Imagen
Downscaled satellite data from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) missions evaluate Earth’s gravitational anomalies, and quantify the amount of subsurface groundwater. In the Central Valley of California, from February 2003 to January 2020, a color gradient from red to blue shows groundwater loss and gain respectively. This analysis shows that the southern portion of the valley is losing more groundwater than the northern portion over time.   Keywords: Central Valley, California, GRACE, Forrest Corcoran, Marissa Dudek, James Kitchens, Patrick Saylor

California’s Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, producing approximately $20 billion in crops annually. The recent California droughts of 2007-2010 and 2011-2017 resulted in increased groundwater pumping in the Central Valley to adequately irrigate farmland. Overdrafting of the Central Valley aquifer results in groundwater depletion, land subsidence, and permanent loss of groundwater storage. In 2014, depletion of groundwater led the state of California to enact the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), requiring critically overdrafted, high, and medium priority sub-basins to reach sustainable levels of groundwater pumping and recharge by 2042. SGMA allows local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies the authority to create Groundwater Sustainability Plans at the sub-basin level. To assist California’s Department of Water Resources, this project quantified groundwater change and land subsidence in Central Valley sub-basins with sparse or unreliable well and GPS data. This was done using NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO), and interferograms derived from Sentinel-1 C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (C-SAR) and Advanced Land Observing Satellite 2 (ALOS-2) Phased Array L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar 2 (PALSAR-2). Time series of the GRACE and InSAR data were compared with well and GPS data in data-dense sub-basins to determine the feasibility of these datasets for groundwater storage and subsidence monitoring. We found that GRACE and InSAR data are effective tools for determining groundwater change and land subsidence and can be used on their own to monitor sub-basins in the absence of well and GPS data.