Groundwater is lifeblood for the state of California, particularly the Central Valley region.
Groundwater moves through underground aquifers ranging in depth from just below the soil surface to several thousand feet down and
- Feeds agricultural crops and livestock,
- Fuels industry, and
- Supplies half of the Central Valley’s drinking water.
This vital resource should be protected by our state and local leaders and public agencies, but groundwater in the Central Valley has become tremendously polluted, to the point where it is common for local wells to contain unsafe levels of toxic chemicals.
Groundwater contamination in the Central Valley is caused by a number of different sources. This report focuses on the massive dairies that have come to dominate the Central Valley over the last 20 years. These dairies generate nearly five times more waste than the human population of Los Angeles each year, and their waste has been found to leach into groundwater. Yet until 2007, groundwater pollution from dairies was virtually unregulated.
This pollution has happened on the watch of the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (CVRWQCB), the agency charged with protecting the quality of groundwater in the Central Valley. Although the board implemented a new set of requirements, called the General Order, in late 2007 to reduce dairy contamination of groundwater, this report finds that enforcement of the new requirements — and the requirements themselves — are insufficient, allowing contamination to continue.
Federal policies must support smaller and more dispersed dairies, not force dairies to expand in order to survive in the marketplace. California’s groundwater is a critical resource upon which we will all increasingly depend.