Over extraction from aquifers is akin to mining for water. The practice violates sustainability standards because extraction rates are magnitudes greater than nature’s replenishment rates and that pattern emphatically can’t last forever.
A new report takes aim at the nationally-significant farm production in California’s productive San Joaquin Valley and concludes MASSIVE CUTBACKS in irrigated acreage will be necessary to protect the aquifer.
Necessary remedies will deliver an enormous impact on California agriculture – and therefore our nation’s food supply. Jim
“But in recent years, as water availability has become less of a sure thing, growers have increasingly relied on groundwater, or water pumped from underground aquifers, to keep their farms alive. During a historic drought that lasted through 2016, Valley farmers drilled over 5,000 wells, going thousands of feet deep to reach thousand-year-old aquifers before their neighbors did—a kind of groundwater arms race…
“Overdrafted aquifers cause all kinds of problems, like water contamination, high energy costs, and in some cases, no drinking water in rural communities. When enough water is sucked out, that can create an actual drop in elevation, known as land subsidence. Heavily drained areas sink by tens of feet and, as a result, water infrastructure cracks and leaks…
“But conservation and new water supplies would cover only about a quarter of the imbalance. To make up the rest, farmers would have to cut pumping by 2.5 million acre-feet per year, effectively turning off 16 percent of the amount of water they’re using today. That shortage would drive up the price of water, and the only way to cope with that, says Hanak, the Institute’s water policy director, would be to fallow no less than 535,000 farmland acres by 2040.”