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.
TULARE, Calif. â€” For the third year in a row, Mark Watte plans to rely on the aquifer beneath his family farm for three-quarters of the water he needs to keep his cotton, corn and alfalfa growing, his young pistachio trees healthy and his 900 dairy cows cool.
That is 50 percent more than he used to take, because the water that once flowed to the farm from snow in the Sierra Nevada has been reduced by a long dry spell and diversions to benefit endangered fish.
Since 2006 the surface of the aquifer, in the Kaweah subbasin of the San Joaquin basin, has dropped 50 feet as farmers pumped deeper, Mr. Watte says. Some of his pumps no longer reach far enough to bring any water to the surface.