California enacted a groundwater law 7 years ago. But wells are still drying up — and the threat is spreading
As drought worsens, there are few, if any, protections in place for California’s depleted groundwater. The new law gave local agencies at least 26 years — until 2040 — to stop the impacts of over-pumping. During the height of the state’s last drought, thousands of Californians in the Central Valley ran out of water as their wells went dry. So much water was pumped from underground, mostly by growers, that the earth collapsed, sinking up to two feet per year in parts of the San Joaquin Valley. Alarmed, the California Legislature in 2014 enacted a package of new laws that aimed to stop the over-pumping. But seven years later, little has changed for Californians relying on drinking water wells: Depletion of their groundwater continues. Pumping is largely unrestricted, and there are few, if any, protections in place.