Between 4,000 and 12,000 domestic water wells could go dry over the next 20 years if California state groundwater sustainability plans are enacted, according to a new report released by the Water Foundation. The sustainability plans were created to help bring the Central Valley’s depleted groundwater aquifers into balance, per the California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Groundwater use across the country is contentious but it is especially so in California, where farmers are pitted against homeowners over who owns the water being pulled out of water wells at alarmingly unsustainable rates.
The report, which reviewed 40 plans submitted to the state by groundwater sustainability agencies, asserts that the agencies – which are primarily governed by members of agricultural water districts – are planning for water tables levels to decline to the point where many water wells could run out of water. Critics of the report say it only evaluated worse case scenarios and presented the plans as static entities not subject to change depending on changing conditions. In addition, data about well quality indicates that some of the wells could possibly go dry regardless of agricultural activity.
“Knowing there are…[12,000] families who are going to open their taps and no water will come out, that’s mind boggling. We want people to think about the amount of suffering that might occur due to these plans.”Amanda Monaco, an attorney for Leadership Counsel.
Jonathan Nelson, executive director of Community Water Center, acknowledged that there were data gaps in the report, yet Nelson maintains, “This was a very conservative analysis and still, the numbers are sobering. Even looking at these plans from the measurable objectives, up to 60,000 people could lose access to water.”
Groundwater management is a complex and tricky activity. The groups who commissioned the report hope that the report will help get the state’s attention as a means of forcing the state to take a closer look at groundwater plan impacts. “Knowing there are that number of families who are going to open their taps and no water will come out, that’s mind boggling,” said Amanda Monaco, an attorney for Leadership Counsel. “We want people to think about the amount of suffering that might occur due to these plans.”