As the drought continues throughout the state of California, farmers have started to rely on other ways to access water for their crops: extracting water from underneath the ground. For decades, California has developed and heavily relied on water from rivers, canals and reservoirs, however with the extreme dryness experienced by the majority of the state and the inconsistency of available water, groundwater is assuming a new role. Farmers have started to take water form wells and use it as a primary source for watering the crops.
The main issue with this is the lack of regulation when it comes to extracting groundwater. There are almost no restrictions and no oversight on drilling for groundwater in California, unlike most other states. With that being said, overdraft is a big concern in many areas, since it has become more and more likely to happen. According to Thomas Harter from the University of California, we have the lowest groundwater levels that California has ever experienced, and if this does not change issues such as sinking grounds where infrastructure is located will occur. Bottom line is that we are using more water than we can replenish.
In order to flip the scenario around, California lawmakers have been talking about changing the way groundwater policy works and trying to implement regulations when it comes to ways of extracting water from the ground. We need to better understand how much water can be taken from these underground water tables, how fast can it be refiled and what way it can be sustainably used for watering crops.
For more info on lawmakers shift in the groundwater policy click here.