Earlier this month, we posted about how the drought is impacting different farmers in our Farmers’ Markets. One of the big impacts is that surface water delivery has been cut off in many agricultural areas of the state, so farmers have resorted to pumping groundwater to keep their farms in business.
Unlike surface water, groundwater resources are largely unregulated. Farmers who are lucky enough to be farming in areas with high water tables can readily access the groundwater, using wells. Over time, tapping groundwater at faster rates than it is replenished will cause the water tables to drop. Farmers face tough choices: either invest increasing amounts of money to access groundwater that will continue to drop, or lose crops when surface water delivery isn’t sufficient for irrigation in dry years. In some areas, removing water from underground also has another impact: it causes the land to sink. Some parts of Fresno County are 30 feet lower than they were in the 1920s. These areas stand increased risk from flooding, which can be magnified following a period of drought.
This article published by the Sacramento Bee from a farmers’ perspective provides a good snapshot of this issue. There’s many layers of depth here, but in an era of increasing climate impacts, we expect it’s a challenge Californians will need to address.
[Photo by Justin Hackworth on Flickr]