Overdrafted: Colorado River and Coachella Valley


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Aerial of the Salton Sea-Colorado River Delta Region. Image by NASA.

Aerial of the Salton Sea-Colorado River Delta Region. Image by NASA.

Coachella Valley and Subsidence

The Coachella Valley is located north of the Salton Sea between the southern San Andreas Fault to the east and San Jacinto and Santa RosaMountains to the west. According to NASA, the greatest subsidence rate, at 5 mm/year, is found along the Interstate 10 corridor which includes Coachella, Indio and Palm Springs.

Why is this? To put it simply, the area’s water input of three inches of rain per year plus snow melt from the surrounding mountains and canal water, ironically, from the Colorado River, falls short of replenishing what is pumped from the local groundwater basin to meet water demands. This causes the groundwater basin to be overdrafted.

Restoration Solutions for Overdrafted Regions

Whether we’re talking about surface reservoirs or groundwater, it’s all about balance: input and output. Recharging technology is available to inject overdrafted subsidence zones with recycled white water. Imported water used for ground water recharge, however, can be of naturally lower quality than the original local ground waters.

Ultimately, the problem is an overconsumption of water. In response, the National Geographic is promoting a campaign called Change the Course. They have joined forces with the Bonneville Environment Foundation and Participant Media to bring ordinary people together to magnify collective efforts. In a press release, they announced a campaign in which respondents submit their address or phone number to receive regular updates on restoration work in the Colorado River Basin.


Bonneville Environment Foundation. Change the Course. (2013). Accessed October 9, 2013.

Coachella Valley Water District. Groundwater Replenishment and Imported Water. (2013). Accessed October 9, 2013.

Environment Canada. Groundwater. (2013). Accessed October 9, 2013.

Howard, Brian Clark. Change the Course: Help Save the Colorado River. (2013) National Geographic. Accessed October 9, 2013.

Lawrenceville Weather. Drought Maps. (2013). Accessed October 9, 2013.

NASA. Subsidence and Differential Surface Movement in the Upper Coachella Valley, California, as Indicated by InSAR. (2005). Accessed October 9, 2013.

National Academy of Engineering. The Sustainability of Water Resources in the Colorado River Basin. (2011). Accessed October 9, 2013.

NOAA. Colorado Basin River Forecast Center(2013). Accessed October 9, 2013.

Pitt, Jennifer. The United States and Mexico Can Restore the Colorado River Delta. (2012). National Geographic. Accessed October 9, 2013.

UN Water. Statistics: Graphics and Maps. (2012). Accessed October 9, 2013.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Lake Powell Water Database. (2013). Accessed October 9, 2013.

U.S. Department of the Interior. Law of the River. (2013). Accessed October 9, 2013.

USGS. Land Subsidence in the United States. (2013). Accessed October 9, 2013.

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