Napa Valley sees water levels recharge

NAPA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Turning water into wine isn't a miracle act for Napa Valley vintners, but finding enough water has become harder during our California drought.

If you have a high water bill, this might interest you. In Napa County, you can spend $400 for a permit and get all the water you want. However, there is a catch -- you'll have to spend several tens of thousands of dollars to dig a well and you're going to have to find a way to store it and to move it. But if you use enough water, it could pay off.

You probably wouldn't expect to see water flowing out of a pipe while drilling in a state still fighting the effects of drought. In Napa County, however, it's going back where came from, the ground.

Don Huckfeldt's family has been digging wells into the three million years old lava beneath this valley since the late 1970's, and tells us there is just as much water than ever. He runs three rigs and has a five month backlog of orders.

"This is our fourth aquifer we have tapped into. When we're done here, we might be around 100 gallons a minute," Huckfeldt from Huckfeldt Well Drilling said.

He does most of his work for vineyards, like Constellation, where Matt Ashby has nine wells to supplement waste water that he buys from the city of Yountville.

"We watch the water table constantly throughout the growing season," Ashby, a vintner from Constellation Brands, said.

Because there is so much rain here, the Napa Valley is blessed with groundwater. One pond, 16 feet deep, took only two months to fill up and it contains water all from the aquifer.

"Last year, we had 25 inches of rain, which is not normal for us, but we saw the water levels recharge," Ashby said.

That is good news because even with more rain, the vines are behaving much as they did last, year. Bud break, when they emerge from hibernation and start growing, has come two weeks early. If we stay dry, Ashby will need this water.

"If it's dry like February, then we'll need to start irrigating early. If it starts raining, if it keeps raining, we should be OK," Ashby said.

Either way, it is reassuring to know the Napa Valley has a still healthy water piggy bank, some 400 feet down.

"This is nice, clean, volcanic water," Huckfeldt said.
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