Monday, August 18, 2014

California Drought Spurs Groundwater Drilling Boom in Central Valley

(National Geographic) FRESNO, California—When Floyd Arthur moved to California's Central Valley as a child in the mid-20th century, his migrant worker parents found water by digging just a few feet into the ground.
But now, the drilling company Arthur and his son own has to bore holes 1,000 or even 2,000 feet (300 to 600 meters) deep for water.
"If we don't get a bigger snowpack soon, we're going to be in trouble. I don't know what we're going to do," Arthur said about the most serious drought in California's recorded history. (See "New Technology Measures Snowpack Amid California Drought.")
The Arthurs run just one company that is working around the clock to fulfill the booming demand for new wells in California's Central Valley. As the state feels the pressure of a drought with no end in sight, farmers and landowners who no longer have access to surface water are spending millions of dollars to dig increasingly deep wells.
But experts warn that the new rush for water is unsustainable and that it carries serious consequences for the environment and the future. Read More

West’s historic drought stokes fears of water crisis (Washington Post)
When the winter rains failed to arrive in this Sacramento Valley town for the third straight year, farmers tightened their belts and looked to the reservoirs in the nearby hills to keep them in water through the growing season.
When those faltered, some switched on their well pumps, drawing up thousands of gallons from underground aquifers to prevent their walnut trees and alfalfa crops from drying up. Until the wells, too, began to fail.
Now, across California’s vital agricultural belt, nervousness over the state’s epic drought has given way to alarm. Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers — always a backup source during the region’s periodic droughts — are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable. Read More