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California Depletes Groundwater as Megadrought Deepens

With Gov. Jerry Brown allocating $1 billion to water projects and ordering a mandatory 25% reduction in consumption in the midst of a four-year megadrought, California is rapidly depleting groundwater supplies that could be its sole source of water by the end of the year.

“The most alarming feature of the state’s water shortage remains hidden from view,” the Washington Post reports. “California is running low on groundwater, the vast pools of water stored in underground aquifers that took thousands of years to fill up but are now being drained to irrigate farm fields and run sink taps.”

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Water tables are dropping two feet per year in the state’s agriculture-heavy Central Valley, Frankel writes. Groundwater use already increased from under 40% in normal times to 65% of fresh water use in 2014.

“It’s more scary than people realize,” said NASA senior water scientist Jay Famiglietti. While reservoirs can be replenished by runoff and downpours, “it’s the groundwater that is the really big, important account.”

Amid a flurry of coverage of Brown’s mandatory restrictions, news reports and community critiques have pointed to agriculture and fossil fuel fracking as the two biggest draws on the state’s water resources. 350.org said [2] a moratorium on fracking would prevent the pollution of two million gallons of fresh water per day.

“California can’t spend its way out of a water crisis any more than it can frack its way out of the climate crisis,” said spokesperson Linda Caputo. “More money is as much besides the point as shorter showers, when such a huge portion of this problem comes from Sacramento’s willingness to let oil companies pour millions of gallons of fresh water down holes across our state in exchange for crude.”

ABC News, citing the Public Policy Institute of California, reported [3] that agriculture accounts for about 2% of the state’s economy but consumes 80% of its water.