Global Groundwater Depletion – An overdraft of nature’s bounties posing economic collapse and regional instability

Water is the new oil, or so say those who understand the true value of water.  This week 60 Minutes aired a compelling new segment, “Depleting the Water.”  Link to video here.  Water scarcity, just like food scarcity, can result in regional destabilization and pose national security challenges.  Here is the 2012 Intelligence Community Assessment report referenced by Leslie Stahl titled Global Water Security prepared by the CIA, NSA, FBI and National Defense Agency.

Jay Famiglietti, a water expert from UC Irvine, likened groundwater to a savings account, only to be used sparingly when you need to dip into savings.  Based on our current usage, it would appear that we are dipping far too much into that savings account, creating an overdraft from which it may be exceedingly difficult to recover in some areas.  Unlike surface water reservoirs, groundwater aquifers can take tens or hundreds of years to recharge.

We are using some extraordinary satellite technology that can measure the slightest change in earth’s orbit, often impacted by the pumping and sloshing around of water around the globe, which is helping us to pinpoint those regions where groundwater pumping rates are dangerously unsustainable.  The project is called GRACE, which stands for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experient.

Check out this video of GRACE detected groundwater depletion in India.

I’ve always been cautious about using the term “crisis” – careful not to throw it around loosely in search of a response – but the moniker is deserved here.  The current use of our water resources globally and domestically, particularly groundwater resources, cannot continue at its current pace without dire consequences.  This presents the perennial challenge of “out of sight out of mind” management (or mismanagement) of our water resources and water infrastructure used to convey water from our rivers and aquifers to businesses, homes, and agricultural fields.