They aren’t only hurting themselves by overdrafting groundwater.

You know what I never see in discussions of groundwater overdraft and subsidence? I never see any discussion about how growers are going to pay back the people of California for the infrastructure that is damaged by their overpumping. Subsidence caused by groundwater overdraft is breaking public roads, canals, runways, overpasses and buildings. Farmers who overdraft an aquifer know this problem exists and do it anyway. If they can afford to sink half million dollar wells, they can afford to pay for the public infrastructure they are knowingly breaking.

Who else should pay? Taxpayers as a whole, out of general funds? CalTrans, out of gas taxes? The local county? This is deliberately caused damage, in full knowledge of the mechanism by which growers are breaking our collective stuff, with plenty of warning. Any discussion of groundwater management should include paying for this damage. We could assess by overlying acreage, for example. Or based on pump electricity use. But the costs of the self-serving behavior of this small, identifiable group shouldn’t fall on the public at large.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “They aren’t only hurting themselves by overdrafting groundwater.

  1. You broke it, you fix it.

  2. Doug

    The “Pottery Barn rule,” as applied to groundwater, which is how State courts have dealt with this issue. See Los Osos Valley Associates v. City of San Luis Obispo, 30 Cal.App.4th 1670 (1994).