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Distressed Aquifers

June 25, 2015

Earth’s backup freshwater supplies are in peril, according to satellite images.



UC Irvine NASA

Aquifers pictured in orange and red are being depleted the fastest. (UC Irvine/NASA)

Overstressed aquifers. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Sensitive instruments aboard two NASA satellites are tracking changes in underground aquifers. In the journal Water Resources Research, UC Irvine water scientist Jay Famiglietti says the data reveal that 13 of Earth’s 37 largest aquifers are in distress: We’re using their water up far faster than it’s being replenished. He says other indicators back those findings up.

JAY FAMIGLIETTI (University of California, Irvine and Jet Propulsion Lab):

The signs of being past these tipping points in things depleting streams is a big issue out here in the West—most of our streams, especially in southern California are dry—the need to dig deeper and deeper wells—and lower water quality as we get deeper into aquifers. So the signs of trouble are there.


He says worldwide, we need better water management, and more effective efforts to quantify what’s left. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna_basins Pfly CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikipedia

The Ganges-Brahmaputra Basin aquifer is one of the most imperiled. (Pfly/ Creative Commons License BY-SA 2.0, via Wikipedia)