The many wells that nourish the farms of the Central Valley are not only pumping so much water from the ground that the land is sinking, they’re creating a dangerous vacuum where arsenic can slip in, new research shows. Scientists at Stanford University are warning if heavy groundwater pumping continues, water supplies for dozens of communities as well as billions of dollars of irrigated crops are at risk of contamination.
A federal judge has cleared the way for water transfers from Northern California to the thirsty south San Joaquin Valley, overruling environmentalists who argued the transfers would harm threatened fish.
For the first time in the more than half a century that the federal government had been diverting Sierra Nevada water to farmers, there would be no deliveries to most Central Valley irrigation districts. In the third year of drought, there wasn’t enough water to go around.
“In California, water flows uphill toward money and power. That’s a well-known maxim out here, especially in the Dust-Bowl-ready Central Valley — that forgotten stretch of California that grows 40% of U.S. fruits, nuts and other table foods.”
“The Central Valley’s 7 million acres of irrigated farmland are best known as the richest food-producing region in the world. But a new study by UC Davis researchers forecasts severe socioeconomic impacts ahead in the area where many of the nation’s fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables are grown.”
“California’s Central Valley hosts millions of migrating shorebirds. It’s a critical stopping point on migration route that runs thousands of miles. But the drought could make it difficult for birds to find a haven.”
“The change is noticeable to anyone who has driven California’s Central Valley over the past decade. … To find out how this story of a changing landscape might play out in California’s future, we need to look deeper. We need to go underground.”