Farm Press Blog

California's regulated drought impacts aquifers

  • California will likely see many more wells go dry because of failed and ill-designed water policy that places environmental needs above those of humans.


Congratulations to the environmental community and the elected and appointed officials you’ve bought and paid for over the years. Human beings in California now have no running water while the fish you worship do.

Feel better now?

The Fresno Bee reports on an elderly couple living near Porterville, Calif. who recently lost their 20th Century access to running water and must now carry water into their home like they do in third world countries.

This is not only sad, it’s extremely embarrassing. How can a state that prides itself on building and exploiting the technology that brought us the personal computer, smart phones and the computer software that runs the world force human beings to go without running water in their own homes?

As climatically unprecedented in modern times that our current drought is, one fact remains: the cause of this drought is more regulatory than it is a natural phenomenon. This is exactly what we get when we view a subservient nature in higher esteem than the humans it’s meant to serve.

California, once the envy of the world for its ability to convey water across the ground through ditches and canals to places where it was needed – think William Mulholland and the state-of-the-art gravity-flow system he constructed more than 100 years ago in eastern California – is quickly succumbing to third-world status because of policies and the inability of elected leaders to do the right thing for the people they allegedly serve.

Instead, we’ve become servants of the leaders and they decide by fiat what’s best for us. Apparently, those decisions include having others bring us water in garbage cans and buckets so we can flush our toilets and wash our dishes while we drink water “bottled at the source” from underground aquifers elsewhere in the state.

The reason residents are left with no running water in their homes is appalling. Why is it acceptable to allow residents to go without running water while we feign offense at the notion that fish can somehow swim and relocate themselves when conditions reduce stream flows? What did those fish do during all those years they didn’t benefit from regulated stream flows because of man-made structures?

The grand irony in this current debacle is the notion that groundwater resources must now be managed by the same government that regulated us into the situation of over drafting our underground aquifers.

Had we been able to build the additional surface storage needed to meet agricultural needs, urban uses and river flows, and had we not placed fish and wildlife on a higher pedestal than humans, where humans once had first dibs on surface water resources, perhaps we wouldn’t be looking at the very real likelihood that what just happened to one Porterville couple will soon happen all over California as more wells run dry and groundwater resources dwindle to dangerous levels.


Follow me on Twitter @ToddFitchette email me at

Discuss this Blog Entry 10

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 8, 2014

Mentally challenged or a charlatan. I feel sorry for Farm Press as this opinion piece demeans and undermines their many important and useful articles.

Tom in CA (not verified)
on May 9, 2014

Todd, you must not come from a farm background. Good Farmers/Ranchers/Fishers know that you have to look out for the entire growing environment to be successful long-term.
Greedy people think they can make more Money by exploiting one aspect of the growing environment, but they create short-term Profit by creating long-term Problems.
As much of the Problem with what over-committed water CA has is those entities around the Central Valley and Big Cities who have fought any solution offered for decades now. So, we all are now 30-40 years behind in solving OUR Water Problem.

on May 9, 2014

Congratulations to the Big Timber here in northern California. Their stranglehold on politics has continued unabated. Thanks to both a dedication to and a fear of the politically powerful industry residents in upper Elk River living below Humboldt Redwood Company get to suffer ever increasing property damage and threats to their health and safety. Flooding from logging first declared by the State in 1997 continues to this day.The State's answer is just "better logging." Better logging on top of too much bad logging never repaired the harm done by the excessive bad logging. And too much good logging makes all the effects of bad logging worse. The residents get to pay the real price of environmental harm from logging: excessive scary flood water threatening their health and safety, homes, water and property. So the rub runs both ways. In upper Elk River the State promotes a politically powerful industry's privilege to pollute before protecting politically and economically weak residents' rights. This has been allowed to go on for 17 years and it is downright scary when facing the increasing possibility of a rainy winter.

on May 9, 2014

It seems the last paragraph argues FOR groundwater regulation to keep wells from drying up. But, more surface storage would certainly help the problem.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 9, 2014

Good article, I do not understand who benefit from the fishes, may be those environmentalist stop eating fish.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 10, 2014

Yes regulation. Regulation on ground well water? My neighbor is running his well almost all day every other day. To feed his race horses. So the aquifer under ground will be going dry soon? For a California chrome wanna be. Regulation ?

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 10, 2014

What happened 100 years ago, before California's vast array of reservoirs, when the was little snowfall for spring, summer, fall melt runoff.

on May 13, 2014

Todd, your regurgitated ignorance is pretty infuriating at this point. This isn't about the Delta Smelt. Let me educate you since you have not bothered to educate yourself: The Delta Smelt are an INDICATOR SPECIES (use your Goggle & look it up). Indicator species are used by scientists to assess the health of the ecosystem in which they belong, they are a reflection of one another. So, if populations of Delta Smelt are healthy and thriving it is a very good INDICATOR that the Bay/Delta ecosystem is healthy and thriving. The reality we are living with is that as more and more water is pumped from the Delta (to do the shortsighted thing of growing water intensive crops IN THE MIDDLE OF A DESERT) more and more salt water is being drawn into the Delta and the flow of the many streams and rivers stagnate causing toxins to build up within the system. We are literally choking the Bay/Delta to death and this is reflected in crashing Smelt populations. Southern farmers are not entitled to destroying an entire ecosystem because they refuse to adapt to the times we are living in. Also, if those tunnels get built, Ag won't get that water. Oil and gas will, and they will proceed to frack the valley from Bakersfield to Merced, contaminating whatever is left of our groundwater and basically crippling agriculture in California in a way us horrible environmentalists just never could manage. I think it is SO sad that you all are advocating for something that is going to wipe out your industry a lot faster than the Delta Smelt are. Pfft.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 13, 2014
Rogene Reynolds (not verified)
on May 14, 2014

Fact: There are FARMERS in the Delta who depend on fresh water for their crops about 500,000 acres of us! Surprise! We can't farm with the salt water left behind when the pumps pull our rivers backward. This is not about fish - it's about water moving water from one economic region to another. I am very sorry about the personal wells going dry. We are in a drought. But water left in Delta channels is not just for fish - it is for in-Delta needs, including individual homes and Delta communities. I invite the writer to come to the Delta and learn the facts. Just email me: We can meet with some Delta farmers and get their viewpoints. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Rogene Reynolds, South Delta

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