With an alarmingly dry winter and California reservoirs dropping fast, groundwater increasingly is keeping the state hydrated. It now accounts for about 60 percent of California’s water supply. But unlike its rivers, lakes and reservoirs, the state does not consider groundwater part of the public good. It does not regulate groundwater like it does surface water. Landowners can pump as much water as they want.
So for nearly a century, Californians have drained an incredible amount of water from the ground to grow crops and water landscaping. It is not sustainable. The water has not returned. The result is a sinking state. Here is a summary of some startling facts (Originally posted by Nathan Halverson on revealnews.org) about California’s groundwater depletion:
- Californians drained about 125 million acre-feet of groundwater (about 41 trillion gallons) from the Central Valley between 1920 and 2013, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
- California is sinking at a record pace – one farmer in the Central Valley reported his land sank more than 18 inches last year.
- It will take at least 50 years for the Central Valley’s aquifers to naturally refill, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
- California has permanently lost about 18 million acre-feet (6 trillion gallons) of water during the past century, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
- California now is pumping water that is 20,000 years old.
- A great swath of the Central Valley is desert.
- No one knows how much groundwater California has left.
- Every time California drains its aquifers during a drought, it makes the next drought even worse.
- The electricity needed to pump groundwater now is about 5 percent of the state’s total energy use.
Read these facts in deeper detail here