Ag Weather Forum
Bryce Anderson DTN Ag Meteorologist and DTN Analyst

Monday 07/28/14

Southwest Water Loss Is Incredible

The following article has some stunning detail about just how much water is being lost in the southwestern U.S. with the tremendous drought--and a lack of conservation. There's a real punch line at the end as well regarding water policy.--Bryce

Twitter @BAndersonDTN

Satellites show major Southwest groundwater loss

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --- Groundwater losses from the Colorado River basin appear massive enough to challenge long-term water supplies for the seven states and parts of Mexico that it serves, according to a new study released Thursday that used NASA satellites.

Researchers from NASA and the University of California, Irvine say their study is the first to quantify how much groundwater people in the West are using during the region's current drought.

Stephanie Castle, the study's lead author and a water resource specialist at the University of California, Irvine, called the extent of the groundwater depletion "shocking."

"We didn't realize the magnitude of how much water we actually depleted" in the West, Castle said.

Since 2004, researchers said, the Colorado River basin --- the largest in the Southwest --- has lost 53 million acre feet, or 17 trillion gallons, of water.

That's enough to supply more than 50 million households for a year, or nearly fill Lake Mead --- the nation's largest water reservoir --- twice. (BA note--not to mention how many acres' worth of crops could be watered.)

Three-fourths of those losses were groundwater, the study found.

Unlike reservoirs and other above-ground water, groundwater sources can become so depleted that they may never refill, Castle said. For California and other western states, the groundwater depletion is drawing down the reserves that protect consumers, farmers and ecosystems in times of drought.

"What happens if it isn't there?" Castle said during a phone interview. "That's the scary part of this analysis."

The NASA and University of California research used monthly gravity data to measure changes in water mass in the basin from December 2004 to November of last year, and used that data to track groundwater depletion.

"Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water-allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico, Jay Famiglietti, senior author on the study and senior water-cycle specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

The Colorado River basin supplies water to about 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland in seven states --- California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming --- as well as to people and farms in part of Mexico.

California, one of the nation's largest agricultural producers, is three years into drought. While the state has curtailed use of surface water, the state lacks a statewide system for regulating --- or even measuring --- groundwater.

(ES/AG/CZ)

Posted at 9:57AM CDT 07/28/14 by Bryce Anderson
Comments (2)
If the arrogance of the people continues, I hope I live far enough away when the taps won't run. Like every thing else, just a little conservation and common sense would accomplish much.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 6:00AM CDT 07/29/14
Desalinization plants run by solar, wind, geothermal ,or nuclear are going to have to be built if the population continues to rise where there is not consistent rain fall. Some common sense would be in order to not build nuclear plants on a earth quake zone or were they are prone to tide waves. These are the carbon neutral solutions that put people to work and produce a badly needed product, like potable water. This is to much common sense to a problem and not likely to happen any time soon.
Posted by Rex Steffes at 9:46AM CDT 07/29/14
Post a Blog Comment:
Your Comment:
DTN reserves the right to delete comments posted to any of our blogs and forums, for reasons including profanity, libel, irrelevant personal attacks and advertisements.
Blog Home Pages
November  2014
S M T W T F S
                  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30                  
Subscribe to Ag Weather Forum RSS
Recent Blog Posts
  • Winter Weather on Hold with El Nino Type Pattern
  • World Wheat Moisture Issues
  • It's All About The Block
  • Warmth Helps Prairie Harvest
  • NOAA: Record-Warm September
  • Details On Brazil Dryness Issues
  • Western Canada Sees Warm, Dry Period Developing
  • Have And Have-Not Brazil Rain
  • Why El Nino Is Likely Here
  • USDA September Weather Review
  • Canadian Harvest Races Ahead
  • North-South Split On Corn Harvest
  • Weather Improves Harvest Across Canada
  • Climate Change Scorecard
  • One Of Those Years
  • Canada Weather Favors Lagging Harvest
  • Pacific SOI Points Toward El Nino
  • Big Yield Forecast In College Model
  • Climate Change Echo In Farm Policy
  • Mild, Dry Weather Improves W. Canada Harvest Conditions