Pumping California Dry

Water shortages and environmentally-based restrictions are leaving Central California's agricultural lands dry. As a result, farmers are increasingly tapping into groundwater sources. Many are calling on the state to monitor the use of its aquifers.
May 16, 2009, 5am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Although California has been a pathbreaker in some environmental arenas, like embracing renewable energy and recycling, groundwater rights remain sacrosanct. But the state government is facing growing pressure to embrace regulation."

"Recent scientific studies indicate that in the long term, climate change is diminishing the potential for the Sierra snowpack to generate enough runoff. Aquifers are thus a crucial insurance policy for water users."

"Critics argue that refusing to monitor and regulate groundwater could prove catastrophic to the state's real estate sector and its $36 billion agricultural economy."

"But even Mr. Schwarzenegger is heeding the growing drumbeat on groundwater. Issuing an emergency drought declaration in February, he asked local governments and water districts for the first time to supply the state with data on groundwater supplies."

"Compliance so far has been spotty, said Mark Cowin, deputy director of the state's Department of Water Resources. 'In a lot of cases,' Mr. Cowin said, 'it's simply a matter of the information not existing.'"

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Published on Thursday, May 14, 2009 in The New York Times
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