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NEWS: Global groundwater levels dwindling

The CBC reports today that, “A global survey (by lead author Marc Bierkens of Utrecht University in the Netherlands) of groundwater levels appears to show underground supplies are dwindling. The research, examining groundwater reserves by measuring rainfall and other water sources against evaporation and removal for agriculture and other uses, finds that the rate of depletion more than doubled between 1960 and 2000, to 283 cubic kilometres annually from 126 cubic kilometres per year.”

A UPI news report explains, “Because the total amount of the world’s groundwater is unknown it’s hard to estimate how fast the global supply would vanish at this rate, but if water was drained as rapidly from the Great Lakes they would go bone-dry in around 80 years, scientists say.”

The CBC report adds, “Groundwater represents roughly 30 per cent of all fresh water in the world. Its depletion is leading to an increase in sea levels, as people remove groundwater, leaving it then to evaporate and fall as rain. The researchers predict current practices will lead to a crisis, as so much of the world’s agriculture relies on groundwater.”

The OneIndia media report says, “Today, people are drawing so much water from below that they are adding enough of it to the oceans (mainly by evaporation, then precipitation) to account for about 25 percent of the annual sea level rise across the planet, found researchers.”

The research is to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

In May 2009, the Canwest News Service reported that, “Close to 10 million Canadians depend on drinking water that comes from beneath their feet and is increasingly threatened by misuse and contamination, says a sobering new report.” The 315-page report by the Council of Canadian Academies (a national science advisory board) was commissioned by the federal government two years ago. The report found that, “‘Rampant’ urbanization, climate change, energy production, intensification of agriculture and contamination are growing threats to groundwater”. That’s at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=477.

And in August 2009, the Canadian Press reported that, “The federal government is taking too long to map Canada’s stores of groundwater and key information won’t be available for another two decades, says a newly released document.” The briefing note prepared for Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt says, “The slow-going hinders Ottawa’s ability to make big decisions about the country’s water.” That’s at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=1594.

The CBC news article is at http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/09/24/groundwater-study-depletion.html. The OneIndia report is at http://news.oneindia.in/2010/09/24/groundwaterdepletion-rate-more-than-doubled-in-recentdecad.html. The UPI report is at http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2010/09/23/UPI-NewsTrack-Health-and-Science-News/UPI-47511285282273/.