Kristine Lofgren

The Latest Drilling Boom in California is All About Water

by , 04/16/14

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The latest drilling boom to hit California isn’t the kind you’d expect: Farmers all over the state are so desperate for water in the midst of a year-long drought that some well drilling companies are booked up to a year in advance. Some farmers have even taken drastic measures to get the water they need for their crops by purchasing $1 million drilling rigs.

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The federal government announced earlier this year that California’s snowpack is well below the yearly average, which means that farmers won’t be getting much, if any, water from canals and reservoirs. Unreliable rain patterns have left farmers with just one option: drilling hundreds of feet underground to reach water supplies there. Since California is the nation’s most productive agricultural region, if farmers don’t get the water they need, the entire nation will suffer.

Related: California Farmers Won’t Get Water from the State This Year

One farmer, Bob Smittcamp of Wawona Packing Co. in Chowchilla, told interviewers that he has put $150,000 down as a deposit on a drilling rig, with a full cost of $1 million due once it is delivered. It’s worth it for him to invest in a rig because he spends $4,000 an acre on each of his thousands of acres tending his crops before harvest. He stands to lose that investment if he cannot water his crops. To help recoup costs, Smittcamp plans on putting the rig to work on neighboring farms when not in use on his own.

By the end of March, one county in California had issued triple the usual number of permits for drilling, indicating just how desperate farmers are to find a steady water source. What makes the problem particularly concerning is that the groundwater isn’t replaced as quickly as it is being drawn, which means that drilling is a short-term solution for what is likely to be a long-term problem.

Via Huffington Post

Lead image via Shutterstock, image via Greg Goebel

 

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