Groundwater Depletion Threatens US Food Security

A recent study from the University of Texas at Austin suggests that it may not be long when portions of the central valley of California (the nation’s ‘fruit and vegetable basket’) and the nations ‘grain basket’ (the High Plains, which run from northwest Texas to southern Wyoming and South Dakota) will not be able to sustain today’s level of farming and irrigation due to a rapid decrease in underground water table levels in those areas as they are depleted and used up much quicker than they are able to be replenished.

The study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows groundwater depletion maps in California’s Central Valley and the High Plains of the central U.S., and indicates some areas where water table levels have dropped a staggering 400 feet in parts of California and 150 feet in parts of Texas (panhandle), Oklahoma, and Kansas.

source: proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

It has taken many years for these water tables to have dropped this low, but results of the new study state that “during the most recent drought in California’s Central Valley, from 2006 to 2009, farmers in the south depleted enough groundwater to fill the nation’s largest man-made reservoir, Lake Mead near Las Vegas—a level of groundwater depletion that is unsustainable at current recharge rates.”

As this world faces further population explosion (oops… the NSA sniffers surely will have picked up on that keyword… my bad), we will continue to face increasing ‘issues’ with regards to food production and sustainability. While this will not become critical for Americans overnight, it should serve as further evidence and motivation for we as individuals to rely less on mass production by big Corp foods. The prices will only continue to rise, while at the same time foods are genetically modified even more to increase yields (at what long term expense?).

It’s not too late. Why not start a small garden in your backyard to gain some practical and valuable experience, as well as plenty of self satisfaction at harvest time. It couldn’t be healthier, it will provide you with an important skill (which you may be glad you have in the future), and it will downright fun to watch grow.


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