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California – Caught in a Frightening Overshoot


Touch the Soil News # 183

Overshoot is a condition in which consumption of resources “overshoots” the availability of resources. In the case of California, the overshoot relates to water consumption. Following are a few updates on the California Drought as of 9/1/2015:

  1. NASA research shows that increased groundwater pumping – what Californian’s are doing to offset the lack of snow and rain – is causing widespread land subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley. Subsidence means the land is dropping in elevation as the water underneath is permanently withdrawn. Some areas in the San Joaquin Valley are sinking two inches per month.
  2. Approximately 2,225 wells have been identified as critical or dry, affecting an estimated 9,488 people.
  3. Folsom Reservoir (outside of Sacramento) has 7 percent of its storage left available.
  4. Statewide, California’s major water reservoirs are at 30 percent of capacity
  5. Hydroelectric power generation is only 40 percent of historical averages.
  6. While numbers are not yet calculated for 2015, California harvested 640,000 fewer acres in 2014 which represents a 9 percent decline in land farmed.
  7. At the beginning of the 2015 water year, California’s snowpack was at a shocking 5 percent of average.
  8. Twenty six (26) trillion gallons – that amount of water depleted from the Central Valley underground aquifer since 1962.
  9. Even if the rains come now, much of the damage in collapsed aquifers and land subsidence can never be fixed. From today, forward, California will never be the same – The present generations have left less for future generations.


The California experience is not without valuable lessons to people in other states. Practical people may start viewing investments in land, water and food growing skills as preferable to investments in debt bonds or stock equities. Real wealth may become more recognized as physical assets underpinning food production.

Following is a video clip on the local impacts of water shortage:

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