“When wells run dry” Prof. Richard Taylor writes in Nature

“A global analysis reveals growing societal dependence on the use of non-renewable freshwater resources that depletes groundwater reserves and undermines human resilience to water scarcity in a warming world”

Full article available for Nature subscribers (paywall): Nature, 516, 179–180, (11 December 2014) doi:10.1038/516179a

In the short article, Prof. Taylor raises concern about groundwater depletion, as well as declining lake and river levels in many areas of the world, and that raises not only important scientific questions about how and why, but also a crucial problem for society.

Looking at recently published research he notes that there is increasing evidence of non-renewable freshwater use – basically more freshwater is being used and then either lost to evaporation or rendered useless by pollution and increased salt levels.

The finger of blame is pointed firmly at irrigation, but the demand for food will only rise in the coming years and decades. Groundwater, particularly in Africa, has great potential but its use is hampered by poor data and unreliable models and the joker card of climate change.

‘We need to better understand available groundwater storage and recharge responses
to the intensification of rainfall, which is expected to be especially strong in the tropics. Indeed, it is here where increases in freshwater use are projected to be most intense. We also need to reduce human dependence on nonrenewable fresh water through more efficient water use, particularly in irrigation, and by trading in ‘virtual water’, which reduces local freshwater use through the import of food and other products. If we continue along our present trajectory, “when the well runs dry we (shall) know the worth of water”

The Grofutures Catalyst project, which has been green-lighted to become a Consortium project for the next 4-5 years, will tackle some of these issues in detail. More on this project will follow next year.

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