Just a few months ago, the state’s top water officials said they had reason for optimism. Rain was cascading down on California in December and water conservation passed 20%. “I, for one, had high hopes,” Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources, told a California Senate joint oversight hearing on the drought last week. Cowin and his colleagues sat before lawmakers and took turns delivering a series of sobering facts and figures about the state’s persistent drought: The mountain snowpack was dismal; conservation is falling far short of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 25% mandate; officials are curtailing water rights.

One fact in particular caught senators’ attention, though. About 1,900 wells have gone dry, Cowin said. “Should we be pushing a pause button on drilling deeper and deeper wells?” asked Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), chairwoman of the Natural Resources and Water Committee. As the drought persists and groundwater levels drop, thousands of Californians have been left without well water and some parts of the San Joaquin Valley are sinking. But with such a wide array of water concerns in the fourth year of drought, should Californians be alarmed about 1,900 dry wells? FULL REPORT