2014 is one of the driest years on record in California. According to Jay Lund, Director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis, available surface water has dropped about twenty-five percent.

Lund: “And it’s at a time in history when we’ve never had more urban and agricultural and environmental water demands.”

To aid farmers, groundwater reserves have been pumped to hard-hit areas. This has reduced the drought’s financial impact, but Lund cautions that this tactic may have long-term consequences.

Lund: “The groundwater that we use in a drought has to either come from additional recharge that occurs during wet years, or it has to come from long term depletion of groundwater storage.”

Yet despite the looming prospect of more dry than wet years in the future, no one is currently keeping track of the amount of groundwater in most areas. Lund says that we should learn from this recent drought.

Lund: “And be more systematic in how we at least assess and how we manage groundwater to keep things closer to balance.”

It’s an issue that’s especially urgent in light of climate change. With less available surface water, farmers will rely even more on groundwater, so conservation and better management will be critical.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Report: Economic Analysis of the 2014 Drought for California Agriculture
University of California-Davis Photos of CA Drought Effects on Agriculture
Soundbites on CA drought impacts on agriculture (UC Davis agricultural economist Richard Howitt)
Drought threatens state’s groundwater reserves, UC Davis study finds
Groundwater pumping propping up farms in California drought

Bruce Lieberman

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...