With the approach to drought in the western United States of America becoming bleaker, the attention is turning towards groundwater once again. Groundwater refers to the water that is literally stored under the ground. This source of water is the most reliable since it is widespread and is freshwater. However, groundwater is not limitless.
People drill wells in order to obtain groundwater. Out of the accessed supply, almost half is utilized for irrigation purposes in the US while the remaining serves as drinking water to more than 100 million US citizens. Nonetheless, continuous pumping is leading to the gradual decline in groundwater in some places like San Joaquin and High Plains in Kansas.
Some water resources scientists and engineers with water law training have recently conducted a study. They have mapped the specific location of deep wells in almost 40 nations all over the planet. They have also discovered numerous wells that might potentially run dry.
Even though there are various solutions depending on the kind of soil and weather conditions, it is crucial to prevent the wells from becoming dry. According to their study, the groundwater must be sustainably managed, especially in the US.
Importance Of Groundwater
Wells have been dug for several years, For instance, Czech Republic has 7,400-year ancient wells whereas Germany has 8,000-year-old ones. Similarly, Cyprus wells are 10,000 years old. At present, wells supply almost 40% of the irrigation water worldwide as well as for drinking use.
Groundwater flows across tiny spaces in the sediments and the underlying bedrock. In some places named discharge areas, the water rises to surface level and fills the streams, rivers, and lakes. In other places called recharge areas, the water percolates deep within the ground through leakage from lakes, rivers, and streams or through precipitation.
The decline in groundwater is a highly undesirable consequence. Sinking land surface while clay layers underground remain compact. Seawater intrusion might contaminate the reserves of groundwater by turning them salty. River water may also leak into the aquifers.
The depletion of groundwater may also result in drying after the top surface known as the water table, drops to the extent that no wells can extract it. This will eventually make the wells dry. On the other hand, the drying of groundwater had not been known or paid attention to until recently.
Risk Of Groundwater Decline
We do not have any database of global wells but 134 rare well construction have been compiled for the last 6 years covering 40 countries. The group has examined almost 39 million records of well construction including the location and reason. The most important reason being human livelihoods.
The analysis revealed that 20% of wells across the world are up to 26 feet below the water table, suggesting they will become dry if the groundwater level drops by a few feet. Secondly, new wells do not get dug considerably deep enough in certain areas with a declining level of groundwater. Such cases are witnessed in New Mexico and they are at great risk.
Households have already started running dry in parts of southeast Arizona, Oregon, Maine, Central Valley, and Illinois. New deeper wells must be dug because they can provide fresh water. The water has the possibility of being more saline in several deep aquifers, resulting in drilling becoming a mere stopgap solution. The property can also be sold in the absence of an adequate water supply.
Reducing the use of water by diverting the source of water supply are some sustainable ways to protect the underground water. Limiting the activities that require excessive water is also greatly helpful. Local and state agencies must come together to find proper measures to this rather significant problem.
Image Featured: Tatsiana Volskaya