Central Valley groundwater mining detected from space

Posted on | December 15, 2009 | No Comments


Approximate location of maximum subsidence in the United States identified by research efforts of Dr. Joseph F. Poland (pictured). Signs on pole show approximate altitude of land surface in 1925, 1955, and 1977. The site is in the San Joaquin Valley southwest of Mendota, California. Source: USGS. Click on the image to be taken to a groundwater subsidence fact sheet.

PASADENA, California — New space observations reveal that since October 2003, the aquifers for California’s primary agricultural region — the Central Valley — and its major mountain water source — the Sierra Nevadas — have lost nearly enough water combined to fill Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir, reports the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To keep reading the JPL news release, click here.

Legislation that would have required monitoring of groundwater in the Central Valley was gutted at the last minute from the raft of water bills passed by the California legislature this fall at the behest of the agricultural lobby.

This happened in spite of US Geological Survey reports last summer of Central Valley subsidence caused by ground water overdrafts so severe that it threatens the California Aqueduct with collapse. On September 4th, the USGS announced its own satellite study to analyze the threat to the Aqueduct.

To read Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, on the severity of the Central Valley groundwater overdraft when the the subsidence dangers were publicized last summer, click here and on the lastest NASA study, here. The lowdown: Gleick wants to send the legislature back to the drawing board on groundwater monitoring.

Among reactions from elsewhere around the water wires, economist David Zetland makes no attempt to disguise his disgust at Aguanomics. From New Mexico, the Albuquerque Journal’s John Fleck sees it as a case of tragedy of the common at his personal website, inkstain. On the public record, one of the savvier and easily the funniest water blog in California, crunches JPL’s numbers, finds them consistent with what the state Water Plan estimates, but complains about the mixed measures used to convey the overdraft. As usual, Aquafornia is on all the latest California water stories.

This post was updated at 3.58pm, 12/16/2009. The second Gleick link, the water blog round-up and USGS photo were added.


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