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California’s Water-Industrial Pumping Patterns Are Increasing

California’s Water-Industrial Pumping Patterns Are Increasing

From the air, scientists map ‘fast paths’ for recharging California’s groundwater aquifers

California is getting more from the aquifers beneath its streets and highways than it is getting from the underground water table.

In recent years, more than 10,000 homes and businesses have been pumped by water-intensive industries like agriculture, manufacturing and mining, and then, less than a year later, by the state’s water-drought-induced demand for more water. As a result, most of California’s once-great aquifers, which store much of the state’s drinking water, have been degraded. And as these aquifers have degraded, groundwater levels elsewhere in California have risen.

Now, a new NASA-funded study looks at the water-intensive industries that have been pumping California’s groundwater, and finds that some of these companies are pumping far faster than scientists previously thought.

The findings, published in the September edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, offer fresh clues regarding what’s driving California’s water woes. But they also underscore the perils of being too reliant on groundwater.

Water problems:

• According to the U.S. Geological Survey, only 20 percent of California’s water supply comes from the groundwater in its aquifers.

• California was running short of water in 2015.

• Water levels in San Francisco Bay have dropped by as much as 30 feet over the past two decades.

• The biggest water-related issue facing California is the state’s drought.

• California’s water shortages are largely the result of using more water than it can produce.

Scientists analyzed the pumping patterns of 18 water-intensive industrial companies and identified the companies responsible for the highest concentrations of groundwater pumping. As a result, they were able to predict what levels California will see in the weeks and months ahead by how quickly a company is depleting its aquifer, and by how fast the aquifers’ depletion rate is increasing.

This information can help planners in the form of new water-saving technology that uses water more efficiently. As a result, new groundwater-saving projects are beginning to show results.

For instance, in some

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