Drop In U.S. Underground Water Levels Has Accelerated:USGS

Drop In U.S. Underground Water Levels Has Accelerated:USGS

By Environment Correspondent Deborah Zabarenko

(Reuters) - Water levels in U.S. aquifers, the vast underground storage areas tapped for agriculture, energy and human consumption, between 2000 and 2008 dropped at a rate that was almost three times as great as any time during the 20th century, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The accelerated decline in the subterranean reservoirs is due to a combination of factors, most of them linked to rising population in the United States, according to Leonard Konikow, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big rise in water use started in 1950, at the time of an economic boom and the spread of U.S. suburbs. However, the steep increase in water use and the drop in groundwater levels that followed World War 2 were eclipsed by the changes during the first years of the 21st century, the study showed.

As consumers, farms and industry used more water starting in 2000, aquifers were also affected by climate changes, with less rain and snow filtering underground to replenish what was being pumped out, Konikow said in a telephone interview from Reston, Virginia.

Depletion of groundwater can cause land to subside, cut yields from existing wells, and diminish the flow of water from springs and streams.

Agricultural irrigation is the biggest user of water from aquifers in the United States, though the energy industry, including oil and coal extraction, is also a big user.

The USGS study looked at 40 different aquifers from 1900 through 2008 and found that the historical average of groundwater depletion - the amount the underground reservoirs lost each year - was 7.5 million acre-feet (9.2 cubic kilometers).

From 2000 to 2008, the average was 20.2 million acre-feet (25 cubic kilometers) a year. (An acre-foot is the volume of water needed to cover an acre to the depth of one foot.)

One of the best-known aquifers, the High Plains Aquifer, also known as the Oglala, had the highest levels of groundwater depletion starting in the 1960s. It lies beneath parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, where water demand from agriculture is high and where recent drought has hit hard.

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Also See:

Ogallala Aquifer In Texas Panhandle Suffers Big Drop

Wow, a 19 foot drop in one year! This is totally unsustainable. Irrigation practices as well as what is being grown is also key in conserving water. And this is part of the problem we see in the US with farmers also now having to fight corporations for water for fracking. Fracking needs to be BANNED. There is nothing good about it.

For Farms in the West, Oil Wells Are Thirsty Rivals


If you think this is only happening in Africa, Asia and the Middle East you are mistaken. We here in the U.S. are just as vulnerable to water scarcity and its effects as anyone else on this planet. Millions living in developing countries have been dealing with this for decades. Does it have to happen to the US before anything gets done?

How much hydro fracking will be allowed in the US when coming to the choice of having energy or food? Will solar panels look better when bread costs 20 dollars a loaf and our entire water supply is toxic as our climate has truly reached the point of no return?

There is one main message here beyond climate change, mismanagement, old infrastructure, political stalemate, privatization, pollution, etc...


You can only dig so deep.

The Midwest Drought that is now in its third year has subsided a bit in some areas but is still extreme in states over the Ogallala aquifer as shown by the drought map above. This is a serious issue that we should be seeing on our news and on every front page of every newspaper. This concerns not only the present but the future of our national water supply and our ability to feed ourselves and the world! In twenty years time or perhaps even sooner this aquifer will be dry.

Millions of people will be without drinking water or water for agriculture. No food, no economy, no life. It is a fool's errand to continue thinking that with a rising population added to the reality of climate change that is part of what is now happening in the Midwest which is worse now than the dustbowl (because we are also not seeing replenishing of snowpack particularly in the Rockies that feed rivers) that we can use this water at its current pace living only in the here and now.

We all know this is real and that it needs to be addressed. Above all the graphs and technical jargon however, it comes down to us to have the foresight and vision as people who care about the present and future to have the moral courage to do what is right. Make no mistake about it, this does touch all of us economically, socially, and spiritually.

What will we do when the well runs dry? We won't need to find out if we act now.

* Conserve

* Call for Sustainable Agriculture practices to be employed with an end to subsidies to industrial agriculture that strips land and force feeds us GM monoculture seeds and chemicals that strip soil nutrients

* Demand political will on all levels to address this as it should be addressed in supporting biodiversity and climate change initiatives

* Support alternative energy initiatives to wean us off fossil fuels that use huge amounts of water

. And, work with nature and listen to the land. We as a species have become arrogant in our pursuit to dominate nature when we are just one part of her. When we remember this and put that respect into action we can make it whole again. But we are running out of time and water to wake up to our own participation in this crisis.