Running Out of Water?

If you ask NASA, they would say "YES!" with emphasis. Just published NASA data from the GRACE satellite (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) makes it clear that half of the world largest aquifers are being drained faster than they are being filled and may be past the point of no return. That means that hundreds of millions of people in the US, India, China, Russia, and the Middle East that think they have plenty of water, don’t. “The situation is quite critical,” said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and principal investigator of the University of California Irvine-led studies.

California’s Central Valley Aquifer is the worst in the US. 60 percent of the water used in California comes from aquifers. It could be 100% by the end of 2018. The Sonoma County Water Authority predicted in 2009 that the Sonoma and Marin County could lose up to 37,000 jobs and $5 Billion in lost output.

New California regulation and restriction is not the answer; it only addresses the distribution of scarcity and will take 20 years to implement. It is too little too late and is a doomed approach. We don’t need better distribution and use of a scarce resource; we need more water.

The rest of the US is not much better than California. The Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifers are in serious and growing danger. In the San Antonio area, the ever-deeper wells are pulling up water that was laid down in the last ice age, about 11,700 years ago.

Worldwide the situation poor and densely populated regions are the most affected; northwest India, Pakistan, and North Africa. The Arabian Aquifer, which is the sole source for 60 million people, is in the world’s worst condition: growing depletion, no recharge, and growing demand for more water.

The transfer of ground water to surface water is also accelerating climate change effects. A recent Japanese study concluded that 40% of the rise in sea levels is caused by of decades of well water runoff, adding to the impact of climate change. 40%!

Worse, the ever-drier soil raises continental air temperatures, accelerating climate and weather volatility, shifting rain away from the areas that need it most and over more extreme latitude and oceans, where it has no helpful effect on agriculture. The result: less water, lower agricultural production, more aquifer draining wells, and the vicious cycle continues.


Global Aquifer Depletion 2018

If you have ever been without water, you will never forget it. One summer I was hiking with my Dad on the Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park. As we were walking out of the Canyon, about half way up, when we overcame a pair of hikers who had run out of water and were in a bad way. There was nothing to do but move to the shade, share our water, and wait for the Park supervised mule ride, which carried their own water (and to spare), for the mules and hapless hikers. As the hours counted down, we focused more and more on the upper trail, listening, and watching.  I thought we might have to continue after dark, an uninviting prospect. I was never so happy to see a mule in all my life!

Bottom line is we all need water and we are running out. Now that you know, what are you going to do about it? Start by contacting the WaterSeer Foundation at info(at)!