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January 27, 2016

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This article suggests that data to help the California government manage state groundwater supplies may become available from geodesy:
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/californias-record-drought-making-earths-surface-rise-180952429/?no-ist

When one speaks of agriculture in California, the products are noteworthy:
Milk — $9.4 billion
Almonds — $5.9 billion
Grapes — $5.2 billion
Cattle, Calves — $3.7 billion
Strawberries — $2.5 billion
Lettuce — $2 billion
Walnuts — $1.8 billion
Tomatoes — $1.6 billion
Pistachios — $1.6 billion
Hay — $1.3 billion

Not dietary essentials. And the dairy industry is now badly troubled:
http://www.cnbc.com/2015/02/10/california-drought-states-tempt-california-dairy-farms--we-have-water.html

Thank you, Michael, it's a fascinating topic, full of surprises. The California rice industry turns out to be essential to the Pacific flyway of migratory birds:
http://www.norcalwater.org/efficient-water-management/birds-and-pacific-flyway/

Anthropocene, indeed.

Indeed, Richard - and thanks for the links. There is clearly no simple answer to a highly complex problem and California's economy (and the diet of the rest of the US) is fundamentally dependent on agriculture. The question that has to be asked, however, is around efficiency and sustainability - how can California agriculture be re-configured so as not to permanently deplete the state's resources (and export water)? And how can resource use be de-coupled from private vested interests? Not easy to answer...

Yes, geodesy helps (as do extremely clever satellite gravity measurements: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2015WR017349/full). But these measures are on a regional scale and what the state also needs are the nitty-gritty data of where wells are and how deep they are, how much water is extracted from each well, water level changes in each well and so on. A new law will require some of this - but not for several years. Groundwater extraction in California is a free-for-all and has been for decades.

Nor only California, nor only the American West:

"The data system is ridiculously primitive. . . . The vast gaps -- we start out missing 80 percent of the picture -- mean that from one side of the continent to the other, we're making decisions blindly."
The Water Data Drought, Charles Fishman, New York Times, 3/17/2016, A25
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/17/opinion/the-water-data-drought.html

Richard - thanks - this is a fascinating but damning and depressing piece. I was wondering why I could find no water data for anything more recent than 2010...

We can only hope that that the constructive idea of a "water summit" not only comes up with real plans for action but that they might be acted on (I am, however, not holding my breath).

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