Ag Today July 13, 2018

The Valley floor is sinking, and it’s crippling California’s ability to deliver water

BY DALE KASLER AND PHILLIP REESE, The Sacramento Bee

July 13, 2018 03:55 AM

TERRA BELLA
Completed during Harry Truman’s presidency, the Friant-Kern Canal has been a workhorse in California’s elaborate man-made water-delivery network. It’s a low-tech concrete marvel that operates purely on gravity, capable of efficiently piping billions of gallons of water to cities and farms on a 152-mile journey along the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.

Until now.

The Friant-Kern has been crippled by a phenomenon known as subsidence. The canal is sinking as the Valley floor beneath it slowly caves in, brought down by years of groundwater extraction by the region’s farmers.

Along a 25-mile stretch of Tulare County rich with grapevines and pistachio trees, the canal has fallen so far — a dozen feet since it opened in 1951 — that it has lost more than half of its carrying capacity downstream from the choke point. Water simply can’t get through like it’s supposed to.

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