No Creek To Be Up


Richard (Rick) Mills

Ahead of the Herd

Page 2 of 3



California saw an estimated $2.2 billion in agricultural losses and the elimination of 17,000 farming jobs in 2014. California is responsible for nearly half of all fruits, vegetables and nuts produced in the U.S.


In 2014, California had its warmest year on record, and it just had its warmest winter on record - high in the Sierra Nevada’s California’s snowpack is at a 25 year low.


A Stanford University report says that nearly 60 percent of the state's water needs are now met by groundwater. That’s up from 40 percent in years when normal amounts of rain and snow fall.


In many areas wells that use to draw water from 500 feet are now being drilled to 1,000 feet and more, costing upwards of $300,000 for one well.


“California's Central Valley isn't the only place in the U.S. where groundwater supplies are declining. Aquifers in the Colorado River Basin and the southern Great Plains also suffer severe depletion. Studies show that about half the groundwater depletion nationwide is from irrigation. Agriculture is the leading use of water in the U.S. and around the world, and globally irrigated farming takes more than 60 percent of the available freshwater.


Lake Mead ‘Bathtub Rings’ Show Lake Level Decline


The Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to 40 million people in seven states, is losing water at dramatic rates, and most of the losses are groundwater. A new satellite study from the University of California, Irvine and NASA indicates that the Colorado River Basin lost 65 cubic kilometers (15.6 cubic miles) of water from 2004 to 2013. That is twice the amount stored in Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., which can hold two years' worth of Colorado River runoff. As Jay Famiglietti, a NASA scientist and study co-author wrote here, groundwater made up 75 percent of the water lost in the basin.


Farther east, the Ogallala Aquifer under the High Plains is also shrinking because of too much demand. When the Dust Bowl overtook the Great Plains in the 1930s, the Ogallala had been discovered only recently, and for the most part it wasn't tapped then to help ease the drought. But large-scale center-pivot irrigation transformed crop production on the plains after World War II, allowing water-thirsty crops like corn and alfalfa for feeding livestock.


But severe drought threatens the southern plains again, and water is being unsustainably drawn from the southern Ogallala Aquifer. The northern Ogallala, found near the surface in Nebraska, is replenished by surface runoff from rivers originating in the Rockies. But farther south in Texas and New Mexico, water lies hundreds of feet below the surface, and does not recharge. Sandra Postel wrote here last month that the Ogallala Aquifer water level in the Texas Panhandle has dropped by up to 15 feet in the past decade, with more than three-quarters of that loss having come during the drought of the past five years. A recent Kansas State University study said that if farmers in Kansas keep irrigating at present rates, 69 percent of the Ogallala Aquifer will be gone in 50 years.


This coincides with a nationwide trend of groundwater declines. A 2013 study of 40 aquifers across the United States by the U.S. Geological Survey reports that the rate of groundwater depletion has increased dramatically since 2000, with almost 25 cubic kilometers (six cubic miles) of water per year being pumped from the ground. This compares to about 9.2 cubic kilometers (1.48 cubic miles) average withdrawal per year from 1900 to 2008.Dennis Dimick,‘If You Think the Water Crisis Can't Get Worse, Wait Until the Aquifers Are Drained,’ National Geographic


Drought Forecast to continue


Drought pressures will increase in California and western areas of the United States this spring even as the dry season begins, the government's Climate Prediction Center said Thursday.


"Periods of record warmth in the West and not enough precipitation during the rainy season cut short drought relief in California this winter, and prospects for above-average temperatures this spring may make the situation worse,'' Jon Gottschalck, chief of the Operational Prediction Branch at the Climate Prediction Center, said in issuing its spring outlook…


The western United States is expected to see the multi-year drought continue and intensify in 2015 and extend into the northern Plains, the outlook said. Drought is forecast to persist in California, Nevada and Oregon through June, with the onset of the dry season in April.


"I see nothing that would indicate much improvement, if any improvement, in the overall situation for field crops for 2015,'' said Brad Rippey, meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, noting he expected to see a significant drop in field crops again this year in California.


"Drought is also forecast to develop in remaining areas of Oregon and western Washington. Drought is also likely to continue in parts of the southern Plains,'' NOAA said.


Drought also is likely in the northern Plains, upper Mississippi Valley and western Great Lakes… Above-average temperatures are favored this spring across the Far West, northern Rockies, and northern Plains eastward to include parts of the western Great Lakes, and for all of Alaska.” Reuters, Climate Center Sees Drought Getting Worse in Western US, Voice of America


Canadian Water Diversion


Canada has a lot of fresh water – 35,500,000 Canadians own seven percent of the world’s renewable supply. We’ve been blessed with an abundance of the world’s most important resource. It’s a resource we’re going to eventually have to share with our southern neighbor.


There have been numerous proposals about transferring large amounts of freshwater from Canada to the United States. Following are breakdowns on three of the most ambitious plans conceived to date.


The Great Recycling and Northern Development (GRAND) Canal of North America (GCNA) was designed by Newfoundland engineer Thomas Kierans to alleviate North America’s freshwater shortage problems.


The GNAC would collect fresh water run-off into James Bay by means of a series of outflow-only, sea level dikes-constructed across the northern end of James Bay. These dikes would capture the fresh water before it mixes with the salty water of Hudson Bay and create a new source of fresh water equivalent to 2.5 times the flow over Niagara Falls.






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