ACAMPO — The setting was a 14-acre grape vineyard, but the mismatched background noise was that of a babbling brook.

The roots of some of the old-vine Zinfandel plants were submerged in foot-deep water pumped in from the Mokelumne River, a half-mile away. Other old-vine Zinfandel plants were bone dry.

A science experiment being conducted by the nonprofit Sustainable Conservation is taking place on land owned by 81-year-old farmer Al Costa, an enthusiastic participant.

The goals of the effort are twofold:

• To see if water pumped from the Mokelumne River onto farmland could help recharge depleted groundwater levels on agricultural land.

• To learn the effect on crops if vast amounts of water are pumped onto them, the first step on the water’s path to the ultimate goal of recharging aquifers.

On Costa’s farm, the farmer said the effect on crops — in this case old-vine Zinfandel grapes — appears so far to be nonexistent. Costa said his grapes have been doing equally well whether wet or dry.

As for whether the pumped water will recharge the aquifer and raise the water table, Costa knows what he is hoping will be the answer.

“I’d like to put all the water we can in the water table,” Costa said. “We need it. We sure do. We need the water, instead of letting it go down the river, out in the ocean.”

This is the second year the research is being conducted. Joe Choperena, the senior project manager for Sustainable Conservation, said the results of a smaller 2017 effort were promising. The flooded vines and the dry vines did equally well, he said.

“Just recently we compared the yield of the recharged plot with the (9-acre) plot that did not receive a lot of water,” Choperena said. “The yields were the same. After putting that much water onto this vineyard there were no effects in the following year’s yield.”

Choperena said grapes are an ideal crop for this sort of research, and that Costa’s 14-acre flooded plot is perfect for receiving 145 acre-feet of river water in a 12-day span.

“This piece of ground, this vineyard, takes an amazing amount of water,” Choperena said. “It’s basically beach sand, and when water is applied it basically goes straight down.”

According to Sustainable Conservation, the need for such research is great:

• The winegrape-growing region within San Joaquin County is overdrafted by 100,000 acre-feet of water a year. That means 100,000 more acre-feet come out of the ground than go in during an average year.

• The wine industry is reliant on groundwater for drip irrigation.

• If the flooding method proves to be supported by evidence and subsequently used on a widespread basis, it could solve up to 10 percent of the region’s overdraft issue.

This year’s intentional flooding of Costa’s land began early this month and is scheduled to continue until Nov. 1, said associate engineer Daniel deGraaf of Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group.

deGraaf’s goal is to monitor the groundwater levels in wells in a two-mile radius of Costa’s land to determine if the aquifer is increasing and if water is taking the desired path by flowing northwest away from the Mokelumne River.

“We’re going to be gathering data over the course of a year,” deGraaf said. “I expect most of the critical data to be collected over the next six months.”

Initially, he said, the water levels will be monitored every two weeks. After two months, the water levels will be checked monthly.

“That’ll give us a picture of how high the water gets in the aquifer and then as it spreads out and travels hopefully to the northwest, we’ll be able to see wells further away rise up, as well,” deGraaf said.

Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or rphillips@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @rphillipsblog.