By Rachel Smith, RCAC executive assistant

Friant Kern Canal, photo by Chris English.

Even with record rainfall recently in California, the ground beneath the Friant-Kern Canal continues to sink—a result of groundwater depletion from years of drought. This phenomenon, called land subsidence, is a significant problem for drought-affected areas like the San Joaquin Valley, and it has caused problems for farmers and others who rely on water from the canal for irrigation.

A Friant Water Authority (FWA) survey confirmed that since an initial survey in April 2017, the most impacted areas of the water canal had dropped more than three feet.

Unfortunately, returning the canal to its full capacity will likely take years and require significant funding.

The short-term solution involves minor repairs and structural enhancements, and will likely be funded by the water users in the area. The FWA hopes to apply for financial assistance from the Bureau of Reclamation to support interim solutions.

Long-term, the canal lining along the entire subsidence area will have to be raised, and funding for such a project is unknown.

Doug DeFlitch, chief operating officer for FWA, hopes that a water bond on the 2018 ballot will provide the necessary financing needed for the project.

“Groundwater overdraft is part of a larger problem in the San Joaquin Valley, and we’re out of balance,” DeFlitch told The Porterville Reporter on December 2. “There’s a lot of things that we need to do in the long term to help with that overdraft. There’s only so much that’s available, but we’ve got to start thinking about it on a region-wide basis.”