Water—it’s a big topic for small town talk all around central California. Madera, some 30 miles west of the state’s geographic center, is a hot and arid farming community in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. At a run-down neighborhood convenience store situated at the corner of two dusty farm roads surrounded by modest homes and lush crops, after-work chit chat inevitably turns to water.
I was waiting for Javan to discuss perhaps the most important and worrisome aspect of the groundwater crisis in California, but she didn’t. In the August issue of Scientific American there was a similar but more in-depth discussion of the California drought and the subsequent depletion of groundwater. As explained by a USGS geologist (Michelle Snead) specializing in ground subsidence, though most productive wells are drilled to a strata of sand and/or gravel, most of the groundwater is stored in overlying clay strata that slowly gives up its water to the strata below through gravity and the hydraulic pressure of recharge from above.
With the lack of recharge from above due to the drought and the subsequent over-pumping of the strata below to make up for the deficit, the clay layers storing the water are drying out and the clay particles, instead of being jumbled in an unorganized mass become “stacked”, causing the clay layer to collapse, which is what is the direct cause of the ground subsidence. The most alarming part about this chain of events is not the subsidence or the immediate depletion of the groundwater, but the fact that “Once subterranean clay collapses it can no longer store water. So California’s pump-frenzied farmers are not only depleting the aquifer on which they depend, they are also destroying it.”
edit: It should be noted that the clay and subsidence particularly discussed in that SA passage referred to the Central Valley and Javan’s piece concerned the San Joaquin Valley: all clays have their own particular characteristics resulting in part from the source rock from which the were eroded and transported and were eventually deposited.
One other catastrophe in the making is the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, its thousands of years of water lowered by over 150 feet in man’s short tenure, and also threatened by the Keystone XL pipeline fossil fuel scam/ripoff. Industrial-scale chemical farming methods are unsustainable even given normal weather/rain/snow precipitation, much less man-made climate change, and recharge of aquifers in most places. Corporate “managers” are concerned only with short-term profits, not sustainability - no way to run a ship.
The underlying message here , that being water should not be privately owned and belongs to the commons which INCLUDES plant and animal species besides man , applies to all forms of private property.
Commodifying nature where it becomes little more than an asset off whch an individual profits via privatization is a root cause of environmental destruction.
When those Corporatists and advocates of the so called "free market " system speak of “freedom and liberty” there are in essence insisting on their right to DESTROY nature for the sake of profits.