California’s agriculture industry is relying too heavily on groundwater to irrigate drought-stricken farmlands — a trend that will not be sustainable long-term, according to a study by the University of California, Davis.

The drought, which is the third most severe on record, is responsible for the greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture, with river water for Central Valley farms reduced by roughly one-third, the study found. Groundwater pumping will likely replace most river water losses, and some areas have more than doubled their pumping rate over the previous year.

If the drought continues for two more years, the report says, groundwater reserves will continue to be depleted to replace surface water losses and pumping ability will slowly decrease, which could affect crop production.

So far in the current drought, 428,000 acres of cropland — roughly 5 percent — has been made fallow across the Central Valley, Central Coast, and Southern California. The state produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables and nearly a quarter of the nation’s milk and cream.


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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.


  1. Steve Hargis on

    Hi, what is so often overlooked, in all of these scenarios, is the FACT we must learn how to ‘Do More with Less’. “All” developed nations entrepreneurs, engineers, & industry leaders utilize the “OVER-Engineered” solutions formate.
    I have been volunteering with a new 501 C-3 organization in Oklahoma. NAYBSEC utilizes simple but highly effective, LOGICAL, approach to solving major World problems, NOW! They follow the ways of addressing todays critical issues with a similar approach perfected by Native American & other Indigenous cultures many centuries ago. The technologies to “SOLVE” many of today problems are already created & proven. The trick is incubating many of the smaller companies to effectively get these technologies into the hands that will make the most use from their implementation. Lets all strive to do More with LESS!! We are all in this together so lets WORK together. Thank you, SH

  2. we have to plant afrestation and certain plants which increase ground waters and bring rain, also bar 2 years of agri activities to until ground water and rivers reach crail level