Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Running Dry

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Running Dry

Article excerpt

Hydrologists have long warned that human activities such as irrigation for agriculture, mining, and manufacturing are depleting Earth's groundwater supplies quicker than they are being replenished. Now, disturbing new research confirms that we are pushing many underground aquifers to dangerous tipping points.

A June study in the journal Water Resources Research warned that 21 of the world's 37 largest aquifers aren't being recharged fast enough to meet the demands of agriculture and industry. The findings--which were based on NASA satellite imagery from 2003 to 2013--concluded that significant segments of Earth's population are consuming groundwater so fast that they are in danger of running out. It takes millennia for aquifers to fill up. In many places, humans are extracting that water at a rate far beyond natural replenishment.

"The water table is dropping all over the world," Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and one of the principal investigators of the report, said. "There's not an infinite supply of water."

1 Arabian Aquifer

Located underneath Saudi Arabia and Yemen, this groundwater reserve is the most stressed on the planet. In a little more than 40 years, about 80 percent of the aquifer has been mined with almost no replenishment. Some 60 million people depend on the aquifer for their water needs.

2 Indus Basin

Heavy groundwater pumping for irrigating crops and pasturelands has left the Indus Basin badly stressed. …

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