News Feature | December 2, 2014

Water Scarcity A Bigger Emergency Than Anyone Thought

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

alarm

Water scarcity may be an even bigger emergency than researchers previously thought.

Professor Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, sounded the alarm bell in a recent edition of the journal Nature Climate Change.

"Groundwater depletion the world over poses a far greater threat to global water security than is currently acknowledged," the paper says.

The problem poses a worldwide threat.

"Crucial supplies of water in China, the U.S., India and other major economies are dwindling so fast that the threat to the world’s water security is far worse than is commonly understood, [the] prominent hydrologist has warned," according to the Financial Times.

"Endangered areas include the High Plains and Central Valley aquifers in the United States, the North China Plain, Australia’s Canning Basin and the aquifers beneath northwestern India and the Middle East," Money News reported.

Groundwater supplies are being pumped so quickly that it cannot be naturally replenished, Famiglietti said, per the FT report.

“Many of the largest aquifers on most continents are being mined,” Famiglietti wrote in the paper, per the FT report.

“Without a sustainable groundwater reserve, global water security is at a far greater risk than is currently recognized.”

Famiglietti spoke up about the enormous drought challenge the U.S. is facing in a recent NASA release.

“What will it take to get out of this drought in California? In the past, that has been a difficult question to answer,” he said. “With some of our recent research...to quantify the magnitude of the drought deficit at any point in time, we can now begin to estimate just how much water we need to satisfy that deficit."

For example, as of January 2014, we could see that the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins were 25 cubic kilometers below normal conditions for that time of the year. That's exactly how much water we would need to alleviate drought conditions,” he continued.

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Image credit: "Alarming," Keith Tyler © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/