The World Is Running Out Of Freshwater
The World Is Running Out Of Freshwater
Jun 30, 2015
As a resident of California, I am very aware that we are in the midst of a four-year long drought, and water is scarce, not just obviously in reservoirs and abandoned fields, but also underground in aquifers. Rationing has been imposed, and lawns must go brown, as we are informed on giant billboards across the state.
It turns out that the loss of groundwater is not unique to California. According to a recent study by researchers at NASA and the University of California-Irvine, 21 of the world’s 37 largest aquifers are being drained faster than they are being replenished.
NASA’s GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites, which measure water under the ground by measuring its gravitational tug, were deployed to watch these 37 aquifers around the world over the course of 10 years to see what was happening to the water they held. Using data from these satellites, the research team was able to show that from the Arabian Peninsula to northern India to California’s Central Valley, we are running out of groundwater. You can see a world map showing groundwater storage and loss by clicking here.
Aquifers are underground layers of rock that are saturated with water that can be brought to the surface through natural springs or by pumping. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about 30 percent of our liquid freshwater is groundwater contained in aquifers, making them one of the most important sources of water on Earth.
The study, published June 16 in Water Resources Research, found that eight aquifers, primarily in Asia and Africa, were qualified as “overstressed,” meaning they had nearly no natural replenishment. The most stressed basin was the Arabian Aquifer System, beneath Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Other quickly disappearing aquifers were the Indus Basin aquifer, between India and Pakistan, and the Murzuk-Djado Basin, in northern Africa.
Five other aquifers, including California’s Central Valley Aquifer, were “extremely” or “highly” stressed, with some natural replenishment but not enough to make up for growing demand.
“The situation is quite critical,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and principal investigator of the University of California Irvine-led studies.
Scientists have long suspected that groundwater supplies were diminishing, but the data from NASA is the first to confirm that aquifers are being emptied faster than they can be filled, due to demands from agriculture, mining, growing populations, and climate change.
Where Does Our Water Come From?
Of the world’s total water supply of about 326 million cubic miles of water, around 97 percent is saline, found in the ocean.
That leaves three percent of water that we humans can potentially use, but 69 percent of this water is frozen, in glaciers and icecaps. Ninety percent of that frozen water is in Antarctica and about nine percent covers Greenland.
As mentioned above, 30 percent of the remaining freshwater is groundwater, and that’s why the shrinking of our aquifers is alarming. Our rivers and lakes account for less than one percent of all freshwater on our planet. A very small percentage of water (0.1 percent of all water) is also found in the atmosphere.
The research team at Irvine is hoping that their findings will serve as a red flag for regions that are overusing water, by raising awareness that their aquifers are in distress.
I hope they can do this, but it’s troubling to read of reactions such as this one from California resident Steve Yuhas. Yuhas lives in Rancho Santa Fe, one of southern California’s richest enclaves, and here’s how he responds to the state’s drought in a recent post on social media:
People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful.” “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he added in an interview. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”
Apparently, we need to see more red flags before everyone takes this issue seriously.
They aren't going to have a choice soon. I'm quite sure if those super bright engineers can figure out of to get oil from under and ocean, transport it thousands of miles and load it onto 1000ft freighters, they can figure out the water issue. Then again the profit margins aren't as high on water and sadly that is what this is all about
Paid to speak to her echo chamber of cognitive dissonance
Reality check: Oh, they can figure out how to do it, just not how to pay for it. The average American uses approximately .61-1.25 gallons of crude oil daily, 70% of which is transported by pipeline. By comparison, the average American uses between 100-200 gallons of water per day, NOT INCLUDING the water used for irrigation (80% of developed water in areas like California's Central Valley). Not quite the same magnitude as shipping oil.
The largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere, located outside San Diego, is a $1 billion project that will provide 50 million gallons of drinking water a day when it opens in 2017. It will require two gallons of seawater to produce each gallon of drinking water and will use an enormous amount of energy per day-- about 38 megawatts, enough to power 28,500 homes.
Add to that the cost of your proposed pipelines to every corner of the inland US, the environmental impact of the salt and heat discharge on the ocean, wetlands, and wildlife surrounding the desal plants, and the unwillingness of governments, local and federal, to even provide funding for the repair of existing infrastructure, let alone the massive expenditure needed for a nationwide desal project. Finally, consider that it would take between 10-15 years, under the best of conditions, to site and build the plants, on top of the time (and will) it would take to construct the pipelines and expansion of power-producing infrastructure to support the electrical demand. And, of course, the cost rises with each passing year.
Can you see our government (or almost any government) approving such an endeavor before it is too late to matter? Water stocks are probably one of the best investments you could make.