• 01 Jul 2015 /  Uncategorized


    by Joe Romm Posted on October 31, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong


    An alarming satellite-based analysis from NASA finds that the world is depleting groundwater — the water stored unground in soil and aquifers — at an unprecedented rate.

    A new Nature Climate Change piece, “The global groundwater crisis,” by James Famiglietti, a leading hydrologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, warns that “most of the major aquifers in the world’s arid and semi-arid zones, that is, in the dry parts of the world that rely most heavily on groundwater, are experiencing rapid rates of groundwater depletion.”

    The groundwater at some of the world’s largest aquifers — in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere — is being pumped out “at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished.”

    The most worrisome fact: “nearly all of these underlie the word’s great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity.”
    And this is doubly concerning in our age of unrestricted carbon pollution because it is precisely these semiarid regions that are projected to see drops in precipitation and/or soil moisture, which will sharply boost the chances of civilization-threatening megadroughts and Dust-Bowlification.

    As these increasingly drought-prone global bread-baskets lose their easily accessible ground-water too, we end up with a death spiral: “Moreover, because the natural human response to drought is to pump more groundwater continued groundwater depletion will very likely accelerate mid-latitude drying, a problem that will be exacerbated by significant population growth in the same regions.”

    So this is very much a crisis, albeit an under-reported one. But why is NASA the one sounding the alarm? How has the space agency been able to study what happens underground? The answer is that NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission can track the earth’s mass over space and time — and large changes in the amount of water stored underground cause an observable change in mass.

    Here is California’s groundwater depletion over the last three years as observed by GRACE:

    NASA: “The ongoing California drought is evident in these maps of dry season (Sept–Nov) total water storage anomalies (in millimeter equivalent water height; anomalies with respect to 2005–2010). California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 km3 of total water per year since 2011 — more water than all 38 million Californians use for domestic and municipal supplies annually — over half of which is due to groundwater pumping in the Central Valley.”

    Certainly, the combined threat of mega-drought and groundwater depletion in the U.S. breadbaskets should be cause for concern and action by itself.

    But we should also worry about what is happening around the globe, if for no other reason than it inevitably affects our security. As I wrote last year, “Warming-Fueled Drought Helped Spark Syria’s Civil War.”

    Dr. Famiglietti explains the risk:

    Further declines in groundwater availability may well trigger more civil uprising and international violent conflict in the already water-stressed regions of the world, and new conflict in others. From North Africa to the Middle East to South Asia, regions where it is already common to drill over 2 km [kilometers] to reach groundwater, it is highly likely that disappearing groundwater could act as a flashpoint for conflict.

    Outside of this country, NASA has observed aquifer declines in “the North China Plain, Australia’s Canning Basin, the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, the Guarani Aquifer in South America … and the aquifers beneath northwestern India and the Middle East.”

    Water storage declines (mm equivalent water height) in several of the world’s major aquifers.

    Famiglietti says that groundwater “acts as the key strategic reserve in times of drought, in particular during prolonged events,” such as we’re seeing in the West, Brazil, and Australia:

    Like money in the bank, groundwater sustains societies through the lean times of little incoming rain and snow. Hence, without a sustainable groundwater reserve, global water security is at far greater risk than is currently recognized.

    Yes, we can stave off bankruptcy a little longer despite our unsustainable lifestyle by taking money from our children’s bank accounts. As we reported last year, we’re taking $7.3 trillion a year in natural capital — arable land, potable water, livable climate, and so on — from our children without paying for it. In short, humanity has constructed the grandest of Ponzi schemes, whereby current generations have figured out how to live off the wealth of future generations.

  • 01 Jul 2015 /  Uncategorized

     August 10, 2012

    Many of the world’s most important food-producing regions depend on freshwater from massive underground aquifers that have built up over thousands of years.

    Ogallala Aquifer in the midwestern United States. The Upper Ganges, sustaining India and Pakistan.

    Going, going… gone? (Kevin Clark-AP)

    Yet many of those aquifers are now being sucked dry by irrigation and other uses faster than they can be replenished by rainwater, according to a new study in Nature. It’s unclear when many of these aquifers will be completely emptied — scientists are still trying to measure how much “fossil water” these aquifers actually hold. But it’s a worrisome trend: About 1.7 billion people rely on aquifers that are rapidly being depleted. And once they’re gone, it would take thousands of years to refill them.

    The Nature study, published by researchers at McGill and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, offers a map showing the regions where the use of water from these aquifers vastly exceeds the rate at which they’re being refilled by rain.  (read more)



  • Rainwater harvesting captures water that would become stormwater and places it into large tanks under the ground where it is later pumped out for irrigation, toilet flushing, cooling-tower make-up and other non-potable water needs. The NC DWQ recognizes the value of rain harvesting for water quality and gives permit applicants valuable credits.

    An article in today’s News and Observer states the estimated clean up cost of pollution in Falls Lake is $1.5 billion dollars. The article implies this pollution occurs because “sediment-laden stormwater runs off pavement in the urban core into streams, creeks and rivers that feed the lake.”

    Encourage your business owners and community leaders to pursue rain water harvesting for the benefit of water quality in our watershed!

    Source: News and Observer, June 10, 2010

  • 10 May 2010 /  Cost of Water

    The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority that regulates water for Wilmington, N.C. and Brunswick County raised water rates 14% effective 5/1/2010. This is their second rate increase this year. Water rates are rising across the country as states are becoming more and more aware of the supply / demand imbalance and begin to move toward pricing water at its true (i.e. unsubsidized) cost. Given the budgeting problems caused by the economy, more municipalities are raising rates to pay for capital improvement projects. They can no longer afford to subsidize water rates. Rising water rates correlate positively with both property owners’ interest in conservation solutions and the associated payback periods or return-on-investment.

    Source: Cape Fear Public Utility Authority Website.

  • 05 Jan 2010 /  Cost of Water

    San Diego, California:
    The average San Diegan’s monthly water bill was $43.13 in January 2007. By next July, it’ll be $68.45 — a 58 percent increase for the same amount of use. Earlier droughts in the 1970s and 1990s brought similar rate spikes. But after three years of increases, this spike hasn’t peaked yet and the end isn’t in sight. The San Diego County Water Authority, the major water supplier for San Diego and other local cities, forecasts its rates rising every year and doubling by 2018, an increase that will hit the pocketbooks of almost every home and business in the region.
    Rates have been increasing faster than the authority expected. Even last year, it wasn’t projecting rates to be as high as they are now until 2012.

    Source: By ROB DAVIS, VoiceOfSanDiego.org, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2009

  • 04 Jan 2010 /  Cost of Water

    Santa Fe, New Mexico: The city raised water rates 8.2 percent last spring and will continue to raise rates 8.2 percent annually for the next four years.

    Source: By Staci Matlock, The Santa Fe New Mexican, January 1, 2010

  • On October 5, 2009, The White House released an Executive Order from President Obama which establishes the Federal Government as a leader in adopting sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. The order addresses issues such as energy usage and green house gas emissions to strategies to improve water efficiency and management.
    Some of the highlights of the water policy: (Section 2(d))
    – reducing potable water consumption by 26 percent by the end of fiscal year 2020
    – reducing agency industrial, landscaping, and agricultural water consumption by 20 percent by the end of fiscal year 2020
    – identify, promote and implement water reuse strategies that reduce potable water consumption
    – Stormwater guidance for Federal Facilities

    Source: October 5, 2009 THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary

  • 29 Dec 2009 /  Water Issues - United States

    Rain harvesting saves Tucson water

    TUCSON — Tucson’s push to use rainwater to meet landscaping needs could serve as a model for dry regions throughout the nation, Arizona environmentalists said.

    Beginning next year, new businesses in Tucson must use rainwater for at least half of their landscaping needs.

    If all of Tucson’s rainwater could be collected, it would amount to about 75 percent of the water delivered to homes and businesses each year, said Jim Riley, a University of Arizona hydrologist who teaches about rainwater harvesting.

    Source: Dec. 28, 2009 at 12:04 PM by United Press International

  • Have you ever wondered what is the difference between rainwater and stormwater? What about the differences between potable water, grey water and black water.

    Rainwater is drops of fresh water that fall as precipitation from clouds. Stormwater is that portion of rainfall that does not infiltrate into the soil and runs off roofs, roads and other impermeable surfaces where it flows into gutters, drains, rivers and creeks.

    Potable water is water that is of sufficiently high quality so that it can be consumed or used without risk of immediate or long term harm. Potable water often has to meet government regulations in relation to contaminant levels and is physically and chemically treated to achieve these standards. Grey water is non-industrial wastewater generated from domestic processes such as dish washing, laundry and bathing. Blackwater is wastewater which is loaded with biological material such as faeces and urine. Blackwater can also be referred to as sewage or brown water.

    Source: Atlantis Corporation Australia

  • “Water to cost more in Raleigh”

    Water bills are going up. Again.

    The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday tentatively approved a 13 percent rate increase for Raleigh and Garner water customers. The increase, effective Dec. 1, takes the place of a tiered system of billing that would also have raised rates but rewarded residential consumers who use less than the average amount of water.

    The city delayed implementing the tiered system until next summer because of problems converting the old computer system to the new scheme, said Gail Roper, the city’s chief information officer. It was supposed to be running Dec. 1.

    Read More

    Using a FreeRain System in your home or business will reduce water bills by using rainwater for toilet flushing, irrigation and other non-potable usages. As populations increase along with the demand for water municipalities will have no choice but to charge more and more for this valuable resource.

    Source: The News and Observer
    Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009