This can’t be good: NASA tells us that the Central Valley is dropping 2 inches a month because of groundwater pumping. It’s a process that has been going on for a century or more, but with the extreme drought the pace has picked up significantly. Per the Sacramento Bee:
A report earlier this week by UC Davis said farmers are pumping an additional 6 million acre-feet of groundwater this year, compared to 2011, the year before the drought started, to compensate for shortages in deliveries of surface water from the State Water Project and the federal government’s Central Valley Project.
While just generally deeply alarming, this subsidence poses major hazards to the Central Valley’s infrastructure, and is a red flag that aquifers built up through eons of ice ages are rapidly being depleted.
Not to worry, though, some of Central Valley’s agriculturalists say they have a solution: we should just give them more of the surface water. Again from the Bee:
Some farmers say it’s unfair to blame agriculture for the subsidence problems in the Valley. Paul Wenger, a Modesto almond farmer and president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the state could fix things by simply letting growers have a bigger share of the available surface water.
Wenger said most of the water that farmers use for irrigation seeps back into the ground anyway, helping to recharge the aquifers.
“Once we put water in the ground, it’s not going to evaporate,” he said. “It’s kind of there.”
Isn’t that kind of like a bandit saying we could stop bank robberies by handing out money? After all, they’ll be spending it on stuff and pumping that cash back into the economy!
That’s a little unfair. Agricultural runoff really does seep back into the aquifer (after nourishing our precious crops) unlike, say, water left to evaporate in subdivision swimming pools.
Either way, watching California sink has me feeling like Atreyu pulling at his horse Artax in 80s classic The NeverEnding Story.
(Oh, by the way, I’m doing some site reorganization and starting a new blog devoted completely to the environment and society in California — topics that are close to being an obsession for me. If you’re subscribing by mail, you’ll continue getting all my posts on all topics for now. If you’re interested in keeping these topics separate from the others I write about, consider subscribing separately to the feeds for https://eamonka.com/category/the-environmental-californian/ and https://eamonka.com/category/eamons-blog/. I’m also tweeting on these topics at @EnvironmentCali. Enjoy!)