“I lost another well.”
This is not good news.
“That's four of them gone now. One of them was drilled just last year.”
“Wow! That's not nearly enough time to get a return on your investment.”
“Not even close. I might have to go to the well again, in a manner of speaking. But everyone is drilling new wells and we're all going deeper, chasing after the water table. It's not good.”
My brother has about a dozen wells on his dairy farm. Four have gone dry. Both his dairy and his farm are water-intensive operations. The dairy is completely well-dependent. The farm gets an allocation of irrigation water from the extensive system of dams and canals that stores and routes runoff from the Sierra Nevada to the thirsty counties of the San Joaquin, California's great central valley.
If you drive down either I-5 or US-99, the two major north-south freeways that run through the valley, you'll see green fields and herds of dairy cattle on both sides of you. If it weren't for water projects, subsidized by state and federal governments, you'd see long stretches of desert instead. The canals are the Central Valley's circulatory system. They are the life blood of my brother's business.
The dry wells are omens of possible disaster. The ongoing California drought has reduced the supply of irrigation water and farmers resort to more pumping to make up the difference. But that resource is not infinite, and more people are competing for the shrinking supply. My brother prays for rain, but he knows there won't be any for at least a couple of months. His livelihood depends on the wells, and more are likely to go dry. Depending on which ones start spewing dust, it will be either an inconvenience or a disaster.
No one can predict which it will be.