With the ongoing west coast drought we take a deeper look at our groundwater situation and what the current levels mean for us and for the state of CA in the near future. Like dipping into a savings account, groundwater can account for half of total state water consumed in drought years.
Because of the lack of rainfall, snow pack and increasing heat temperatures more groundwater is being pumped at a faster pace than groundwater sources can replenish their moisture levels. In 2014 and 2015, farmers will have pumped at least 11 million acre-feet of additional groundwater to make up for lost surface supplies, according to UC Davis. (An acre-foot is roughly 325,000 gallons of water. Just imagine a swimming pool that’s 4,840 yards wide and a foot deep.)
After decades of groundwater extraction, pockets of land have been sinking from Merced down to Bakersfield — at first by inches, and now by feet.
One of the hardest hit drought areas in the Central Valley is Tulare County, where roughly 1,000 private well failures have forced hundreds of rural residents to use buckets and temporary sources of water to bathe, cook and clean.
Things are really day-to-day for the wells holding up. It can cause major issues if we deplete the groundwater levels beyond sustainable levels. Doing so can cause an array of problems one including the potential collapse of these groundwater spaces.
In drought-parched California, there’s a topic many private landowners remain steadfast about: Water well metering.
During normal precipitation years, surface water found in rivers, lakes and reservoirs is ample enough to supply roughly two-thirds of state water used annually. But during more recent dry years, farmers and drillers have been digging deeper for groundwater—precious liquid tucked underneath the earth’s surface. Groundwater flows naturally to the top, or can be pumped to the surface through wells. Groundwater can account for half of total state water consumed in drought years.
The management of groundwater for the most part has been an inside issue among city water officials, agricultural guys and scientists. But in year four of California’s historic drought, groundwater has exploded as everyone’s problem.