California Has 3 Times Amount of Groundwater Than Thought

That is what is being reported by the Mercury News, but getting to it could be expensive.

An excerpt.

There’s a vast amount of untapped water in California, but whether it can make any difference for the drought-stricken state remains unclear.

A new Stanford study indicates California’s groundwater supply is three times greater than previous estimates and could represent a potential “water windfall,” its authors say.

“There’s far more fresh water and usable water than we expected,” said Robert Jackson, co-author of the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Stanford findings come as California endures a fifth year of record-breaking drought. The study contains the most detailed picture yet of the vast aquifers that exist under California, estimating that 2,700 cubic kilometers of fresh groundwater lie beneath the Central Valley — nearly triple previous estimates.

However, water experts not involved in the Stanford study say the newly discovered supply may be too deep and too difficult to recover.

“Almost all of our current wells are 500 meters or less,” said Jay Lund, director at the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC Davis. “So whether the freshwater goes down 2,000 or 3,000 meters, it doesn’t matter much.”

Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, was even more blunt.

“The authors have not ‘discovered’ more freshwater,” said Famiglietti, a UC Irvine professor. “They have simply included huge volumes of waters of very low, nonpotable quality in their estimates.”

Using a public database of California’s oil and gas wells to map the aquifers, Jackson and Mary Kang at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences were able to examine underground water at levels more than five times deeper than had previously been studied.

Jackson and Kang reviewed water reservoirs more than a mile below the ground surface to find aquifers previously excluded from estimates of California’s groundwater supply.

The researchers analyzed data from a public wells database maintained by the California Department of Conservation. “We used oil and gas records because the energy industry is the only industry that regularly drills deep into the Earth,” said Jackson.

The findings elicited mixed responses from experts in the field, with some expressing concerns about the economic and environmental feasibility of pumping the water.

“This is not cheap water,” said Thomas Harter, a professor of water resources management and policy at UC Davis. “To be used as drinking water, it would have to be treated,” he said. “And for a farmer, the drilling cost (to access the water) is very expensive.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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