Many countries in different parts of the world are facing rapid and worrying depletion of their groundwater reserves. This resource is critical to millions of people who rely on it for purposes such as consumption and irrigation. The massive decline in these reserves was noted by recent research based on thousands of measurements of groundwater levels from 170,000 wells in more than 40 countries, in data collected in the study conducted in California and published by CNN.
A look at the state of global groundwater
The study is a pioneer in revealing groundwater table behavior on a global scale. This will allow researchers to better understand human impact on this underground resource. Human interference can occur through overuse or through indirect changes in rainfall levels linked to climate change caused by our impact on the environment.
Groundwater, particularly contained in permeable rock structures called aquifers, is a source of life for people living in regions where rain and surface water are scarce. Examples include northwest India and the southwest United States. A decline in these levels can make access to drinking water and irrigation of crops more difficult, leading to land subsidence that can trigger several environmental problems.
An alarming panorama
The research authors found that water use fell by 71% in 1,693 aquifer systems analyzed. The situation is worrying: at 36% of the locations analyzed, levels fell by more than 0.1 m per year. The AscoySoplamo aquifer, located in Spain, had the fastest recorded decline, with an average reduction of 2.95 m per year.
Comparing 21st century data with data from 1980 to 2000 from 542 aquifers, the researchers also found that water table decline accelerated in the first two decades of the 21st century in 30% of these aquifers.
Unfortunately, there are still many challenges in conserving these water reserves. Raising public awareness and making informed decisions are essential steps for the proper management of these vital resources. It's important to remember that invisible doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Therefore, consideration of underground reserves in environmental planning and policy is urgently needed.