By Elizabeth Zach, RCAC staff writer
California’s largest agricultural region, the San Joaquin Valley, is facing numerous challenges to its groundwater supply, including overdraft and contamination, according to a new study that explores threats to overall sustainability in the region.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires local water users to increase groundwater levels by the early 2040s. In the San Joaquin Valley, this could translate into farmland laying permanently idle, which would impact the state’s economy.
But while the authors of the study “Water and the Future of the San Joaquin Valley,” cite these challenges, they also recommend increasing ground water supply, and hint at opportunities that can come about if water scarcity is addressed.
“Effectively addressing water scarcity and the resulting land use changes in the San Joaquin Valley offers opportunities to put lands coming out of production to good use—and gain ’more pop per drop‘ from limited water resources,” the authors write. “Multiple-benefit approaches to water and land management can enhance groundwater recharge and improve air and water quality. They can also promote healthier soils, new recreational opportunities, additional flood protection, improved habitat, and new revenue streams for private landowners engaging in conservation-oriented management.”