As an ‘exceptional’ drought continues its assault on California’s croplands, new information released this week has put many in a panic over what these historic water lows mean for the ecosytem, agricultural production and people across the state.
“California is losing water reserves as if through a sieve,” reports Circle of Blue, a water resources news site.
According to satellite data published Monday, the state has been unsustainably “guzzling” key groundwater reserves in the farming region in the Central Valley.
Analysis of NASA satellite data by researchers at the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling reveals that “from when the current drought began in November 2011 through November 2013, the amount of water stored in the Sacramento-San Joaquin watershed, the state’s largest, and in the Central Valley has dropped by 20 billion cubic meters (5.3 trillion gallons).”
Further, almost no rain or snow has fallen during the 2013-14 wet season, leaving snow pack at just 12 percent of normal levels, which Circle of Blue reports, means “there is little snow in the mountains to replenish depleted reservoirs during the spring melt.”
Reacting to the news of the state’s groundwater lows, 350.org founder Bill McKibben tweeted, “this is really bad news.”
Further taxing groundwater resources, on Jan. 31, the state Water Resources Department announced that it was not allocating any water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to 29 local water agencies serving 25 million people—the first time in state history—and was slashing deliveries to agricultural districts by half.
The LA Times reports that without these allocations, ranchers and farmers in the state are being pushed to tap groundwater resources “whose quality is rapidly deteriorating from overuse and a lack of rainfall to replenish them.”