To plan, we need a working definition of what sustainable groundwater use is. Basically, we should use the water that we have without causing unacceptable consequences to the groundwater supply.
If you travel in the west side of the valley, you’ve seen the significant expansion of industrial agriculture into areas with no surface water. Hundreds of acres of perennial crops, particularly almond orchards, are appearing. These baby orchards are entirely dependent on groundwater, and they get thirstier as they grow. To establish a new orchard using groundwater as the only irrigation source in a basin that is already in decline is preempting sustainability planning, and it’s insane that Tehama County approves such well permits.
What are unacceptable consequences for groundwater sustainability?
It is unacceptable to have domestic wells lose water due to groundwater decline from industrial pumping.
It is unacceptable to deplete the groundwater such that we lose what oaks remain. Nature needs more water than it’s getting now. A sustainable plan would restore water for the ecosystem.
It is unacceptable to create losing streams. A sustainable management plan should restore flows in creeks.
It is acceptable to not allow new industrial scale ag wells in the west side for water intensive perennial crops like almonds. Banning that kind of well is a relatively simple and inexpensive step towards managing groundwater that Tehama County can take now, so that people can continue living here. Who wants to be displaced because of almonds?
The groundwater system will certainly not recover with additional wounds.
What is sustainable water use? was published in the Corning Appeal-Democrat newspaper on June 24, 2021.
The letter was published in the Red Bluff Daily News under the title What is sustainable groundwater use? on June 25, 2021.
Robin Huffman resides in Tehama County, since relocating from Paradise, California after losing her home to the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018.