Conservation Matters May 2013

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

New USGS study shows accelerating deficits in aquifers across the country

USGS ReportA new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study has reported that the nation's aquifers are being drawn down at an accelerating rate. Researchers conducting the study, Groundwater Depletion in the United States (1900–2008), evaluated long-term cumulative depletion volumes in 40 separate aquifers, or distinct underground water storage areas, in the United States, and brought together reliable information from previous references and from new analyses, according to USGS.

"Groundwater is one of the nation's most important natural resources. It provides drinking water in both rural and urban communities. It supports irrigation and industry, sustains the flow of streams and rivers, and maintains ecosystems," said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS director. "Because groundwater systems typically respond slowly to human actions, a long-term perspective is vital to manage this valuable resource in sustainable ways." 

While the rate of groundwater depletion across the country has increased markedly since about 1950, the study found that maximum rates have occurred during the most recent period of the study (2000–2008), when the depletion rate averaged almost 25 cubic kilometers per year. For comparison, 9.2 cubic kilometers per year was the historical average calculated over the 1900–2008 timespan of the study. 

From 1900 to 2008, the nation's aquifers, decreased by more than twice the volume of water found in Lake Erie, according to the study. The USGS news release noted that the depletion of groundwater has many negative consequences, including land subsidence, reduced well yields and diminished spring and stream flows. 

For more information, see the full USGS news release and the USGS study.

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