Recent reports about a weak El Niño, shrinking groundwater supplies in the Colorado River Basin and dwindling reservoir supplies in California point to another year, or more, of drought.
A recent report from NASA and UC Irvine researchers shows if current drought conditions persist, there's a possibility groundwater storage could be completely depleted in the Colorado River basin. The basin supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states, including California.
As streams and reservoirs have run low or dry during the drought, groundwater is increasingly tapped.
“The management of the groundwater reserves, the strategic reserves, will be critical for maintaining that resilience to these lean times with respect to water,” said Jay Famiglietti, Senior Water Scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
He said managing groundwater supply is even more critical with the on-going drought.
“We need to be keeping a more careful eye on our groundwater supply because when it's not raining and we don't have any snow melt, then that's our go-to,” said Famiglietti. “So we need to take care of it so that we have some to get through this drought and the next drought and the drought after that.”
Famiglietti said satellite data shows the severity of what is happening to the groundwater supply in the Colorado River basin.
“Once people understand the true situation that's happening on the ground, the need for better oversight becomes very clear,” said Famiglietti. “And that's one of the things that the satellite perspective can offer, is this regional view that shows that the situation is in pretty bad shape.”
Famiglietti said the groundwater supply now being used will likely not be replenished.
A recent UC Davis report suggested that an integrated, statewide groundwater management program was needed in California. Famiglietti said a cross-border or regional approach should be considered in managing western U.S. water resources.