Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Who, Exactly, Is Sinking the California Aqueduct?
SJV-Water
By SJV Water
Published 4 years ago on
February 25, 2020

Share

A state report released in December pinned blame for sinking along the California Aqueduct on excessive nearby groundwater pumping to irrigate vineyards and nut orchards.
That was a pretty pointed finger, but not pointed enough for some committee directors in the large and powerful Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

Portrait of SJVWater.org chief executive officer Lois Henry
Lois Henry
SJV Water
They wanted names.
The issue came up at a meeting of MWD’s Water Planning and Stewardship Committee on Feb. 10 where a presentation was given about subsidence along the Aqueduct. Ted Craddock, acting Deputy Director of the Department of Water Resources gave the presentation and answered questions.
“How close are we to identifying which pumpers they are?” said Steve Blois, a Calleguas Municipal Water District board member.
“Our studies up to this point have been a little more global so not as granular,” Craddock answered. “We’re starting to move into the more granular look at specific causes right now. I imagine it will take us on the order of a year or so to work through that.”

Subsidence Cuts Aqueduct’s Capacity 20%

Subsidence has already diminished the Aqueduct’s carrying capacity by 20%. If that trend continues, it could be a huge problem for MWD, which is the largest contractor on the State Water Project and provides water to millions of residents in Southern California.

Portrait of Steve Blois, Calleguas Municipal Water District
“How close are we to identifying which pumpers they are?” — Steve Blois, board member of Calleguas Municipal Water District
The giant canal brings water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta south along the western edge of the Central Valley, where pockets of subsidence have sunk the canal as much as six feet.
Though the report put the blame on agriculture, others disagreed saying it was a “knee jerk reaction” that didn’t acknowledge groundwater on the west side tends to be too salty for crops so there isn’t much pumping there.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Hey, this area is subsiding and, by the way, there’s ag here.’ But it’s not taking into account where the water for that ag is coming from,” Jason Gianquinto, General Manager of Semitropic Water District, told SJV Water back in January. Semitropic covers an area of the Aqueduct near Lost Hills that has sunk up to four feet.
Graphic showing impacts of subsidence on the California Aqueduct
(DWR)

Groundwater Recharge Could Reverse Some of the Sinking

Last week, Craddock explained to the MWD committee that some of the ground compaction is permanent. But some subsided areas may be repaired through groundwater recharge.
Craddock said his staff is working with the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies near the Aqueduct to make sure subsidence is top of mind.
“Some of these GSPs (groundwater sustainability plans) are five feet tall, so it’s a lot of data to work through,” he said.
Several committee members asked whether the state Legislature was working on funding and questioned the timeline for a fix.
Craddock didn’t have an answer on funding but said the environmental and feasibility studies would take up to three years.

Map showing subsidence in the California Aqueduct
A DWR presentation to the Metropolitan Water District shows areas of subsidence on the California Aqueduct. (DWR)

Repair the Damage ASAP

That didn’t sit well with Committee Director Glen Peterson, of the Los Virgenes Municipal Water District, who noted crews quickly swarmed the Aqueduct when it suffered a break in the lining near Taft in 2016.

Several committee members asked whether the state Legislature was working on funding and questioned the timeline for a fix.
“It seemed to me that was done very quickly,” said Peterson, a Bakersfield native. “Yet this will take two to three years for an EIR? I don’t understand that.”
That 2016 break, which turned out to be 11 or 12 breaks along a three-mile area was caused by very fine talc soils, Peterson said. Similar soils can be seen along the Aqueduct for 100 miles or more, he added.
The talc compacts very easily, so if that’s what’s under the Aqueduct for any length, “We’ve got a serious problem,” Peterson said.
He also noted the Legislature didn’t bother to enact groundwater restrictions for many, many years, so even if pumping is exacerbating the soil issue, it’s a statewide problem.
“This affects more than half the state,” he said of water carried by the Aqueduct. “The Legislature should take this up.”
Craddock agreed the issue is serious: “I’ll make the commitment that this has our full attention moving forward.”

Links to More Information

Click here to listen to the MWD Water Planning and Stewardship Committee meeting on Aqueduct subsidence
Read the presentation by Ted Craddock, acting Deputy Director of DWR, at CA Aqueduct Subsidence Presentation MWD WPS
Click here to download the DWR report on Aqueduct subsidence (patience needed, it’s a biggie!)
About the Author
Lois Henry is the CEO and editor of SJV Water. She has 30 years’ experience covering water and other issues in the San Joaquin Valley. Henry lives with her husband, five dogs, one orange cat, and a cranky rescue mustang horse in Bakersfield.

DON'T MISS

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

DON'T MISS

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

DON'T MISS

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

DON'T MISS

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

DON'T MISS

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

DON'T MISS

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

DON'T MISS

‘This Is How to Improve Reading Proficiency. We Just Have Execute It’: FUSD Board President

DON'T MISS

Does Dyer Support (or Endorse) Bredefeld for Supervisor?

DON'T MISS

Get a 3D First Look at Merced’s High-Speed Rail Station Design

DON'T MISS

California Court to Decide on Transgender Ballot Measure Wording

UP NEXT

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

UP NEXT

California Court to Decide on Transgender Ballot Measure Wording

UP NEXT

Rare House Vote Sees Ukraine, Israel Aid Advance as Democrats Join Republicans

UP NEXT

Full Jury and 6 Alternates Seated in Trump’s Hush Money Trial

UP NEXT

Finding an Apartment May Be Easier for California Pet Owners Under New Legislation

UP NEXT

Who Owns Businesses in California? A Lawmaker Wants the Public to Know

UP NEXT

Barbara Corcoran: 1% Interest Rate Drop Will Send Housing Prices ‘Through the Roof’

UP NEXT

California Sets Long-Awaited Drinking Water Limit for ‘Erin Brockovich’ Contaminant

UP NEXT

See the Fully Equipped House Homeless People Built on LA Freeway Strip

UP NEXT

Juror Dismissed From Trump Hush Money Trial. Prosecutors Seek to Hold Former President in Contempt

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

13 hours ago

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

13 hours ago

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

14 hours ago

‘This Is How to Improve Reading Proficiency. We Just Have Execute It’: FUSD Board President

15 hours ago

Does Dyer Support (or Endorse) Bredefeld for Supervisor?

15 hours ago

Get a 3D First Look at Merced’s High-Speed Rail Station Design

16 hours ago

California Court to Decide on Transgender Ballot Measure Wording

16 hours ago

Rare House Vote Sees Ukraine, Israel Aid Advance as Democrats Join Republicans

18 hours ago

Full Jury and 6 Alternates Seated in Trump’s Hush Money Trial

18 hours ago

Wired Wednesday: How High Will the Price of Gold & Silver Go?

Video /

19 hours ago

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

DALLAS — The first model of the USS Enterprise — used in the opening credits of the original “Star Trek” television series — has boldly gone...

14 mins ago

14 mins ago

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

23 mins ago

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

12 hours ago

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

13 hours ago

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

13 hours ago

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

14 hours ago

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

15 hours ago

‘This Is How to Improve Reading Proficiency. We Just Have Execute It’: FUSD Board President

15 hours ago

Does Dyer Support (or Endorse) Bredefeld for Supervisor?

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend