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  • Deanna Hu

The California Drought on Groundwater


What exactly is groundwater? Like the name suggests, groundwater is found in cracks of soil, sand and rock in the Earth, comprising almost all of the available freshwater [1]. It’s also one of human’s biggest water supplies: farmers rely on groundwater to irrigate their crops and pools rely on groundwater to fill their depths. This water we consume—that we bathe in, drink, and use for countless other purposes—is being used up in large amounts daily.


Two Tuesdays ago (March 20) was World Water Day, and its theme was “Groundwater, making the invisible visible.” All this water beneath the Earth’s surface is crucial beyond belief, yet its sources are being depleted at record rates. Take California for example, its recent drought causing California’s groundwater to be used up more quickly [2]. In California’s case, this used up groundwater may be really hard to recover naturally. According to UC Riverside research, 85% of Californians rely on groundwater as a water source, specifically private wells [3]. However due to the high volume of people using it, exacerbated by the drought, it’s changing up the ground’s density composition, resulting in land surface sinking [4].


It’s estimated that groundwater takes three years to recover without human activity hindering it. With constant movement of humans and constant dependency on its resources, researchers doubt it will ever recover. The government passed a law in efforts to preserve it: the SGMA (or Sustainable Groundwater Management Act). SGMA essentially states that sustainability agencies can control all future plans to preserve groundwater. SGMA also states that water is a shared asset and rules can be created to limit its use [5].


Water is what makes Earth so different from the rest of the planets in our solar system—it’s why life exists and humans are able to roam and learn like we do.


Water is important, but how exactly can we preserve what we have? A few ways we can proactively do our part can be regularly testing our water quality, using only the water you need (cut down on shower time, wash full loads of laundry instead of multiple small batches, etc.), and remaining aware about the state of our Earth since changes can affect the quality of groundwater, and just staying informed in general [6].


It’s a sacred natural resource, one that we should do our best to preserve. As nature works its forces, water, and clean groundwater, is what truly distinguishes planet Earth from the solar system. We should work together to save the water we have.


Sources Referenced

[1] https://reliefweb.int/report/world/united-nations-world-water-development-report-2022-groundwater-making-invisible-visible

[2] https://water.ca.gov/News/News-Releases/2021/Nov-21/CalGW-Report

[3] https://insideclimatenews.org/news/17022022/california-groundwater-law/

[4] https://news.ucr.edu/articles/2021/09/30/critical-groundwater-supplies-may-never-recover-drought

[5] ​​https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/27/california-groundwater-sgma-law-what-does-it-mean

[6] https://www.valleywater.org/sites/default/files/2018-01/Top%2010%20ways%20to%20protect%20and%20conserve%20groundwater.pdf


Cover Image: Encyclopedia Britannica