The 60 Million Acre-Foot Hole - A Memorable Moment from the California Assembly Groundwater Hearing
Posted February 2, 2011 in Living Sustainably
If I had to pick one moment from yesterday’s excellent Assembly oversight hearing on groundwater, it would be when Dave Orth, from the Kings River Conservation District, showed this graphic to the committee.
It’s from a 2009 USGS report and shows that the cumulative overdraft in the Tulare Basin since 1960 is greater than 60 million acre-feet. That is a staggering number! If we were to try to fill that hole with Delta water alone, it would take more than a decade of CVP and SWP pumping at current rates. (That would mean no Delta water for Westlands, the exchange contractors, Silicon Valley, Southern California and others. I suspect that they would object.) And that’s assuming that Tulare Basin farmers stopped using SWP water to irrigate their crops – but devoted all of that water to groundwater recharge instead. Clearly, the solution to this problem is long-term management.
The take-away message was clear -- the greatest overdraft problem in California is in the Southern Central Valley. Interestingly, that’s also where some of the state’s worst groundwater contamination is located.
There’s an irony here – the greatest resistance to state-wide groundwater management has traditionally come from agriculture. Yet this graphic shows that agriculture has the most to lose if we don’t make more progress toward a coherent management system. That’s why the Kings River Conservation District is working to improve groundwater management. In fact, in agriculture today, there’s a groundswell of recognition of the need to make dramatically greater progress in this arena.
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