start recharging but it doesn’t take very much evaporation to dry it entirely out,” said Walter.

There are ways farmers could retain rainwater to help give it more time to seep into the ground, he said, and there are things that everyone, not just farmers, can do to help.

"Maybe you don’t need the golf course all green or maybe you don’t need to wash cars. I think there are low-hanging fruit where you can just put moratoriums on it and say okay let’s just not do that. Hopefully voluntarily," said Walter.

Walter said for a little while it looked like this fall was going to be wet, but now it doesn't look likely. He says a good amount of snow melt and rain in the spring may help bring the water table up.