Earth is Running Out of Fresh Water
We’re taking out more than Mother Nature is putting back in and most of it is evaporating or getting dumped into the oceans. GRACE has been studying the shift in the Earth’s gravitational pull when over these Aquifers (yes, we can do that, YAY SCIENCE!) over a ten year period from 2003 to 2013.
The droughts in California have aggravated the situation, but with the average global temperature rising, the equatorial regions are just going to keep getting drier, and the warmer air will be more reluctant to give up its moisture.
The Washington Post has this to say:
The world’s largest underground aquifers – a source of fresh water for hundreds of millions of people — are being depleted at alarming rates, according to new NASA satellite data that provides the most detailed picture yet of vital water reserves hidden under the Earth’s surface.
Twenty-one of the world’s 37 largest aquifers — in locations from India and China to the United States and France — have passed their sustainability tipping points, meaning more water was removed than replaced during the decade-long study period, researchers announced Tuesday. Thirteen aquifers declined at rates that put them into the most troubled category. The researchers said this indicated a long-term problem that’s likely to worsen as reliance on aquifers grows.
Scientists had long suspected that humans were taxing the world’s underground water supply, but the NASA data was the first detailed assessment to demonstrate that major aquifers were indeed struggling to keep pace with demands from agriculture, growing populations, and industries such as mining.
“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.
Underground aquifers supply 35 percent of the water used by humans worldwide. Demand is even greater in times of drought. Rain-starved California is currently tapping aquifers for 60 percent of its water use as its rivers and above-ground reservoirs dry up, a steep increase from the usual 40 percent. Some expect water from aquifers will account for virtually every drop of the state’s fresh water supply by year end.
For the off-grid warrior, this information directly impacts your homestead. How are you going to get the water you need if and when your well dries up? Should you be putting down roots on a property that, according to the above map, is not replenishing its aquifer fast enough to keep up with demand? Can you handle your water needs without the need to dip into the aquifers?
If you’re building this lifestyle for your children, remember that they and their children will likely be the generations most impacted by vanishing aquifers. Just imagine this future: the aquifers dry up, and the soil begins to dry along with it. Dry soils lead to dead plants and suddenly there is nothing to hold the topsoil together and you get dust.
With extra heat energy going into the climate, the whole system picks up momentum and you suddenly have large wind storms. Wind picks up dust and now you’ve got destructive dust storms. We get these in Arizona, and they suck, but they are also only common in the summers and the local fauna has adapted to dry conditions enough to mitigate these storms.
But in areas where nature has not had enough time to adapt, especially in large plains areas where wind picks up speed, or even turns into a tornado, dust storms can be a tragic addition to an already miserable situation. Perhaps it may be ideal to transplant native desert plants into areas that are drying out. This is blasphemy from an ecological conservation standpoint, but hey, the world is changing, and we’ve got to survive!
So, how do we solve this problem? We kind of have to, you know. California recently implemented groundwater regulations that will take 20 years to fully implement, and even then, moderation can only go so far when the number of thirsty, hungry humans isn’t on a complementary decline. Obviously this water isn’t just vanishing into nothingness, it’s just becoming less accessible.
The moisture in the air can be collected with atmospheric water generators or wind condensers, but eventually we’re going to need to pull our drinking water right out of the oceans. Desalination takes a lot of energy though, so those technologies need to be improved and renewable energy sources need to become more efficient. This is a global problem with many technological implications that need good innovation and engineering to solve. This is a problem for everyone, so all the makers out there, listen up: This is your chance to save the future!
We need tangible, affordable solutions to our fresh water problem that doesn’t only benefit the richest nations. We also need better water management systems, and to encourage the use of drought resistant food crops that require little water to grow but can provide ample nutrition. Tepary beans, mesquite beans, squash, just look to the desert peoples of yore and how they survived in an environment with little water. There are also more efficient ways to grow crops that don’t rely on spraying valuable fresh water onto large open fields of dirt.
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