California groundwater

February 14, 2016

In response to California’s enduring drought and groundwater management crisis, cofounder Nick Brozović had a few words.

 

To the Editor:

Re “Watering California’s Farms” (editorial, April 5):

California is a leading innovator across sectors as diverse as high tech and entertainment. But when it comes to groundwater, the state is so far behind that it doesn’t need to innovate; it needs to look at what others, around the world, are doing.

Widespread groundwater metering occurs across the High Plains region, including parts of Nebraska where pumping restrictions for farmers began more than 30 years ago. In Australia, real-time metering is increasingly common. In China, debit card systems manage communal wells and limit farm water use. Oman is experimenting with a voluntary smart-meter system for farmers.

Technological and organizational solutions for long-term groundwater stewardship already exist. An effective response to California’s groundwater crisis is to seek help from people experienced in agricultural groundwater governance, including farmers and water managers. Otherwise, by 2040 the groundwater will be completely depleted in many of California’s agricultural communities before the state imposes any meaningful restrictions.

Once this happens, the groundwater won’t recover on a human time scale, and those communities will be left looking very different: There may be no agriculture there at all. While this is a sustainable outcome in that it can continue indefinitely, it’s a very bad outcome that no one wants.

NICK BROZOVIĆ

Source: New York Times (Apr. 17, 2015).