- Already, damage from the West’s increasing reliance on underground water supplies is proliferating. In parts of California and Arizona, groundwater levels are being drawn down so quickly that the earth above them is collapsing. Bridges and canals are buckling.
The more water is extracted from underground, the harder it becomes to restore the region’s rivers and reservoirs — some of which no longer flow through the summer — simultaneously sucking them dry from above and below.
“If you don’t connect the two, then you don’t understand the system,” said John Bredehoeft, a leading hydrogeologist who for many years managed the U.S. government’s western states water program for the U.S. Geological Survey. “And if you don’t understand the system, I don’t know how in the hell you’re going to make any kind of judgment about how much water you’ve got to work with.”