The floor of California’s arid Central Valley is sinking as groundwater pumping for agriculture and drinking water depletes aquifers. A new remote sensing study from Stanford University shows land sinking – or subsidence – will likely continue for decades to centuries if underground water levels merely stop declining. To stop the sinking, water levels will need to rise.
“If you don’t get these water levels to come back up, then the land is going to sink, potentially tens of centimeters per year, for decades. But if they go up, you can get rewarded very quickly. You almost immediately improve the situation,” said Matthew Lees, a geophysics PhD student and lead author of the study, which appears June 2 in Water Resources Research.