From: Jessica Wolf via University of California - Los Angeles
Published May 18, 2017 12:49 PM

UCLA-led researchers track groundwater loss during drought in California's Central Valley

A new study by researchers from UCLA and the University of Houston reveals significant groundwater loss in California’s Central Valley during the recent drought and sparks questions of sustainability for the important agricultural area.

Researchers tracked net groundwater consumption in the Central Valley from 2002 to 2016, which included two droughts, one from 2007 to 2009 and the more severe drought from 2012 to 2016. California’s Central Valley is more than 18,000 square miles from the coast to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is one of the largest agricultural hubs in the United States, providing more than half of the U.S. fruit, vegetable and nut crops.

During the two drought periods, a total of 16.5 cubic kilometers and 40 cubic kilometers of water were lost, respectively, according to the study published in Geophysical Research Letters. The more recent drought accounted for more than 10 cubic kilometers of water lost per year. Researchers attributed this to reduced precipitation and snow melt, a change in the type of crops being cultivated and hotter temperatures.

“For perspective, the amount of material associated with the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was about one cubic kilometer,” said Dennis Lettenmaier, UCLA professor of geography who led the study. “So, we’re talking about 40 times that amount in the recent drought.”

Continue reading at University of California - Los Angeles

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