Water Week: The Significance of Aquifers to the Water Crisis

What are aquifers?
Aquifers are large underground storage spaces for water (1). After years of water trickling down past these layers of rocks, the aquifer becomes an area that is permeable enough to hold large bodies of water.
Water Blog 3.1The movement of water depends on the density of the soil and rock; the more porous the rock, the easier it is for the water to get through. However, if the soil or rock is denser, water can creep as slowly as a few centimeters in a century (3). This indicates that collected water has taken years or even decades to accumulate, so when groundwater is brought up to the surface for use, the water is not as easily rejuvenated.

California and Aquifers
California has had many problems with water supply due to unsustainable regulations. Since it takes time to replenish the water pumped out of its aquifers, as more groundwater is removed, the ground above sinks to replace the space made from the extraction. This means that these aquifers are unable to hold as much water as they could before—creating a greater challenge for the sustainable management of California’s groundwater supply.

Many people point to the almond industry as the main cause for California’s water scarcity, however, there are other relevant factors that play a role in the depletion of the state’s water resources. Other industries also use a significant amount of California’s water. For instance, California grows alfalfa to feed cattle for the beef industry, which uses even more water than almonds (4).

Granted, we could try to eat fewer almonds, or eat less beef, as this industry is fueling the demand for alfalfa. However, in addition, better regulations that govern water use would also help California address its water crisis.
Water Blog 3 Almond Trees
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), groundwater contained in aquifers is the most important source of water as about 30% of our liquid freshwater is groundwater. That being said, water extracted from aquifers must be used sparingly.

To increase our awareness, we should try to make incremental sustainable decisions such as carefully managing our water consumption and possibly focusing on other water-conserving technologies.

Christene, Liam Bolton, and Kathleen Tse
Sustain SU Ambassadors


Weekend rainfall forecast expected to affect on water levels


  1. Alberta WaterPortal. (2005, October 2005). Retrieved from https://albertawater.com/what-is-an-aquifer.
  2.  Sawe, B. E. (2018, January 24). What Is An Aquifer? Retrieved from https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-an-aquifer.html.
  3.  Oskin, B. (2018, October 17). Aquifers: Underground Stores of Freshwater. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/39625-aquifers.html.
  4. Plumer, B. (2015, April 14). California’s water problems go way deeper than almonds. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2015/4/14/8407155/almonds-california-drought-water.



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