by Susanne Posel
Researchers at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) have determined that not only are groundwater resources depleting, but underground aquifers are threatened by stress levels in the global groundwater basins.
The Middle East regions of India, Pakistan and northern Africa are considered major water and political hotspots which makes the underground water content so precious.
UCI used data provided by the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites (GRACE) which shows underground water aquifers that are hundreds to thousands of years old.
To replenish them would take just as long and UCI researchers contend that consummation is at an ever increasing rate which is impacting the earths “water savings account”.
James Famiglietti, professor of earth system science at UCI and senior water scientist for the jet propulsion laboratory at NASA explained: “The fact that the majority of the world’s groundwater accounts are past sustainability tipping points was not known before. Such points are crossed when groundwater aquifers are no longer being replenished as quickly as they are being depleted.”
The first study details the known 37 large water aquifers mapped from 2003 to 2013. Of those:
- 8 were deemed “overstressed” because there was no known replenishment source
- 5 were found to be “extremely or highly stressed because there was notable small replenishment sources
- The driest aquifers were in the direst areas above ground as well
The areas identified as having the driest aquifers include:
• Saudi Arabia
The Arabian Aquifer displayed signs of overstress which is threatening 60 million people who live in this part of the world.
Socioeconomic and political tensions in highly stressed regions are actually causing the exacerbation of the depletion of underground water stores.
In the second study , researchers surmised that the amount of useable groundwater is questionable because predictions of the depletion made decades ago are not evidenced by satellite imagery.
In fact, the depletion in many aquifers is much less than previously thought.
But estimates now have to confirm to determine exactly “how much is stored in each of these aquifers.
The researchers guess that “estimates of remaining storage might vary from decades to millennia. In a water-scarce society, we can no longer tolerate this level of uncertainty, especially since groundwater is disappearing so rapidly.”