Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: West

Indecision sinking California faster than epic drought

Getty Images
<p>Getty Images.</p>

Newly-released National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) satellite imagery pictorially illustrates that California is sinking faster than ever before – notably not at the speed of the iceberg hit, broken-hulled Titanic.

The worst part is neither had to happen.

According to the ‘sky-spy’ folks at NASA, snapped satellite photos confirm some areas of California’s famed San Joaquin Valley are sinking nearly two inches per month tied in part to drought and continued large scale amounts of groundwater pumping.

This is bound to concern many SJV farming aficionados who claim the valley has the best crop-growing dirt and climate in the world.

The federal space agency also reports that some land around Corcoran in agriculturally rich Kings County sank 13 inches in eight months - about 1.6 inches per month.

Corcoran’s elevation is a mere 206 feet above sea level. While I am far from a math whiz kid, my calculator suggests that drought and continued pumping at current levels could put Corcoran underwater in about 130 years.

This is no laughing matter but it illustrates the impact that long-term drought can have on a region.

Another NASA finding was some areas near the California Aqueduct have sunk up to 12.5 inches - eight inches in just four months last year. By these findings, its likely California will continue to sink until the rain and snow return, hopefully this fall and winter.

California Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin says continued extensive groundwater pumping continues to place nearby infrastructure near sinking land, so called subsidence, at a greater risk of costly damage.

He calls groundwater a ‘savings account’ of sorts to provide water during drought. Yet the NASA report illustrates the consequences of excessive groundwater withdrawals – threatening vital infrastructure including canals, wells, pumping stations, and bridges.

The shame of the drought at this point continues to be failed foresight by elected leadership over the decades to make the tough decisions to help prepare the drought-plagued state for future droughts…even epic dryness.

Times like this truly illustrate missed opportunities by government to build water storage facilities and other solutions decades ago. Yet it’s not too late.

Elected leaders can still ‘cowboy up’ to make tough water decisions to make the Golden State a better place to live and farm in the future.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.