May 17, 2017

You could fill Shasta Lake 7 times with farm groundwater lost during state drought

California
USA
by
Ryan Sabalow and Phillip Reese
,
Sacramento Bee
San Joaquin Valley farmers keep drilling, even as groundwater limits loom. Photo: Sacramento Bee
San Joaquin Valley farmers keep drilling, even as groundwater limits loom. Photo: Sacramento Bee

Central Valley farmers created a groundwater deficit large enough to fill an empty Shasta Lake seven times in order to keep their profitable orchards alive during California’s epic five-year drought.

The massive scale of California’s groundwater pumping is outlined in a study released Wednesday by researchers at UCLA and the University of Houston. The researchers conclude that California’s pending groundwater regulations remain woefully behind what is necessary to bring the state’s groundwater levels back into balance.

“Pumping groundwater during a drought isn’t an unreasonable strategy,” said Dennis Lettenmaier, the UCLA professor of geography who led the study. “The problem is: Do to you have a strategy to make it sustainable, which means putting it back in? As near as I can tell, the answer to that is ‘no.’ ”