Satellites show 'total' California water storage at near-decade low

Feb 03, 2014
This image shows umulative groundwater losses (cubic km and million acre-ft) in California's Central Valley since 1962. The red line shows data from USGS calibrated groundwater model simulations from 1962-2003. The green line shows satellite-based estimates of groundwater storage losses produced by the UCCHM at UC Irvine. Background colors represent periods of drought (white), of variable to dry conditions (grey), of variable to wet conditions (light blue) and wet conditions (blue). Groundwater depletion mostly occurs during drought; and progressive droughts are lowering groundwater storage to unsustainable levels. After Figure B9 from USGS Professional Paper 1766. USGS data courtesy of Claudia Faunt. Satellite data courtesy of NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Credit: UCCHM, after Figure B9 from Faunt, 2009. USGS data courtesy of Claudia Faunt.

Updates to satellite data show that California's Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins are at near decade-low water storage levels. These and other findings on the State's dwindling water resources were documented in an advisory report released today from the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling (UCCHM) at the University of California, Irvine.

Responding to Governor Jerry Brown's recent declaration of a drought emergency in California, a team of UCCHM researchers has updated its research on the state's two largest river basins, and the source of most its water. The region also encompasses the Central Valley, the most productive agriculture region in the country. The Central Valley depends entirely on the surface and resources within the river basins to meet its irrigation needs and to produce food for the nation.

Using satellite data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, the researchers, led by UCCHM Director and UC Irvine Professor Jay Famiglietti, found that as of November 2013, total water storage in the river basins—the combination of all of the snow, surface water, soil moisture and groundwater, and an integrated measure of basin-wide water availability—had declined to its lowest point in nearly a decade. GRACE data for the record- dry 2013-2014 winter months were not yet available for analysis.

The data show particularly steep water losses between November 2011 and November 2013, the early phase of the current drought. Famiglietti and fellow UCCHM researchers estimate that the basins have already lost 10 cubic kilometers of fresh water in each of the last two years—equivalent to virtually all of California's urban and household water use each year. "That's the steepest decline in total water storage that we've seen in California since the GRACE mission was launched in 2002," Famiglietti said.

The researchers noted that snowpack, surface water and soil moisture storage in the were all at their lowest points in nearly a decade, illustrating a growing threat to in the Central Valley, and highlighting the urgent need to manage them sustainably. Groundwater is typically viewed as a strategic reserve that supplements sparse supplies in times of drought.

By combining their satellite-based estimates of 10 years (October 2003 – November 2013) of Central Valley groundwater storage changes with long-term estimates of groundwater losses from the U. S. Geological Survey, the researchers noted that steep declines in groundwaterstorage are typical during droughts, when Central Valley farmers are forced to rely more heavily on groundwater to meet irrigation demands.

The advisory report underscores that the rates of declining groundwater storage during drought almost always outstrip rates of groundwater replenishment during wet periods, and raises fears about the impact of long-term groundwater depletion on sustaining a reliable water supply in the current, record-setting drought. The team's previous 2011 study estimated that the Central Valley lost 20 cubic kilometers of groundwater during the 2006-2010 drought.

Historically, drought conditions and in the Central Valley are responsible for widespread land subsidence, reductions in planted acreage, higher food costs and ecological damage.

Famiglietti notes that if the continues "Central Valley groundwater levels will fall to all- time lows." Stephanie Castle, a UCCHM researcher who contributed to the report, believes that groundwater supplies should be more actively managed. Castle states that "the path of groundwater use that we are on threatens the sustainability of future water supplies for all Californians." She noted that several communities within the state are on track to run out of water within the next few months.

Explore further: World's groundwater increasingly at risk

More information: View/download the full report here: www.ucchm.org/publications

Provided by UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling

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holoman
1.4 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2014
Let me understand this correctly.

We can build an oil pipeline with all the devasting environmental effects from Canada to Texas.

But we can't build a fresh water pipeline from the Great Lakes to
California ????

I guess oil is more valuble then food, people, and animals, NOT !

The US gov. working with CA. must get help to the Ca. people and soon.
tadchem
2 / 5 (4) Feb 03, 2014
Let me understand this correctly.

We can build an oil pipeline with all the devasting environmental effects from Canada to Texas.

But we can't build a fresh water pipeline from the Great Lakes to
California ????

I guess oil is more valuble then food, people, and animals, NOT !

The US gov. working with CA. must get help to the Ca. people and soon.


What 'devastating environmental effects' are you talking about? There are 210 pipeline systems with more than 305,000 miles of pipeline (enough to run coast-to-coast over 100 times!) in the lower 48 states, for natural gas alone.

Canada to Texas is downhill, all the way (in more ways than one). Follow the Mississippi River.

If you want the government to support building a water pipeline to CA, make the water taxable and the pipeline non-commercial. Then watch the price of your fresh water.
shavera
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 03, 2014
Eh, pipelines aside, a lot of the world has already been dealing with lack of freshwater availability. We need a bigger better solution to the problem than just pumping a reasonably scarce resource from one area to another. Better desalination technology, etc. Or maybe just trying to get a handle on the climate change that's likely to just keep bringing droughts like this one to more regions more often.
VENDItardE
1 / 5 (1) Feb 03, 2014
move your a$$es out of the desert that is California(in more ways than one) and stop growing fruits(in more ways than one)
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2014
But we can't build a fresh water pipeline from the Great Lakes to California ????
Uh no because

1) "Most Americans don't realize this, but earlier this year water levels in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan were at their lowest levels ever recorded."
2) "Obama is allowing water from the Great Lakes to be drained, bottled and shipped to China and other countries around the globe."
http://www.infowa...-crisis/

-and 3) the rocky mountains.

The only long-term cures for CA is massive desalination using an as-yet undiscovered energy source, or massive depopulation.
kochevnik
not rated yet Feb 03, 2014
The only long-term cures for CA is massive desalination using an as-yet undiscovered energy source, or massive depopulation.
Building new skyscrapers on Hollywood faultlines should effect the latter option
alfie_null
not rated yet Feb 04, 2014
The US gov. working with CA. must get help to the Ca. people and soon.

Meh. The Joads will move back to Oklahoma. The cost of certain crops will rise. Farmers will figure out more efficient techniques. Etc.

After a generation or so, the world will have forgotten about it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2014
The US gov. working with CA. must get help to the Ca. people and soon.

Meh. The Joads will move back to Oklahoma. The cost of certain crops will rise. Farmers will figure out more efficient techniques. Etc.

After a generation or so, the world will have forgotten about it.
-And the coast will resemble Abu Dhabi / Dubai.