Data published in 2015 in the Water Resources Research journal, as charted by NASA’s GRACE satellites from 2003 to 2013, reiterated the problem that the world is running out of water. Fresh water aquifers are being depleted at alarming rates. The expected nine billion people in 2050 will not have enough food to eat if current agricultural and mining methods and global warming continue.
Of the world’s 37 largest aquifers, 21 in countries like the United States, France, China and India had more water taken out than was put in during the ten years of study. Thirteen have rates declining so fast that they are now in Overstressed, the most troubled category. NASA senior water scientist, Jay Famiglietti, called the situation quite critical.
Taking thousands of years to fill up from slow rain and snowmelt water, aquifers are being stressed even more as drilling for water occurs globally. The water supply is finite and the water table is dropping across the globe. The World Economic Forum in January 2015 rated the water crisis as the number one global risk on impact to society as a devastation measure.
In 2012, Jessica Yu created the documentary Last Call at the Oasis about the water shortage. By 2025, if water usage continues as it is, 5.3 billion people, which is two-thirds of the world’s population, will be “vulnerable to water shortages.”
Rapidly increasing populations, industries like mining, and agriculture are running the world dry. Global warming is exacerbating the groundwater problem with equatorial regions becoming very dry
while extreme latitudes are being deluged with heavier rains. In field irrigation, some of the water filters back down to the aquifers, but most either evaporates or ends up in oceans where it is not readily available. Japanese researchers in 2012 reported as much as 40 percent of the recent sea-level increase is from pumped out groundwater people used and put back in the ocean. It is not all from melting icebergs.
The solution is no longer to conserve water by turning it off when brushing teeth. It must be reused. Water from taking showers can be used on crops and to produce electricity instead of flowing into the ocean. Government policies and technological innovation must make simpler water reuse requirements. Incentives like subsidies must require water reuse. Water treatment companies like GE must develop economically feasible, efficient technologies for governments to solve water challenges.
Dams are not the answer since their large surface area loses much water to evaporation, and they collect salts from freshwater which accumulate over time. The salt concentrations can poison cropland when used in irrigation as well as killing off animals which are fed the affected grains.
In 2012, the Stockholm International Water Institute reported that humans might have to become nearly complete vegetarians over the next 40 years to prevent world catastrophic water shortages. One third of the arable land in the world grows crops for feeding animals. It takes five to 10 times more water to provide animal food than a vegetarian diet. The United Nations predicts food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050.
In the U.S., the most affected area is California’s Central Valley Aquifer which is used in farm irrigation. The drought there has resulted in a rapid rise in the number of wells being drilled. New 2014 regulations could take twenty years to have full effect. Also running negative is the the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer in Florida and along the southeast coast.