Sunday, March 30, 2008

Water Supply

Tapping into the underground water table is important, especially when the above ground supply is so limited.

Public leadership in California (as the Governor and many Valley legislators are trying to do) really needs to come to grips with the reality of our need for much more above ground water storage (dams), and get busy building them, starting with the one at Auburn.

Water-shortage fears pump up well-drilling business in Central Valley
By Jim Downing -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, March 30, 2008

MADERA – Steve Arthur loves a good drought. But trouble in the Delta serves him just as well.

Arthur, a stocky 48-year-old, runs one of the biggest agricultural well-drilling operations in the state. This year, he has enough orders to launch himself into early retirement.

"Everybody's planning ahead, because they know the water situation's not going to get anything but worse," he said.

A well-drilling boom not seen since California's last big drought in the early 1990s is under way in the San Joaquin Valley, as farmers chasing high crop prices tap the region's vast, largely unregulated groundwater reserves in the face of an increasingly bleak outlook for water from the state's rivers and reservoirs.

"Business is unbelievable," Arthur said on a recent morning in a field soon to be planted with almond trees. Through sunglasses splattered with mud, he watched the hoses on his drill rig buck as they spat water and sand from 700 feet underground.

California's reservoirs will be filling up this spring, thanks to an average winter snowpack. But court-ordered pumping restrictions intended to protect fish populations in the Delta mean that many San Joaquin Valley farmers won't get as much water this year as they would have in the past.

For the years ahead, the forecast only gets drier. The ecological crisis in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta shows no signs of abating. A restoration plan for the San Joaquin River has permanently reduced some farmers' water about 15 percent.

Climate change may diminish the Sierra snowpack. And new reservoirs or canals, if any are built, would be years away and might not appreciably increase supplies of farm water.