NASA Says We’re Running Out Of Drinking Water

A group of researchers at NASA have studied their GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite and have come to the following conclusion: We’re all going to be a lot thirstier pretty soon.

By now you know that California is experiencing a record-setting drought, which is why it shouldn’t shock you that their groundwater supply is one of the fastest-depleting in the entire country. (Aquifers rely on rain water and snow melt to refill themselves.) During this decades-long study it was found that out of 37 major aquifers worldwide, 20 other sources are experiencing a reduction in the water supply, other than California’s Central Valley aquifer. Thirteen of those are on a high-risk list, and are unlikely to rebound from the loss.

The Indus Basin aquifer, which supplies much of India’s water supply, is also one of the fastest draining sources of water. Both California and India rely heavily on the groundwater supply for farming. According to NASA scientist Matthew Roddell, 68 percent of the world’s water supply is used for agriculture. That water is not recyclable, and Roddell is concerned that we aren’t tracking the levels of water used:

“We should be monitoring and quantifying how much water is in these aquifers like we do with oil.”

Another culprit may be due to mining for oil and gas. Australia’s Canning Basin is the third biggest loser of water, but its Great Artesian Basin, on the east coast of the country, is doing just fine. Canning Basin is home to many gold, iron ore, oil and gas mines, processes which are water-intensive.

The study took readings of the GRACE satellite’s gravitational orbit, which is affected by the shifting of the Earth’s mass. Since water shifts the most, it was easy to monitor changes in the groundwater system. But their studies don’t reveal how much water is left in these depleted aquifers. It’s also unclear just how big each underground water supply actually is. The study shows that some locations may be much smaller than previously believed.

This all points to a dangerous shift in our perceived water supply, and whether we will have these sources to rely on in the future.

I guess you could say that nothin’ lasts forever, even cold November rain.

(Via the Washington Post, Quartz)