Groundwater extraction can move mountains

Water Underground

Contributed by Pascal Audet (webpage or email)

1977-Poland_telephonepole Historic 1977 photo of Dr. Joseph Poland, USGS, considered the pioneer of scientific subsidence studies. Dates on telephone pole indicate previous land elevations in an area SW of Mendota. Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey

Next time you eat food grown in the San Joaquin Valley of California, think about this: the water used for growing them probably came from under ground. Farmers do not really have a choice because the amount of water from rain and snow can’t keep up with the needs for growing food. Every year more water is drawn out of the ground for irrigation. Because of this, the floor of the San Joaquin Valley goes down as the sediments compact once the water is out (see picture on right).

In the latest work from our team, we find a surprising side effect of groundwater pumping: the…

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Paper published in Nature

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Our study on the effects of groundwater loss on uplift and seismicity has been featured in a variety of news sources, notably the LA Times, the Washington Post, BBC News, The Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, Earth Magazine, Edmonton Journal, and several other outlets. Nature also recorded a podcast with lead author Colin Amos, which you can access here.

Paul Lundgren (JPL) also wrote a News and Views piece to accompany our paper that serves as a nice summary and perspective piece.