These days, it seems like there are drought conditions everywhere. From California to Brazil to India, there are no shortage of news stories coming out of these regions, which are reporting a catastrophic lack of rainfall all over the world.
But just how widespread is this problem? Is the world truly facing a massive water crisis, or is the news over reporting the conditions of a few hard hit regions?
NASA may have the answer.
They wanted to see if the world’s fresh water aquifers were being depleted, so they turned to their “GRACE” satellites, which are capable of making detailed measurements of the Earth’s gravity in any region. The results have not been encouraging.
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.
According to data compiled by Water Resources Research and the Washington Post, this is what the situation looks like.
As you can see, many of the places that are drying up are also conflict–prone areas such as the border between China and India, Pakistan, and large swaths of the Middle East and Africa. Saudi Arabia is extremely parched, which isn’t too surprising given its desert status. However, the fact that every country from Yemen to Syria is depleting their groundwater, is particularly worrying for that war-torn region.
NASA’s examination of the word’s water supply is troubling to say the least. With more than a third of humanity’s water being delivered by underground aquifers, and with many of these resources drying up in potential and active conflict zones, the world seems primed for a water war in the near future.
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Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple, where this article first appeared. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger.