According to a recent study, California may not be the only state with a groundwater problem. The new research revealed that more than one-third of global groundwater aquifers are recklessly used with no prospects of replenishment in the near future.
Scientists found that 13 of 37 major groundwater aquifers around the world are used to excess but no one knows how much water is left. Despite having entered the forth straight year of drought, California’s largest aquifer in Central Valley was the forth on the list.
The research team employed data gathered by NASA’s GRACE satellites over the course of a decade. Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) project was designed to use satellites to measure the shifts in gravitation, which are in part generated by changes in groundwater weight within reservoirs.
NASA’s data helped the scientists asses the status of 37 groundwater aquifers around the world between 2003 and 2013.
The team deemed eight aquifers “overstressed” because they were overused but very little replenishment was brought instead, while five were classified as either “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed.” The latter were partially replenished after rainfalls or other events.
The most critical situation was found in the Arabian Aquifer, the second most critical was in the aquifer from Northwestern India and Pakistan, while the third on the list of overstressed aquifers was the one in northern Africa. California came in forth place.
Additionally, the top three on the list are located in regions that face economic and political tensions on a daily basis. So, a water crisis in these areas may lead to war, famine and further social instability, scientists warn.
The study was published with an accompanying study in the journal Water Resources Research. Both studies were conducted by the University of California – Irvine’s researchers.
The accompanying study is consistent with the first study’s conclusions. Authors found this time that the amount of water left in the world’s major reservoirs remained largely unknown.
The two studies are more reliable than past research since they were based on more accurate, satellite data. The last estimates on the status of groundwater reservoirs were made decades ago.
“We don’t actually know how much is stored in each of these aquifers. Estimates of remaining storage might vary from decades to millennia,”
said Alexandra Richey, the lead author of both studies.
Ms. Richey said, however, that such level of uncertainty was simply intolerable especially in water-scarce societies prone to conflicts.
Image Source: NY Times India
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