"From the start of the drought to now it's dropped about 200 feet in some areas," said Jay Shaw, co-owner of National Groundwater Surveyor in Clovis. "We haven't seen anything like this. It's getting ridiculous."
Data reported by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources indicate that California grows almost all of America's domestically produced almonds, olives, garlic, plums, broccoli and canned tomatoes. It produces the vast majority of the country's lemons, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower and carrots. It accounts for a fifth of the nation's milk and a quarter of its rice.
Shaw runs a business that helps farmers and residents find groundwater, and he currently has a waiting list of "28 days out" for appointments. He said the average groundwater tests cost $1,600 for domestic customers, and $3,500 or more for agricultural customers.
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"We used to be able to go out and do a minimum of 10 tests and find the results we need," said Shaw. "Now we're doing 20, 30, 40 tests. It just gets harder to find because it gets deeper and some of the aquifers that have been supplying water are drying up."
That said, there's a yearlong waiting list to get a water well drilled. Some major agriculture counties of the Central Valley have seen a record number of well permits issued in the last year. In Tulare County, for example, the pace of filings for new wells or plans to deepen existing wells is on track to double the year-earlier tally.
"That gives us pause for concern," said John Lollis, city manager of Porterville, a community located in Tulare County. "With more straws in the glass, if you will, it does a lot for overdraft."