Drought-stricken California is not the only place draining underground aquifers in the hunt for fresh water.End of excerpt
It’s happening across the world, according to two new studies by U.S. researchers released Tuesday.
Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France -- have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water is being removed than replaced from these vital underground reservoirs. Thirteen of 37 aquifers fell at rates that put them into the most troubled category.
“The situation is quite critical,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California Irvine-led studies’ principal investigator.
And it’s difficult to see it getting better soon. These groundwater reserves take thousands of years to accumulate and only slowly recharge with water from snowmelt and rains. Now, as drilling for water has taken off across the globe, the hidden water reservoirs are being stressed. Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Demand is even greater in times of drought. Rain-starved California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use, up from the usual 40 percent.
In another finding from the studies led by the University of California Irvine, scientists say that some of these aquifers may be much smaller than previously thought. Only a few of the aquifers have been mapped in detail and most estimates of aquifer water reserves have "uncertainty ranges across orders of magnitude,” according to the studies.
[Rich Californians balk at limits: ‘We’re not all equal when it comes to water’]
The new studies used NASA’s GRACE satellites to take unprecedentedly precise measurements of the groundwater reservoirs hidden beneath the ground. The satellites detected subtle changes in the gravitational pull of the earth’s surface. Water is exceptionally heavy and exerts a greater pull on orbiting spacecraft. As the satellites flew overhead, slight changes in aquifer water levels were charted over a decade, from 2003 to 2013.
“The water table is dropping all over the world,” Familglietti said. “There’s not an infinite supply of water.”
In Australia, the Canning Basin in the country’s western end had the third-highest rate of depletion in the world. But the Great Artesian Basin to the east was among the healthiest.
The difference, the studies found, is likely attributable to heavy mining near the Canning Basin. Mining is a water-intensive activity.
In the United States, California’s Central Valley Aquifer was in the most trouble. It is being drained to irrigate farm fields. California only last year passed its first extensive groundwater regulations, allowing for local control over groundwater. But the new law could take two decades to take effect.
[California’s water woes primed to get worse as groundwater is drained]
Also running a negative balance was the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer, which stretches across the Gulf Coast and Florida. But three other aquifers in the middle of the country appeared to be in relatively good shape.
The studies were published Tuesday in the Water Resources Research journal.
Familglietti said he hoped the findings would spur discussion and further research into how much groundwater is left.
“We need to get our heads together on how we manage groundwater,” he said, “because we’re running out of it.”
I really am wondering why so many people simply cannot understand the urgency of conserving water. It is inevitable that with growing populations, continued privatization and globalization, pollution, industrial agriculture and the effects of climate destruction that water usage and waste will be on the rise. However, we as a species are woefully unprepared for the world we are making- mainly a dry world. A world devoid of the water necessary to sustain life.
This is not some obscure story to be relegated to the back burner. This is a major crisis that effects each and every one of us regardless of race, gender or political predisposition. More of our world is becoming too dry too sustain crops with nutrients being depleted due to industrial chemicals and effects of monoculture. Again, this is not just about a global water crisis- this is about the very clear and present danger of a global famine.
Many of us particularly in the US and other so called "developed" nations still act as if we are somehow immune from these effects- even as California continues to struggle in an epic drought that has farmers struggling to survive as well as in other places around the globe. We go to supermarkets somehow forgetting that what we see on the shelf had to come from a field or it wouldn't be here- and that takes water and lots of it.
Which is why man's insatiable thirst for water now not for life but for profit is a false choice that is leading us quicker to Peak Water and that global famine. Mining, fossil fuel extraction, tarsands, Fracking, mega-dams are all wasting precious water needed for life. This also extends to our oceans which we have poisoned and polluted to the point of a real crisis for us and the species that inhabit them. How is it we can still on the whole sit so silently as our world slips away from us?
Time is not on our side at this point and we can no longer continue with the mindset that the water we waste and use will be replenished. Climate destruction is now wrecking havoc on the hydrologic cycle with monsoons being affected that effect growing seasons as well as salt water intrusion that makes farming untenable with amplified intensity and severity of droughts and floods. Snowpack has been reduced which is resulting in less water being replaced as usage increases. Even someone with poor math skills can see that sooner or later this equation will have devastating effects on all living things.
With 7 billion people on planet Earth and projections of population increases to 9 billion within the next two decades the importance of not only planning but adapting and conserving cannot be stressed enough! If you are not genuinely scared for what the future holds as we continue to go along at the current pace thinking water will always be there you are in for a very rude awakening
Wars over water are also not some sci-fi plot. They are happening now and will continue to as the source of our lives continues to dwindle in areas of the world where there is the greatest concentration of poor people. This is why management of resources is not the only important factor here- but who has control over that management. I try very hard to hold out hope that humanity as a whole will finally see just how precious water is and do what is necessary to conserve this commons for our future. I would be remiss if I did not state that my hope is waning. Just take a look at the rich in California claiming they don't "need" to conserve water because they think they are entitled to it and care more for their lawns and reputations in their nose in the air communities that live in another universe. I say, if you waste water on your lawn then you get no food. I actually hope the rude awakening is especially rude for them. That unfortunately is what is necessary to wake up the populace.
Global Freshwater Consumption Crossing Its Planetary Boundary
Drop In U.S. Underground Water Levels Has Accelerated