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Deep deficit

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Science  17 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6488, pp. 230-233
DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6488.230

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Summary

California's Central Valley—one of the most productive and lucrative agricultural regions in the world—is sinking. The subsidence, which damages roads, bridges, and irrigation canals, results from decades of groundwater pumping. Excessive pumping also jeopardizes water quality, as salts and agrochemicals accumulate within aquifers and arsenic is released from clays. In 2014, California launched a landmark effort to save its groundwater. Now, local water managers have developed the first sustainability plans for the state's most imperiled aquifers. The state is funding scientists to gather better data on the crisis, and geologists are working to identify the best places to replenish aquifers by flooding farm fields—and even devising strategies to clean the water as it seeps into the ground. There will be challenges to reaching groundwater sustainability, including climate change. But getting research and policy innovation involved could be broadly relevant. Globally, aquifers are "highly stressed" in 17 countries that hold one-quarter of the world's population, threatening water and food supplies for billions of people.

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