The following individuals presently hold these positions:
President –John F. Bosta
Vice-President— Wade Hinden
Secretary— Charlotte LeVar / Treasurer—Christina Stern
Members at Large—Dwight Lilly
Members at Large—Larry Blatchford
It is time to place your name on the ballot by the end of November 30th, 2017 for any of the following positions for 2018 if you are interested in running for the position:
If you are interested in running for one of the above positions please add your name next to individual name that has already holds the position and is re-running for that position by November 30th, 2017.
President — John Bosta — Add your name
Vice-President — Wade Hinden — Add your name
Secretary — Charlotte LeVar — Add your name
Treasurer —Christina Stern — Add your name
Member at Large — Dwight Lilly — Add your name
Member at Large — Add your name
Your name will be also be placed on the ballot for that position that will be sent to mailing address of each registered member in December with an self addressed envelope, you will need to place a stamp on the self addressed envelope and returned your ballot by mail on or before January 31st, 2018.
The ballots will be opened and counted during the February 15th, 2018 meeting.
We also need Coop members to volunteer to be ahead of the following committees:
DRY WELLS AND SINKING GROUND AS STATE STRUGGLES WITH GROUNDWATER CRISIS
Story by Ian James | Photos and video by Steve Elfers | Dec. 10, 2015
PASO ROBLES, California – Two decades ago, the rolling hills of Paso Robles were mostly covered with golden grass and oak trees. Now the hills and valleys are blanketed with more than 32,000 acres of grapevines.
Surging demand for wine has brought an explosion of vineyards, and along with it heavy pumping of groundwater. With the water table dropping, many people have had to cope as their taps have sputtered and their wells have gone dry.
Drilling a new well can cost $30,000 or more, and for Juan Gavilanes and his family, that’s out of reach. Instead, they’re relying on a neighbor who lets them use his well, and they bring water to their house through a hose.
Standing in his parched yard, Gavilanes said life has changed radically. He let his vegetable garden die. His family uses a coin laundry. They take quick showers and eat on paper plates. He said it’s quite clear where their water has gone and why their well is empty.
The vineyards are killing us,” said Gavilanes, a construction worker. “That’s the problem, you know. They suck up all the water.”
Groundwater levels have also been falling miles away, beneath the ranch of Kim Routh, who saw one of her wells dry up, and beneath the stables of Laurie Gage, whose horse-boarding farm relies on a well that can no longer pump as much anymore.
“I’m frightened, have been for a long time,” Gage said, a hand resting on a steel corral. “I can point to three wells that have gone dry, and a fourth right down the road.”
California’s severe drought has multiplied the stresses on aquifers across the state, sending groundwater levels to record lows. But it’s an issue that began long before the drought. For decades, through wet and dry periods, groundwater has been overpumped and progressively depleted.
The Central Valley alone is estimated to have lost more than 150 cubic kilometers of groundwater, roughly the amount of water in Lake Tahoe. Nearly two-thirds of that has been pumped out since 1960 as wells have proliferated. And the pace of depletion has been accelerating.
Even if El Niño brings a wet winter, it won’t be enough to refill California’s badly depleted aquifers. They’ve been drawn down so far that if pumping were suddenly cut back, the state would still need many years of above-normal rainfall and snows for a significant turnaround.
So much water has been pumped from the aquifer in the Central Valley that the underground spaces in layers of clay and rock have been collapsing, leaving the land surface permanently altered. Scientists have determined the ground is sinking faster than ever before, in some areas by up to 13 inches over just eight months. That settling has buckled the concrete lining of canals and damaged roads and bridges.
As the aquifers have receded, rural homeowners have been the first to run out. The state has tallied reports of more than 3,400 households out of water during the past two years, mostly with dry wells. Some of those homeowners have voiced resentment, blaming surrounding farmers with deeper wells for causing their predicament.
But along with the finger-pointing has come growing discussion about a fundamental imbalance: There are simply too many demands drawing on California’s limited supply of water.
“We’re running up against what I call ‘peak water’ limits,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, an organization based in Oakland that focuses on water issues. “There’s no longer enough water to do everything that we want to do. We can no longer grow as much food as we’re growing, as inefficiently as we’re growing it. We can no longer ignore the fact that some of our agricultural practices are leading to problems.”
When the communities’ water sources suffer as a result, he said, “that’s a problem of equity. It’s a problem of power and politics. It’s a problem of wealth.”
Farmers have been spending heavily to drill new wells hundreds of feet down – even up to 2,000 feet deep in places – to reach water.
Property owners in California have long been entitled to draw as much water from their wells as they wish. In many areas, that lack of regulation has led to an unbridled free-for-all of pumping.
Trying to bring the situation under control, Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which puts local agencies in charge of managing groundwater and also gives the state new authority to step in when necessary to keep aquifers from falling further.
State officials have drawn up a list of 21 groundwater basins considered to be in “critical overdraft” and have laid out a timeline of requirements. By mid-2017, local “groundwater sustainability agencies” need to be formed. By 2020, basins that are in “critical overdraft” will be required to adopt 20-year plans for achieving sustainable management – defined as managing groundwater in ways that avoid problems such as chronic declines or saltwater intrusion.
Other high- or medium-priority groundwater basins will have until 2022 to have their groundwater plans in motion.
In the meantime, pumping has rolled along largely unchecked. Despite the drought, California farm revenues have risen to record highs in the past few years, pushing gross farming income to $56.9 billion in 2014. And it’s been possible precisely because farmers have been leaning more than ever on the declining supply of groundwater.
“That gives them a short-term benefit, but the long-term consequences of that are going to be very severe, and we can’t do that forever,” Gleick said. “We have to ultimately think about how to bring the system back into balance.”
Water for wine
In 1983, the Paso Robles area had a total of 17 wineries and about 5,000 acres of vineyards. By 1995, the number of wineries had grown to 29. Then the Central Coast suddenly became trendy as a winemaking region, and the number of wineries increased to more than 200.
That coincided with the expansion of the wine business across California, in places from Napa Valley and Sonoma County to Lodi and Temecula. The total number of licensed wineries in the state has grown from 944 in 1995 to 4,285 in 2014.
Winemakers and investors poured into Paso Robles partly for its climate – the sunny days, afternoon breezes from the Pacific Ocean, and cool nights. They planted many varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, as well as others such as Mourvèdre, Grenache and Petit Verdot. Some vineyards imported vines from France.
As the business took off, it brought wine-tasting tours and lifted the economy of a town where businesses had been boarded up. Then came the declines in groundwater levels.
On her horse farm, Gage said the water level in her well has fallen about 130 feet since she moved to the area 27 years ago. When she last checked, the water level was 220 feet underground. In the past seven years, it has dropped at least 70 feet.
Her well now runs intermittently. After about 15 minutes of use, the pump automatically shuts down, and it only restarts an hour later once enough water has seeped back into the well.
In 2013, as dozens of homeowners’ wells were failing, concerned residents formed a group called PRO Water Equity and began advocating for changes to protect the water supply. At first, they were sharply at odds with wine grape growers, and their disagreements fed distrust.
Reacting to the complaints of many dry wells, San Luis Obispo County supervisors passed an emergency ordinance in August 2013 that for a two-year period barred new or expanded vineyards in the Paso Robles basin unless the additional water use could be offset with reductions elsewhere.
Gage, who is vice president of PRO Water Equity, said the contentious atmosphere changed after county supervisor Frank Mecham offered an idea to her group and the opposing side, a group of growers known as the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions. He suggested they get together to search for common ground, and after a series of meetings they struck a compromise: a proposal to create a new water district to manage the groundwater basin, with a board that would include representatives of large-, medium- and small-sized landowners, as well as members elected by all voters.
“I’ve come to a much different understanding and appreciation of those guys as people,” Gage said. “There is at least a fairly large group of wine grape growers who have come to the realization that unless we do something smart with our water soon, they’re going to be in a world of hurt in terms of their investment. They’ve got huge investments in these areas, just gigantic, and they will lose all of that if the water goes away.”
Nearby at Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery in Templeton, owner Dana Merrill said he agrees the area should have its own district to start managing groundwater.
The water levels in his vineyard’s wells have been dropping. But Merrill, a 7th generation farmer and Californian, said he believes someday the wine country of Paso Robles can be as valuable as the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma.
“What is the one thing that could derail that? Running out of water,” he said. “To me, how can you take a chance on screwing this up?”
Driving to the top of a hill, he looked out over rows of his grapevines and other vineyards in the valley below.
“I think we should do something about it,” he said. “I don’t want to sit here and say, ‘God, maybe I should have done something about that.’ Yeah, doggone it. Maybe there was a problem, yeah.”
The proposal to create the Paso Robles Basin Water District will go before voters in an election on March 8, with three separate votes on creating the district, establishing a special tax to fund it, and electing its board of directors.
The proposal is generating controversy. One group of vineyard owners and other residents called Protect Our Water Rights is opposing the creation of a water district. They’ve gone to court to pursue an adjudication of the basin, which they argue would lead to a better court-supervised solution.
Gage doesn’t see that as a workable approach.
The county’s Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, amended the land use ordinance in October to make permanent its restrictions, which bar new vineyards or other water-using development in the Paso Robles basin unless water use elsewhere can be retired in exchange. If a vineyard intends to drill a new well, it needs to show it can conserve an equivalent amount of groundwater by taking out a more water-intensive crop or taking other steps.
“It’s a way of saying look, we can’t let people plant acre after acre, hundreds of acres of wine grapes, without doing something to offset that water use,” said Bruce Gibson, one of the county supervisors who backed the change in a contentious 3-2 vote. “We have a serious problem with groundwater, and I think most people recognize this now. If we don’t do something, we’re going to hit the wall somewhere down the line.”
The effects of drilling deeper go beyond higher pumping costs. In the Paso Robles area, the aquifer is made up of multiple layers of water and rocks, and at lower levels those layers can contain water tainted with high levels of boron, chlorides and other natural contaminants that can make it unfit for human consumption or use in agriculture unless it’s treated.
The county measures affect only the Paso Robles groundwater basin. Just outside that area, near Atascadero, there are no restrictions and vineyards are still being planted. On a recent morning, workers moved along the rows on a hillside slipping plastic tubes over newly planted vines.
Kim Routh has also seen new vineyards spring up on the winding roads around her ranch. When a vineyard was established years ago directly across the road, one of her wells went dry within a month. She had used water from that well to fill a round basin and a watering trough for her cattle. Without that source, she said she decided to reduce the number of cattle she raises.
“The large corporations come in and pump like crazy,” she said. “And the people who live in the area can’t afford to go that deep.”
Her ranch is located in an unincorporated area where the county’s measures don’t apply, and she said winemaking companies have been buying up land all around to take advantage of the lack of regulation. Routh has been appalled to see that even as people have been struggling with dry wells, new vineyards have been planted.
“Money has taken over and crushed all common sense,” she said.
Standing beneath an old windmill, Routh said she sees a real threat of completely running out of water.
“Sad. There used to be so much water here. It literally shot out of that well head,” she said, looking up at the windmill, which was squeaking as the blades slowly turned.
“A lot of people don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want to upset their neighbors,” Routh said. “I used to try to keep my head in the sand, but I can’t anymore because it’s just crashing in on us.”
A valley’s descent
Highway 99 cuts through the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, passing fields of bare earth where dust devils whirl beneath the cloudless sky.
The alluvial soil spreads out as flat as a lake and meets patches of green that stretch into the distance and fade in the hazy air. In the 1800s, there was a giant lake here, Tulare Lake, which was fringed with marshes. But its waters were diverted to farms more than a century ago, and the lakebed was transformed into fields.
Along the road, farms roll past in a blur: fields of cotton, orange groves, dairies, grapevines, and orchards of nectarines, peaches, walnuts, pistachios and almonds. Among them are pipes that gush water into standpipes.
This portion of the Central Valley south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta lies at the epicenter of the state’s problems of groundwater depletion. Tulare County has led the state with, at last count, about 1,900 dry wells in less than two years.
One of those wells stopped flowing at the home of farmworkers Enrique Olivera and Yolanda Galvan, in a neighborhood flanked by walnut orchards near Visalia. For the first few months, neighbors let them use water through a hose from their well. Then they signed up to receive a water tank, and regular water deliveries by tanker truck, through a program supported by the state and the county.
As workers connected the new tank to their household pipes, Galvan said she is grateful to have the tank because her family can’t afford to drill another well. But she also expressed aggravation that she’s been struggling to keep her fruit trees alive while across the street a farmer’s well pours out a steady stream into the mouth of a large standpipe day and night.
“The farmers are using much more water than residents like us,” Galvan said, sitting on her porch while her 3-year-old son pedaled his tricycle in circles.
“They’re stealing water from us, because they’re using too much water. They should change their irrigation systems. Because the field here in front of us, they turn on the water and they let the water run,” Galvan said. “They’re using a lot in order to get rich, and they’re leaving us without water.”
Farmers in Tulare County deny those accusations, saying they’ve had surface water taken away from them by court rulings and the decisions of government officials who have curtailed water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to protect the endangered delta smelt and other fish.
Farmer Mike Faria called it a “government-induced drought” on top of the natural drought. He said that while the declines in groundwater are worrying, farmers’ hands are tied because of the reductions in flows through canals.
“Everybody is using groundwater. That’s how we sustain ourselves through a dry time where there is no surface water,” said Faria, whose family runs a 3,500-acre farm and five dairies in Tipton. “We’re all pumping from the same bowl. We all got straws in the ground.”
Previously the Farias could count on surface water to meet a portion of their needs, but those flows have disappeared. And Faria said it’s been a struggle to adapt. Several wells have failed, and they’ve invested in deeper wells. Still, they have less water to work with.
“We had to sacrifice some land in order to take care of the rest of it,” Faria said, standing on a fallow field covered with dry stubble left behind from the last crop.
His father Danny Faria, Sr., looked out across the parched field and kicked a weed with his boot, dislodging it and sending dust swirling. He said they aren’t farming about 13 percent of their land because they don’t have the water for it this year.
“The only way to recharge the water is the surface water,” the elder Faria said.
“We need more surface water, more dams to hold water in wet years,” he said. “If you don’t have surface water, you use groundwater.”
He said he deeply disagrees with the state government’s approach. And if he could pick up and leave California for somewhere else, he would.
As for regulating groundwater, he said: “I can’t stand the idea, but I know it’s coming.”
Nearby in the community of East Porterville, the front yards of farmworkers’ homes are filled with brown grass and withered shrubs. The city of Porterville’s deep wells have kept flowing, but in this unincorporated area just outside city limits, the water table has fallen below the reach of shallow wells and entire blocks have been left without running water. Tanks have been installed in front of many homes.
Some people in East Porterville now make regular trips to a community water station, where they unravel hoses to fill up their tanks and barrels on the beds of pickup trucks and trailers.
Diego Bedolla, a 15-year-old who was helping his father fill two plastic barrels, said their well is running low and the water comes out with sand in it. When they get the barrels home, they carry the water inside with buckets to use for washing dishes, washing clothes and bathing.
“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “The buckets aren’t that heavy, but it gets tiring when you do it for a while.”
In the past, water from the Lake Success reservoir would normally flow down through the Tule River and recharge the aquifer around East Porterville. The drought has driven the reservoir’s levels to record lows. Some water has continued to flow out of Lake Success, but it’s diverted through concrete-lined ditches to farms that hold senior water rights. Nothing has been left to flow downstream alongside East Porterville. The riverbed sits bone dry, and that has eliminated a source of recharge for the aquifer.
At a church parking lot in East Porterville, the county government has set up an emergency drought center with a trailer where residents can take showers.
A local charity, the Porterville Area Coordinating Council, has organized events to hand out donated bottled water. At times, residents have lined up bumper-to-bumper in cars and trucks beside an old lemon packing house to receive cases of drinking water.
The volunteers doling out water include Ron and Cheryl Perine, whose well stopped working last year in a neighborhood where the biggest water users are fruit and nut orchards.
Ron hauled tanks of water on a trailer for months, and for a time was lugging buckets around the house before they took out loans to drill a deeper well.
“We’ll be the rest of our life paying for the well – $600 a month,” Ron said. The payments are stretching a family income consisting of Social Security payments and his disability benefits as a Vietnam veteran.
“I know a lot of people who don’t think it’s a crisis like a hurricane or volcanoes or earthquakes,” Ron said, “but if you’re in it like this, it is. It’s a crisis.”
The Perines’ new well is 300 feet deep. But Cheryl said they still worry about what would happen if the water table keeps dropping.
“It’s just unsure what’s going to happen and how long it’s going to last. Because if we have to drill another well, we’re done,” she said. “It’s in God’s hands, because financially we can’t afford to do it again.
On highways cutting through farmland, large signs appear: “No Water = No Jobs” and “Help! Solve the Water Crisis.”
“There’s a lot of water that’s going through the bay that should be coming down here,” said Bill Gargan, president of the well-drilling business Kaweah Pump Inc.
“These farmers, our customers, they don’t want to deplete the groundwater. That’s their lifeblood,” Gargan said, standing next to a drilling rig as it bored a new 400-foot-deep well.
“They wouldn’t be turning these pumps on, and having it cost them so much money to run these pumps, if they had surface water to where they could use a smaller pump with less power,” he said.
Farmers around Visalia have been spending $160,000 to $180,000 for new wells, Gargan said, while deeper wells in the western portion of the valley can run $300,000 to $500,000.
“We’re getting probably like 30 calls a day,” Gargan said. “The waiting list for a well right now is about a year and three months.”
The demand is so strong that some drillers have moved to California from other states. Drilling rigs have been humming day and night, boring holes deeper than ever before.
In parts of the San Joaquin Valley, groundwater levels have fallen more than 100 feet below their previous record lows.
The state’s list of areas in “critical overdraft” also includes places across California ranging from Merced to Oxnard, and from Paso Robles to the desert of the Borrego Valley in eastern San Diego County.
Water levels in wells have fallen by more than 100 feet since 1995 in parts of Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.
Major declines have occurred not only in California but also in places across the western United States. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and NASA found in one study that groundwater has been rapidly depleted in the Colorado River basin, accounting for three-fourths of the region’s total losses of freshwater – which also included losses from rivers and reservoirs – between 2004 and 2013.
They estimated that 50.1 cubic kilometers of groundwater was depleted from the basin during that period, far surpassing the amount of surface water losses from Lake Powell and Lake Mead.
Groundwater and surface water are connected. During dry seasons, flows emerging from aquifers sustain many streams and rivers. Groundwater also reaches the surface in natural springs. When aquifers decline, flows in streams can decrease. Springs can dwindle and dry up, as they have in parts of the desert in Southern California.
Last winter California had the smallest snowpack ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada. Long-term decreases in snowpack due to global warming pose threats to a water system that was designed for a different climate. And if combined with serious depletion of groundwater, both of those changes could make the state’s water situation even more precarious.
But if groundwater can be managed better and levels are allowed to recover, scientists have said it would provide an important reserve for dry times and make California more water-secure as the climate warms.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has advocated what it calls a “big water supply shift” in California to focus on making groundwater supplies sustainable.
“It will be critical to achieve a better balance by refilling our groundwater account during wet periods for use during dry periods,” the nonprofit group said in a report. It said that will involve redesigning systems to better capture water from storms and building infrastructure to replenish aquifers.
The group also called for better measurement and monitoring, saying that’s vital to managing groundwater.
The problem for California is that the water deficit has grown so large.
NASA and UC Irvine researchers have estimated using satellite data that the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins have lost 15 cubic kilometers of freshwater each year of the drought since 2011, with about two-thirds of those losses due to groundwater pumping.
The state would need multiple wet winters and at least 12 trillion gallons of additional water in its reservoirs, snowpack and aquifers to emerge from the drought, said Jay Famiglietti, a UC Irvine hydrologist and senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Even then, depleted aquifers would take much longer to recover.
And one of the moral problems, he said, is that it’s perfectly legal for those who can afford it to keep drilling deeper, while others are left dry.
“What that means is that only the wealthier individuals and the bigger farms will be able to survive with respect to groundwater, and that’s unfair,” he said. “It’s become this true tragedy of the commons and a race to the bottom of the Central Valley.”
Across California, the state government has received more than 3,000 reports of households out of water during the past two years.
Counties in the Central Valley have had the most wells go dry.
Tulare County has led the state with about 1,900 dry wells.
Back in 1977, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Joseph F. Poland posed next to a telephone pole in the San Joaquin Valley for a photo to illustrate the findings of his research. That image has since become famous. Near the top of the pole was a sign marking where the surface of the ground sat in 1925, about 30 feet higher.
Since then, a series of canals was built to bring water to the area, and the sinking of the ground slowed. But it has continued elsewhere, and has accelerated in other parts of the San Joaquin Valley during the past few years.
It’s also a problem in places across the country and around the world where groundwater is excessively pumped from aquifers that are made up of fine-grained alluvial sediments and clay. Well-known cases of sinking ground, or land subsidence, have also occurred in Mexico City, Bangkok, the Houston-Galveston area and the Las Vegas Valley.
Across the United States, scientists have found subsidence is occurring in portions of 45 states covering more than 17,000 square miles. In some places where the ground has settled, buildings and pipes have been cracked and damaged, roads have buckled, the steel casings of wells have pushed out of the ground, and canals and bridges have been left needing costly repairs.
In parts of the Coachella Valley in Southern California, the ground sank by between nine inches and 2 feet from 1995 to 2010. In the 1990s, cracks began showing up in homes, swimming pools and roads in some areas of La Quinta. In recent years, there have been fewer reports of damage in that area, apparently because the Coachella Valley Water District has been using water from the Colorado River to help replenish the aquifer nearby.
The most rapid subsidence in the state has been occurring in the San Joaquin Valley, where USGS hydrologists Claudia Faunt and Michelle Sneed have been tracking the problem. They’ve been using satellite images, measurements of groundwater levels and also a network of devices called extensometers to quantify the compaction of the aquifer.
“In the last month, it’s shown about a half an inch of compaction at this location,” Sneed said after examining an extensometer in a shed next to the Delta-Mendota Canal. “It is cranking. It’s like changing every minute.”
She rolled out a large measuring tape to check the depth of an adjacent well, while Faunt jotted the measurements. Then they found a spot along the canal where the concrete lining was cracked and jutting upward.
“This has been a problematic area for subsidence,” Sneed said. In areas where canals sink, it can reduce or disrupt the flow of water. The long-term costs of fixing such problems haven’t been comprehensively tallied, but they’re substantial.
Sneed stopped at a bridge crossing another canal. At first glance, the bridge appeared normal. Then she pointed out that the water has risen higher than the base of the bridge. Off to the side of the bridge, water was seeping out and formed a muddy strip along the road.
“As subsidence has occurred, the bridge has come down,” she said. “The water surface is higher than the bridge and this bridge has to be replaced.”
Land subsidence is explained by Michelle Sneed of the USGS.Steve Elfers, Jerry Mosemak
As groundwater has been pumped out, “lenses” of clay have compacted and rearranged themselves, Faunt explained, so that they become flat “like a stack of dinner plates.”Faunt explained how it’s happening, starting with the geology of the Central Valley’s aquifer system. The valley’s alluvial soil began as sand, gravel and clay that washed down from the Sierra Nevada and the coastal ranges. Think of a bathtub filled with layers of sand, rocks and clay, and water that has flowed down from the mountains and seeped in over tens of thousands of years.
When that occurs, as it has across the Central Valley, the aquifer becomes compacted and its water-storing capacity is permanently reduced.
“If you think of where we are now, the land surface used to be about 4 feet over my head,” Faunt said. “The land has subsided about 10 feet here.”
The ground level has followed the aquifer’s levels, which in some areas have fallen a total of 300-400 feet, Faunt said. The most severe sinking has recently occurred near the town of El Nido, and farmers have been drilling wells as deep as 2,000 feet to reach the receding water.
Faunt and other researchers have estimated the rate of depletion from the Central Valley at about 1.85 cubic kilometers per year on average since 1960. Each year, that’s a loss of enough water to fill about 740,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. During the latest four-year drought, though, they’ve calculated groundwater is being depleted much faster, at about twice that rate.
While farms have become more water-efficient over the years, there also has been rapid growth in the planting of higher-value crops such as fruit and nut orchards and vineyards. Those permanent crops have the effect of making the demand for water less flexible in the long-run because they require year-round irrigation and unlike other crops cannot be left fallow in dry times.
“To reverse the trend I think is going to take a lot of things. The simple answer is we need to reduce groundwater pumping,” Faunt said. “We need to basically balance that bank account.”
Moving in that direction can be achieved by either reducing the amount of overdraft or recharging aquifers with flows of surface water.
“We really need to think about what we’re doing in between droughts and how to manage the water and get water into the ground between the droughts,” Faunt said.
In each area of the state, a different set of remedies could help depending on the severity of the overdraft, the symptoms and the availability of other water sources. If the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act works as intended, it could be a historic opportunity for communities with badly depleted aquifers to come up with their own solutions.
“It puts it squarely on the locals to get it done, or the big bad state will step in and do it for them, but it also gave them tools,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “Your goal is to give the locals the political will to do it themselves.”
The proposal in Paso Robles to create a new agency to manage groundwater will be closely watched across the state, and supporters say it could be a model for how an area can find compromises to address severe depletion.
Gleick, of the Pacific Institute, said he thinks the timetable of allowing agencies until 2040 to achieve plans for sustainable management is much too slow. He has recommended speeding up the pace, including moving more quickly to improve measurement and monitoring.
“We need to know how much water is actually being withdrawn and who’s taking it,” Gleick said. “As long as we’re not measuring and monitoring all groundwater uses, those people who can afford to drill deeper wells, those people who can afford to pump more, will benefit from that lack of control.”
And as pumping costs continue to escalate, some farmers could eventually be forced to reduce irrigation or stop pumping altogether, the same way they’ve shut off their wells in parts of Texas and Kansas that rely on the Ogallala Aquifer.
The answer for California, Gleick said, can no longer simply be “find more surface water.” The reason, he said, is that water from streams and rivers is already heavily used, and taking more would seriously harm ecosystems.
“We might be able to squeeze a little more water out of the surface systems that we’ve built in California, but that’s not the long-run answer,” Gleick said. “The truth is in many parts of California we’re already taking too much water out of our surface systems.”
In the big picture, Gleick said he recommends three solutions for dealing with groundwater overdraft:
1). Figuring out how to manage surface water better in order to prevent overdraft and boost groundwater levels. That includes capturing more runoff during intense storms to recharge aquifers.
2). Finding ways to use groundwater more efficiently and grow more food with less water. That includes improving irrigation systems, changing the mix of crops and growing less water-intensive crops.
3). Cutting back on pumping where it’s necessary. In some places, he said, people are simply taking too much out of the system and “the only way to bring it back into balance is to reduce what we’re doing.”
He said those recommendations apply not only to California but to more and more parts of the world where groundwater overdraft is worsening and ultimately is unsustainable.
This increasingly serious problem, he said, has been long underappreciated and neglected, but it can no longer be ignored.
USA TODAY Investigative Reporter Steve Reilly contributed to this report.
This special report was produced with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
Workers wire a transfer pump at the home of Yolanda Galvan in Tulare County, California. As wells fail in the Central Valley, homeowners are having storage tanks installed and waiting for tanker trucks to deliver water. Groundwater depletion in California is causing some wells to go dry, threatening homes and farms alike.
Artificial sweeteners in groundwater indicate contamination from septic systems
November 7, 2017
University of Waterloo
The presence of artificial sweeteners in rural groundwater shows evidence for contamination by local septic system wastewater, researchers have found.
Domestic well water is monitored with a portable water quality meter prior to sampling for chemical analyses.
Credit: John Spoelstra
The presence of artificial sweeteners in rural groundwater shows evidence for contamination by local septic system wastewater, researchers from the University of Waterloo have found.
The study, which appears in the Journal of Environmental Quality, describes how the researchers tested private, rural groundwater wells in the Nottawasaga River Watershed for four artificial sweeteners as a way to detect groundwater impacted by human wastewater being released by septic systems in the area.
Artificial sweeteners are ideal human wastewater tracers as they exit the human body essentially unchanged and are not completely removed by most wastewater treatment processes. Human wastewater contains relatively high concentrations of artificial sweeteners.
“Although the four artificial sweeteners we measured are all approved for human consumption by Health Canada, it is the other septic contaminants that might also be present in the water that could pose a health risk,” said John Spoelstra, first author on the study and an adjunct professor in earth and environmental sciences at Waterloo. “As for groundwater entering rivers and lakes, the effect of artificial sweeteners on most aquatic organisms is unknown.”
Among other contaminants, septic effluent can contain bacteria such as E. coli, viruses, pharmaceuticals, personal care products and elevated levels of nitrate and ammonium.
In conducting the study, the researchers found that more than 30 per cent of samples analyzed from 59 private wells show detectable levels of at least one of four artificial sweeteners, indicating the presence of human wastewater. Estimates reveal between 3 and 13 per cent of wells could contain at least 1 per cent septic effluent.
The team also tested groundwater seeping out of the banks of the Nottawasaga River and found 32 per cent of their samples tested positive for sweeteners. Again, this indicates that some of the groundwater entering the Nottawasaga River has been affected by septic system effluent.
Septic tank systems are commonly used in rural areas where homes are not connected to a municipal sewer system. The system provides primary treatment by removing solids before the effluent is discharged to a septic drain field where further treatment occurs.
Previous studies by the same group revealed the presence of artificial sweeteners in the Grand River as well as in treated drinking water sourced from the river.
“We were not really surprised by the most recent results given what we’ve found in past studies,” said Spoelstra, also a Research Scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. “Septic systems are designed to discharge effluent to groundwater as part of the wastewater treatment process. Therefore, contamination of the shallow groundwater is a common problem when it comes to septic systems.”
John Spoelstra, Natalie D. Senger, Sherry L. Schiff. Artificial Sweeteners Reveal Septic System Effluent in Rural Groundwater. Journal of Environment Quality, 2017; 0 (0): 0 DOI: 10.2134/jeq2017.06.0233
Nanotechnology has a multitude of environmental uses, and researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara have discovered another one. They found that sulfurized nano-zero-valent iron (FeSSi) could be used to remove cadmium toxicity from freshwater.
According to ScienceDaily.com, the researchers came to this conclusion after simulating a rain event that washed toxic soil materials into a waterway. Specifically, they dosed Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a type of single-celled freshwater alga, with cadmium-infused FeSSi. They then took measurements after waiting for an hour.
The researchers noted that the FeSSi particles removed well over 80 percent of the water-based cadmium within the hour. Although effective, the FeSSi particles turned out to be several times more toxic after exposure to cadmium. Fortunately, the freshwater alga provided the assistance that the FeSSi articles required.
The researchers found that organic material produced by the alga following photosynthesis greatly diminished the toxicity of the FeSSi particles. Moreover, the organic material supported the nanoparticles’ remediating action on cadmium by up to four times more than when alga-derived organic material is absent.
“The organic material makes the FeSSi particle less toxic, which allows a greater zone of remediation and increases the cadmium concentrations that can be used,” said lead author and postdoctoral scholar Louise Stevenson. “That’s interesting because every natural system contains some organic material.
Short-term exposure to cadmium can result in such digestive issues as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The liver and kidneys can be affected as well, as cadmium in drinking water has been linked to liver injury and renal failure. Meanwhile, lifetime exposure to cadmium has the potential to cause severe damage to the kidneys, liver, bones, and blood.
These effects have been noted in organisms from both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Cadmium has a tendency to bioaccumulate, as constant exposure to this heavy metal has led to it building up in the kidneys and livers of birds and mammals. Algae and plant life aren’t safe from the effects of cadmium either, as they can store cadmium as well and poison the animals that rely on them for food.
And though cadmium may not be the only heavy metal that could seep into water, the work done by Stevenson and her colleagues is nothing short of encouraging. The impact of nanotechnology on the environment is context specific, making it all the more vital to test the potential of nanotechnology under a wide spectrum of conditions.
As Stevenson explained it: “We’re developing new technology faster than we can predict its environmental impact. That makes it very important to design experiments that are ecologically and environmentally relevant but also get at dynamics that can be extrapolated to other systems.”
Visit Environ.news to remain updated on news and breakthroughs relating to the environment.
Are you a water snob? Given the state of water options today and their negative impact on the body, it may be a good idea to become a bit more discerning about the source of your drinking water.
Sure, your city, region, or municipality may have assured you that your drinking water is clean and fit for consumption and they may whole-heartedly believe that, but let’s face it, they are not exactly experts in how their “clean” water affects the vitality of the human body. In fact, most of them probably have NO idea that your body is estimated to be made up of 70 percent water, and physiological functions absolutely rely on pure water for proper function (including your brain).
So, it’s not exactly something you want to screw up. Yet millions are doing so everyday in North America, to the detriment of their body and brain.
Let’s nip that in the bud now. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly (in reverse order) of water sources today.
Hopefully by this point you have discovered that the public water supply is the farthest thing from healthy drinking water. Fraught with various toxins and contaminants like fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals (lead, mercury, aluminum), medication residue, insecticides, herbicides, and PFASs (Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances from industrial sites), this water systematically destroys your body and brain.
These contaminants can result in lowered IQ, thyroid issues, behavioral problems, fatigue, weakness, increased cavities, bone fractures, and allergies just to name a few.
Not only is this water heavily contaminated, it is also “dead” water, meaning there are virtually no minerals left in it.
This is why tap water gets a big fat F rating and would be considered part of the “ugly” category.
Plastic bottled water
Bottled water took off as we became more aware of the importance of hydrating ourselves regularly, and didn’t want the inconvenience of carrying our own supply. However, like most man-made projects, there is a sinister component that does not make this a reliable option.
First of all, many popular brands of bottled water have been found to actually get their water from public or municipal water sources, which automatically puts those brands in the tap water category. Secondly, due to poorly cured plastics being used to fill these bottles with municipal tap water, you end up with another formidable toxin, xenoestrogens, which are known to artificially raise estrogen levels which can eventually lead to fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and some cancers.
As a result of these toxins, the pH of these plastic bottled waters come in quite acidic (6-6.5) states. When sourcing good water, the pH should be between approximately 7.2 – 8.5 pH. High quality bottled waters (often in glass) taken from natural springs are usually within these values and can be considered quality sources. Be careful though – labeling is tricky and many claim it’s “spring water” when it really isn’t. To get an example of a bottled water that is truly sourced from springs, check out Poland Springs water.
For the majority of the plastic bottled waters containing tap water and swimming in xenoestrogens, you get an F rating as well. For those with real spring water but in plastic, you get a C. Natural spring water in glass bottles, you move to the head of the glass – you get an A!
Distilled water is an acceptable approach to getting your hands on clean water, but certainly has its drawbacks. Since it is more acidic due to the lack of minerals, it certainly is not one of your best options, unless you have no access to efficient filtration systems.
If you do drink distilled water, make sure to add some minerals back into it by adding a pinch of high quality Himalayan sea salt, or these mineral drops.
Drinking distilled water with no modifications gets a C+ rating, as at least it is devoid of contaminants. Adding in minerals, you can move up to a B+.
Reverse osmosis water
This water system has become very popular, and like distilled water it is certainly a nice option to avoid contaminants. However, like distilled water, it removes any naturally occurring minerals so becomes the “white flour” of water. It can also be considered dead water. However, adding in minerals as stated earlier will help offset that issue.
Again, for reasons noted with distilled water, reverse osmosis water with no modifications gets a C+, but adding in minerals will get you a B+.
When collected from an inspected source that shows it’s fit for human consumption, spring water is undoubtedly the best source of water on the planet. Spring water is what all other systems are trying to copy, due to it being “alive”, mineralizing, full of oxygen, and especially hydrating (due to bioavailability). These springs will often register a pH between 7.4 and 8.5.
Getting raw spring water can definitely be a challenge though, depending on your location, so this makes it not a viable option for many people who don’t want to travel several hours or across the country to get it. To see if you have a spring near you, check out Findaspring.com.
Since pure spring water is the best source of water on the planet, it gets an A+!
Filtered water has been a thing for many decades now, but as is usually the case, not all filters are created equal. In fact, many of the most popular brands of water filters, like Brita and Culligan, have very weak performance when filtering out contaminants like aluminum, copper, arsenic, strontium, cadmium, cesium, mercury, lead, and uranium. You can get access to the water filters we tested and the results, here.
Now, when you get a filtration system that properly removes a wide variety of contaminants, and doesn’t strip out all the minerals, then you’re onto a great water filtration system. This way, you get rid of the toxic burden in your water supply, while keeping some of the mineralization intact. Since water filtration systems are widely available and can be shipped directly to your home, they make an excellent option if you don’t have access to natural spring water at the source.
Now, if you are in need of an exceptional water filtration system that outperforms ALL the others, get the Big Berkey System (no electricity required). The investment in a clean water supply that leaves minerals intact is one of the most important things you can do for your health! That’s why it gets an A!
(Natural News) A new study has revealed that big agriculture’s utilization of nitrogen can impact groundwater quality. A team of scientists from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) and the Departments of Agroecology and Environmental Science at Aarhus University were able to conclude that when farmers apply more nitrogen to lands than their crops can absorb, the amount of nitrogen in the groundwater increases, negatively impacting freshwater quality and marine life, and contributing to algae blooms in marine waters.
The study, titled: “Groundwater nitrate response to sustainable nitrogen management,” was published in Scientific Reports, a journal from the publisher of Nature, on Tuesday, September 26.
The researchers made use of isotope-based measurements in oxic Danish groundwater from a period of over 70 years (1940 to 2014) to study the nitrogen sustainability of intensive agricultural nitrogen management in accordance to groundwater conservation and economic development.
The term oxic refers to the presence of oxygen in the groundwater, which is normal in the case of groundwater containing geologic layers. Aside from the nitrate measurement, the researchers also measured the age of the groundwater at the monitoring points.
In Denmark, nitrogen surplus is gauged on a yearly basis as the difference between agricultural nitrogen inputs and outputs on a national level – meaning, it is the amount of nitrogen that is not used and is therefore in danger of being lost to the environment.
Nitrogen surplus in Danish groundwater continually rose between the years 1946 and the mid-1980s. Steps towards environmental protection have since halted this trend while economic development proliferated, showing that almost 30 years of nitrogen regulation in Danish agriculture has led to an outright decline of nitrate concentration levels in oxic groundwater.
Measures to mitigate nitrogen levels in groundwater
Nitrogen reaches groundwater through fertilizer applications, manure, septic systems, among other human and natural sources. It goes through complex chemical transformations as it passes by interfaces between groundwater and surface water, including rivers and marine areas.
The agricultural sector has been adapting to societal demands to adjust agricultural production practices. There are many measures in place all over the world to prevent agricultural processes from causing harmful effects on aquatic environments. Such regulations typically rely heavily on four factors: right time, right source, right timing, and right placement. Being mindful of one’s own nitrogen footprint can also go a long way towards practicing nitrogen-sustainable behavior, such as reducing food wastage, lessening meat intake, and recycling.
“Understanding where nitrate removal is highest can inform management of agricultural streams. This information can help us improve water quality more effectively,” said State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry graduate student Molly Welsh.
In a separate study that was published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, Welsh and her colleagues found that the factors that can positively affect nitrate removal in streams include vegetation and soil type, fine sediment textures, dissolved carbon content, bank slope and height, time of year, and organic matter.
“Our results show that it may be possible to develop simple models to guide nitrogen management. However, more work is needed in terms of gathering and evaluating data. Then we can find the best parameters to include in these models,” Welsh said.
The Territory of Nevada was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 2, 1861, until October 31, 1864, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Nevada. Prior to the creation of the Nevada Territory, the area was part of western Utah Territory and was known as Washoe, after the native Washoe people. The separation of the territory from Utah was important to the federal government because of its political leanings, while the population itself was keen to be separated because of animosity (and sometimes violence) between non-Mormons in Nevada and Mormons from the rest of the Utah Territory.
A common misconception was that the Union needed Nevada’s silver for the war effort, but as a U.S. Territory, the U.S. could take it if they so needed. Another misconception that Nevada was rushed into statehood was due to the 1864 Election, in which Abraham Lincoln needed a few more sure votes in the Electoral College to be re-elected. With Fremont dropping out of the race, Lincoln’s margin of victory over McClellan was 212 to 21 so Nevada’s two electoral votes weren’t of consideration. It was once said[who?] that Nevada was not quite populous enough to warrant statehood. However, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 allowed a state to be admitted, ““Provided, the constitution and government so to be formed, shall be republican, and in conformity to the principles contained in these articles; and, so far as it can be consistent with the general interest of the confederacy, such admission shall be allowed at an earlier period, and when there may be a less number of free inhabitants in the State than sixty thousand.” The eastern boundary of Nevada Territory had been defined as the 116th meridian, but when gold discoveries were made to the east the Nevada territorial delegation to Congress requested the boundary moved to the 115th meridian, which Congress granted in 1862. The border was shifted further east, to the 114th meridian, in 1866, in part due to the discovery of more gold deposits. These eastward shifts took land away from Utah Territory. The southern border of Nevada Territory had been defined as the 37th parallel, but in 1866 Nevada asked Congress to move the border south to the Colorado River. Congress granted the request in 1867, giving Nevada all of the western end of Arizona Territory. Arizona strongly protested, but found little sympathy in Congress due in part to Arizona having aligned with the Confederacy during the Civil War. The exact location of the due north-south California-Nevada border, between Lake Tahoe and the intersection of the southern boundary of Oregon at the 42nd parallel, was contentious and was surveyed and re-surveyed well into the 20th century. Congress transferred some of the lands west of the Colorado River including Pah-Ute County, Arizona Territory to the State of Nevada on May 5, 1866. Part of this southern tip of Nevada was established as Clark County in 1909 and contains the city of Las Vegas. The territorial capital was moved from the provisional capital of Genoa to Carson City. James Warren Nye succeeded Isaac Roop, the first provisional territorial governor, and became the only territorial governor. The secretary of the territory was Orion Clemens, (older brother of Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain), who more or less served as governor in Nye’s constant absence
Nearly one in seven Americans get their drinking water from private wells. Federal and state governments set legal limits for contaminants in public water systems, but those laws don’t cover private wells. If you’re one of the 44 million people relying on a private well for drinking water, here’s what you should know and do to make sure your water is safe.
Should I be worried about contamination in my well?
In 2009 the U.S. Geological Survey released a report based on studies of thousands of private domestic wells, finding that almost one-fourth contained contaminants – such as radioactive substances, metals or fluoride – at potentially harmful levels. Agricultural chemicals, such as fertilizer and pesticides, can also harm the groundwater that supplies most private wells. Public systems are required to treat water to lower the level of regulated contaminants, but private well owners are on their own.
Shouldn’t the government require testing of private wells?
Some states and localities require private well owners to test for arsenic or other contaminants during home construction and real estate deals. But there is no nationwide requirement for well owners to test their water. Well owners may not know their groundwater could be contaminated or how to test it. They may think it’s too expensive or just not think water contamination is anything to worry about.
A recent analysis in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives called for universal testing for drinking water contaminants in well water. Researchers said states should require testing on new homes and for real estate deals that include private wells to raise awareness and community engagement on groundwater contamination. They also called for subsidies to help lower-income communities and well owners meet the cost of testing.
What contaminants are a concern in private wells? What are the health effects?
Substances found in groundwater and surrounding mineral deposits include:
Radioactive elements such as radium or uranium. Different types of radioactive elements are associated with different health effects, but all of them increase the risk of cancer. The latest research also finds that radioactive substances may damage the nervous, immune and endocrine systems.
Metals. Arsenic, a known carcinogen, is commonly found in groundwater, particularly in the West, Midwest and Northeast. The U.S. Geological Survey found that nearly 7 percent of private wells across the country have levels of arsenic above legal limits.
Fluoride. It occurs naturally in surface water and groundwater, and many public systems also add it to tap water. In 2015, the Public Health Service recommended no more than 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. Exposure to high levels of fluoride causes tooth and bone damage in young children, and may increase risk of osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that if infant formula is mixed with water containing fluoride, the baby’s teeth might be affected by dental fluorosis, which appears as white spot markings on the teeth.
Groundwater contaminants from human sources include:
Nitrate, a fertilizer chemical, which frequently contaminates drinking water due to agricultural and urban runoff, and discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants and septic tanks. Infants and children exposed to high levels of nitrate in drinking water may not get enough oxygen in their blood. Nitrate is also linked to increased risk of cancer and harm to developing fetuses.
Toxic pesticides, which commonly migrate into groundwater in agricultural areas.
Industrial products and wastes, which can contaminate groundwater from improper disposal, leaks from underground tanks, or leaching from landfills or waste dumps. Carcinogenic volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, can pollute private water wells near industrial sites or landfills.
Lead and copper, which can leach from pipes and plumbing fixtures due to the presence of corrosive compounds such as acids in groundwater. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes. If your water has a pH value of less than 7, or has other indicators of corrosive water, metals such as copper and lead can easily leach from pipes into water. To address this problem, private well owners can install a treatment system to balance the water’s chemistry.
Microbes such as bacteria, viruses and other parasites, which can contaminate wells from both natural and human-related activities. Water contaminated with infectious microbes can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, and in more severe cases, long-term infections may follow. This particularly affects private well owners who live near large animal feeding operations. Boiling water to kill microbes offers an immediate remedy, but in the long term, the only effective solutions are finding a new source of water, building a new well, or requiring polluters to prevent runoff of manure and other contaminants.
How can I find out what contaminants are in my well?
The only way is to have it tested by a certified laboratory. This Environmental Protection Agency website will help you find a certified lab in your state. Local health departments may also have programs to test private well water.
When should I have my water tested?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend regular mechanical maintenance and testing your well every spring. Regular testing is recommended because contaminant levels can change over time. You should also test your well:
Before you use it for the first time.
If someone in your household is pregnant or nursing.
If there are known problems with well water in your area.
If your household plumbing contains lead.
If there has been flooding or other land disturbances in your area.
After you repair any part of your well system.
If you notice changes in the taste, color or odor of your water.
What should I do if contaminants are detected?
Contact your local or state health department for more information and to discuss the test results. You can also compare your results to EWG’s Drinking Water Standards, which reflect the best and most current science about health risks of contaminants, instead of government regulations that are often based on political and economic compromises or outdated studies. In-home water treatment will remove some chemicals, but different types of devices remove different pollutants.
How can I keep my well safe?
Have it tested annually. You don’t know what’s in the water if you don’t test.
Remain aware of potential sources of contamination near your well, such as livestock operations, septic tanks or fuel spills.
Practice regular maintenance of your well. Look each month for cracking, corrosion or a missing well cap. Keep records of testing and maintenance.
Hire a certified well driller for any new construction or modifications.
After a flood, have your well inspected and cleaned by a professional. Do not turn on the pump until after inspection.
In doing some research we discovered the report that is featured below with a link. Note the mines in Nye county. The mission statement of the Nye county water district is to protect and preserve the water in Nye county . You will have to copy and paste the link in your browser to bring up the report or simply type into your search engine the name of the report.
The Track Record of Environmental ImpactsResulting from Pipeline SpillsAccidental Releases and Failure to
Capture and Treat Mine Impacted Water
U.S. Gold Mines
Spills & Failures Report
(Natural News) Streams and rivers in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and other parts of the central Great Plains are drying up as farmers continue to pump groundwater to irrigate their crops, a new study found.
Though climate change often gets blamed for turning creeks into dry riverbeds, the water needed to irrigate one sixth of the world’s grain production comes from the High Plains Aquifer, also known as the Ogallala Aquifer.
Irrigation of crops accounts for 90 percent of the human global use of water. Groundwater from the High Plains Aquifer is the single greatest source of groundwater in North America and the lifeblood of Great Plains agriculture. As farmers increasingly pump more water, nearby creeks and riverbeds are vanishing at a rapid pace. As their habitat diminishes, native fish species are disappearing too.
“What we’re losing are the fishes that require habitat found only in the rivers and large streams of the region, and replacing them with those that can survive in the small streams that are left,” said Fausch, a Colorado State University (CSU) professor. “We are losing whole populations of species from rivers in that region because there’s no habitat for them.”
Since the first surveys were done in the 1940s, seven of the 16 native fish species — including small minnows, suckers, and catfish — that were once found in the Arikaree River have disappeared. Nonetheless, these fish are not among those that are currently federally endangered or threatened. Therefore, little regulatory authority is in place to preserve the habitats of these native fish.A finite resource of water that is not being recharged
The CSU researchers warned that these habitats and the fish populations will continue to shrink if pumping practices are not modified. According to Professor Fausch, about 350 miles of streams disappeared in eastern Colorado, southwest Nebraska, and northwest Kansas in a 60-year span. If nothing changes, the team’s models predicted another 180 miles could vanish by 2060.
As more water is being pumped out every year, only a small amount flows back into the aquifer from rain and snow. As reported by Science Daily, nearly as much water as what exists in Lake Erie, or about 100 trillion gallons, has been extracted from the aquifer since the 1950s and only a small amount has trickled back into the reservoir.
A grim future for the generations to come
If we don’t tackle the problem and keep pumping groundwater at this pace, farmers are not only thoughtlessly jeopardizing the streams and fish, but also the future of the next generation of farmers. Without the rivers and streams, these farmers will be unable to continue to work on the land. They will have no water for their cattle and the cottonwoods that provide shade, Fausch explained.
“They also lose the grass that grows in the riparian zone, which is critical forage for cattle in summer. Some of that’s your livelihood, but it’s also the place you go for picnics, and to hunt deer and turkeys. If you lose the river, you lose a major feature of what that landscape is,” he added.
While the future looks grim, Fausch said that there are some signs of progress. Meters are being installed on wells to ensure that farmers pump only the amount of water allowed under their permits. Furthermore, farmers are looking for ways to optimize their water usage with new technology to slow down the declining groundwater levels.
“When we lose these rivers, we will lose them for our lifetime, our children’s lifetime, and our grandchildren’s lifetime,” Fausch noted.