A first map of Earth’s underground water has surfaced thanks to the collaborative efforts of scientists from the University of Victoria, University of Texas at Austin, University of Gottingen and University of Calgary.
Until now, no overarching estimate of the Earth’s underground water resources has been done. Disparate information on resources have been gathered in different studies. Now, a new global map is bridging the knowledge gap thanks to the efforts of the international research team. To put this map together the researchers conducted a thorough analysis of multiple datasets, geological information, satellite mapping as well as data on over 40,000 groundwater models.
In a breakthrough manner they have managed to bring to light a data-driven estimate of Earth’s underground water supply. More details on the study and the global map feature in the Nature Geoscience.
A first map of Earth’s underground water has surfaced and with it the estimate according to which 23 million cubic kilometers of water are found under the Earth’s surface. In case you didn’t know, underground water is split in two categories: new and old. According to the research findings, 0.35 million cubic kilometers of water is considered new. So new that it is under 50 years old. However, this is also the underground water that is most accessible to human communities.
Due to a combination of using more water than we need and climate change leading to the diminishing of rainfall and snowfall, this underground water is becoming more difficult to replace. Subterranean aquifers holding this water are becoming increasingly difficult to replenish, placing communities at risk.
The researchers noted:
“This has never been known before. We already know that water levels in the aquifers are dropping. We’re using our groundwater resources too fast-faster than they’re being renewed”.
What of old underground water? This resource is less accessible to communities at large. Located deeper under the surface of the planet, it is typically tapped for industry and agriculture. However, it is also more dangerous as it may contains uranium and arsenic, poisonous substances if ingested. At the same time, older groundwater is often saltier than new water, and saltier than the water of the ocean in addition to not being a renewable source.
New water is renewable due to rainfall and the melting of the snowpack. With these processes diminishing due to climate change this resource is also in danger.
Photo Credits: kinja-img.com