Groundwater as seen from space

Ninety-nine percent of Earth’s liquid freshwater supply sits in the ground beneath our feet, where it fills the spaces between grains in the soil and the small holes in porous rocks. In other words, 99% of the planet’s liquid freshwater supply is invisible to us, which is part of the reason most of us don’t notice that it’s disappearing.

But over the past decade, thanks to a pair of satellites orbiting 300 miles above Earth’s surface, researchers have been keeping tabs on the seasonal ups-and-downs in groundwater stores all over the world, and tracking longer-term trends like the depletion of the Ogalalla aquifer under the southwestern U.S.

This year, a few designers took the data from the GRACE satellites’ gravity measurements and created some stunning visualizations that allow us to see, for the first time, the resource we rely on most.

Drought and surplus is visible in this graphic

via Daily Infographic: What Earth’s Swirling Groundwater Looks Like From Outerspace | Popular Science.

We’ll soon pay dearly for safe-yield inaction

A forward-thinking Arizonan makes a strong case for the safe yield of Del Rio Springs #groundwater:

Although it’s easy to overlook this slowly unfolding disaster, we should instead recognize that we can solve this problem and comfortably coexist with living springs and rivers. The drying of Del Rio Springs is a clear and present reminder that, unless we better manage our groundwater resources and consume less water, unless we develop a sustainable water supply, unless we care for our water-dependent natural resources, we and our children will all suffer the loss.

via Talk of the Town: We’ll soon pay dearly for safe-yield inaction – The Prescott Daily Courier – Prescott, Arizona.

Why are we losing our groundwater?

This video is a but long, but highly informative if you care about water. It explains groundwater sources, uses, and how groundwater information will be vital to a sustainable future.

The biggest issue the cities have is knowledge. They don’t have an understand of what the significance and magnitude of the [groundwater] problem is. Many cities are close to some type of catastrophic failure. – Executive, Columbia Basin Ground Water Management Association

It’s not just cities. It’s farmers, homeowners and businesses. Our mission at Wellntel is to close the knowledge gap.


Ordinance prohibits new growth and offsets for groundwater demand

Since February 2011, the Paso Robles groundwater basin has been classified as facing overdraft.

The [new] ordinance is estimated to save only 350 acre-feet of water over the next 20 years from a groundwater basin that safely yields nearly 98,000 acre-feet of water a year. Despite this minimal benefit, a majority of the board said the ordinance was an important first step given the severity of the problem.

Supervisors received many comments from North County residents who are afraid of losing their homes because of consistent lowering of groundwater levels over the past 20 years. Single, rural homes often have the shallowest wells and are at the greatest risk of going dry.

“When we hear about people losing their homes because of their wells going dry, we have to act,” said Supervisor Jim Patterson, who voted for the new ordinance.

Since February 2011, the Paso Robles groundwater basin has been classified as facing overdraft. Some areas of the basin have seen dramatic reductions in groundwater levels while other areas have not, said James Caruso, senior county planner, in his report to supervisors.

Gravity measurements reveal #groundwater pressures

What can we learn from accurate measurements of Earth’s gravity? The thickness of ice sheets and glaciers, the temperature of large-scale ocean currents, motions of magma, better profiles of the atmosphere, and also the amount of water stored in the ground.

GRACE's plot of gravity over the Americas (Image: GRACE/NASA)

GRACE’s plot of gravity over the Americas (Image: GRACE/NASA)

Groundwater is the source of artesian springs throughout the world. It is also the main source of water for drinking and farming for much of the world. In the U.S., 37 percent of water from growing crops and 51 percent of drinking water comes from groundwater. The water table in India’s wheat, rice, and barley-growing northern regions has been dropping over a foot (30 cm) per year. The water table under Moscow fell 300 feet (91 m) over the last century. Groundwater is not only a precious resource, but an overused one.


NGWA critical need: #groundwater monitoring network

NGWA LogoNGWA has been a long-time advocate of the National Ground Water Monitoring Network.

In the United States, 78 percent of community water systems, nearly all of rural America’s private household water wells, and 42 percent of agricultural irrigation water are supplied by groundwater. While the nation’s people, food supply, economy, and ecosystems depend on groundwater, no systematic nationwide monitoring network is in place to measure what is currently available and how groundwater levels and quality may be changing over time.

“As with any valuable natural resource, our groundwater reserves must be monitored to assist in planning and minimizing potential impacts from shortages or supply disruptions,” said NGWA Government Affairs Director Christine Reimer. “Just as one cannot effectively oversee the nation’s economy without key data, one cannot adequately address the nation’s food, energy, economic, and drinking water security without understanding the extent, availability, and sustainability of the critical commodity — groundwater.”

Congress has authorized a national groundwater monitoring network, and proponents are seeking federal funding to build it.

via ‘Critical Needs’ report urges building of National Ground Water Monitoring Network – National Groundwater Association.

Communal rights proposed for Indian #groundwater

In what could be a sweeping reform, Indian leaders are proposing that landowners must not also be ground water owners. In a plan called the “basin” approach, water rights would be shifted from individuals to communities. The proposal is designed to make “unsafe yield” illegal. How will it be measured?

Concerned over the declining water table across the country, the water resources ministry is working on an overarching law that will modify provisions allowing proprietary right to a land owner on groundwater and make it a community resource.

Ministry officials said the draft bill, seeking to declare water as a community resource, presently held by the state under the doctrine of public trust would be ready in six months. It will provide an overarching national legal framework on general principles of water preservation.

“While states have the right to frame laws on water, there is a need to evolve an overarching national legal framework and devolution of necessary powers to lower tiers of government… Existing acts may have to be modified as they appear to give proprietary right to a land owner on groundwater,” a ministry official told IANS.

The official, who did not want to be named, said the present legal situation gave a land holder in almost all parts of the country the right to pump unlimited quantities of water from a bore well. He said ground water extraction was not properly regulated and efforts by some states to frame guidelines had been ineffective in the absence of punitive action.

Annual extraction of groundwater in the country, estimated at around 243 cubic km, was the highest in the world, the official said and has led to rapid depletion of this resource.

via Move to make groundwater community resource |

Groundwater scarcity hurting homeowners

When the water table declines, it may not be as simple as digging a deeper well. Groundwater scarcity eventually leads logically to lower property values. Here is a good example of that happening in San Luis Obispo, California. Key quote:

Those of us living in the rural areas over the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin depend entirely on groundwater. We have no other source of supply. Stabilization of the basin is critical. Without water, our homes are worthless.

What can you do? Learn about groundwater and become a local groundwater leader!

via You have to have water to divide it | Commentary | New Times San Luis Obispo, CA.

Report urges building of national #groundwater monitoring network

Critical Needs for the Twenty-first Century: The Role of Geosciences was released this week by the American Geosciences Institute. Providing sufficient supplies of water is one of eight critical needs identified in the report.

Within that need the report specifically recommends, “Monitoring of surface and subsurface water quantity and quality with a focus on enhancing the National Streamflow Information Program and building the National Groundwater [sic] Monitoring Network.”

via ‘Critical Needs’ report urges building of National Ground Water Monitoring Network – National Groundwater Association.