Academic journal article Science Scope

Mapping the Earth's Hidden Groundwater

Academic journal article Science Scope

Mapping the Earth's Hidden Groundwater

Article excerpt

Less than 6% of groundwater in the upper two kilometers of Earth's landmass is renewable within a human lifetime, according to a study by an international group of hydrologists.

Using multiple datasets and more than 40,000 groundwater models, the study estimates a volume of nearly 23 million cubic kilometers of total groundwater, of which 0.35 million cubic kilometers is younger than 50 years old.

'This has never been known before," says Tom Gleeson, the lead author of the study. "We already know that water levels in lots of aquifers are dropping. We're using our groundwater resources too fast--faster than they're being renewed."

Young and old groundwater are fundamentally different in how they interact with the rest of the water and climate cycles. Old groundwater is found deeper and is often used as a water resource for agriculture and industry. Sometimes, it contains arsenic or uranium and is often saltier than ocean water.

The volume of modern groundwater dwarfs all other components of the active water cycle and is a more renewable resource, but it's also more vulnerable to climate change and contamination by human activities. …

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