Water infrastructures, including crucial canals, are being damaged in California’s San Joaquin Valley due to excessive underground water pumping. In some areas, land is dropping nearly one foot a year and is reducing the flow of water in two lifeline canals. In addition, pipelines, railways, and roads are being adversely affected.
Drought has limited the amount water available via canals, which bring water from the Sacramento Delta, so farmers have increased underwater pumping. Clearly, this is not sustainable.
The Los Angeles Daily News questions “ancient and unfair” water laws under which urban areas pay much more for water than argicultural areas like the San Joaquin and Imperial Valley.
Farming accounts for more than 80 percent of the state’s water usage, while providing less than 5 percent of its gross domestic product. That economic reality drives wasteful and even unsustainable agricultural practices, like flooding fields for rice cultivation in a state whose urban population constantly is hectored about water conservation.
The grandfathered-in water rights are protected by lawyered-up wealthy inheritors of land that don’t necessarily serve the entire state well.