As the global population grows, we are using more and more water. Humans need water to survive. The Earth needs water to support its ecosystems. So far, we’ve had underground reservoirs thousands of years old at our disposal. But our current consumption is surpassing the supply.
A global analysis of groundwater depletion recently published by the international science journal Nature reported that nearly a quarter of the planet’s population lives in areas where available groundwater is being used faster than it can be replenished. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Ogallala or High Plains Aquifer supplies 30 percent of the groundwater used for U.S. irrigation. USGS estimates that the aquifer’s water levels have declined by more than 100 feet since predevelopment in areas with densely irrigated acreage.
This rate of water consumption is unsustainable, and the strain of receding global resources will affect every aspect of life on Earth. It will especially burden regions that experience increases in droughts and population, making it even more important that we find a more sustainable way to manage this precious resource. To learn more about the study and to see maps of water resources, check out Nature‘s report Demand for Water Outstrips Supply.
Amanda Sorell is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine.