The San Joaquin Valley is sinking. In fact, this region of Southern California has been slowly sinking since the 1920s. But this is not the result of earthquakes or natural erosion breaking down the land the Valley rests atop. Rather, this sinking effect is largely due to the massive amount of groundwater pumping taking place in California today. According to land survey reports from NASA, the San Joaquin Valley has sunk by as much as 28 feet in certain sections. And, given the rate of groundwater pumping, that number is going to keep rising as the valley continues sinking.
The Golden State has suffered intense, years-long periods of droughts in recent decades. And because California is one of the most productive agricultural regions of the world, farmers need water to keep their crops growing. At the same time, the massive population centers in Southern California require large amounts of water, too. As precipitation and snow melt dries up, the state turns to ground and surface water.
As a result, the overuse of pumping groundwater has already caused damage to thousands of private and public properties around the state. It also presents a danger to future groundwater storage facilities, should the overuse continue. Already, surveying reports show that the aqueduct near King’s County can only hold a flow of 6,650 cubic feet per second, despite it being designed to hold 8,350 cubic feet per second.
Simply put, California relies heavily on groundwater, but that reliance has consequences. In total, it makes up 26% of the total number of freshwater withdrawn in the United States today. Now, the land is sinking at a rate of about two feet per year. Groundwater modeling experts believe that things will only get worse if changes are not made soon.
California has its fair share of environmental challenges. The state sits on a very powerful fault line, while constant droughts have put the state in a perpetual state of emergency. These problems are serious enough without adding man-made natural disasters to the list.
It is important to maintain a balance when dealing with groundwater pumping. Like any other thing you take from the ground, such as oil and coal, eventually the resource is going to run out. And when it does, the very ground you stand on could be at risk. Finding a better way to hydrate California will be key in preventing the San Joaquin Valley from disappearing from the map.
To find out more about responsible groundwater pumping, please visit Water and Environmental Technologies.