Food, Ag Board Jumps Into Groundwater Issues
California’s State Board of Food and Agriculture has joined a growing list of state agencies becoming interested or actively involved in the state’s groundwater.
The board on November 5 examined what were termed California’s groundwater challenges during a day long meeting.
WATER TABLE DECLINES
A series of experts warned that many of California’s aquifers are critically overdrawn – especially in the Central Valley – due to demands for more water that have been created by drought conditions and restrictions on surface water.
Graphs were shown to demonstrate what Friant Division water users know all too well – that valley water tables have declined dramatically in recent years.
The Association of California Water Agencies reported a number of potential remedies were discussed. They ranged from empowering local water agencies to work collaboratively to develop local and regional groundwater solutions to protecting the Sierra Nevada snowpack through forest thinning to increase surface water.
Several experts warned that climate change and diminishing snowpack in the Sierra Nevada could worsen groundwater overdraft due to increased unreliability of surface water supplies.
“It certainly appears that we have reached the tipping point for groundwater,” said Board President Craig McNamara. “My question would be: what should be our next steps?”
Easing the process for water transfers to help growers get through the current critical dry period was suggested by some board members as a short-term solution.
Board members voted to ask Governor Brown and his administration to work with the Department of Water Resources to ease that process.
“I continually think we have to link this to surface water,” said Board Member Bryce Lundberg.
Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said the Brown Administration is “reaching across cabinets” to plan for California’s critical water needs. “We want to make sure we are on the path to achieving these long-range goals. We need to make sure that we are ready for drought, that we are planning for drought.”
New satellite monitoring systems are being used to measure changes in the depth of aquifers, said Jay Famiglietti of the UC Center for Hydraulic Monitoring at the University of California, Irvine.
“We’re all focused on the surface water, and while no one is looking, we are pumping out the groundwater,” said Famiglietti.
“California faces a water crisis of epic proportions,” added Famiglietti. “How we respond today will define how we survive tomorrow.”