A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought.Scientists were shocked at the results of their latest study:
This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years.
"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."If you live in the western and southwestern part of the United States, it's even worse:
"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," Famiglietti said.What's more troubling, while westerners are conserving water in a historic drought, the Nestle Corporation is still draining western aquifers for profit:
The plant, located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians' reservation, has been drawing water from wells alongside a spring in Millard Canyon for more than a decade. But as California's drought deepens, some people in the area question how much water the plant is bottling and whether it's right to sell water for profit in a desert region where springs are rare and underground aquifers have been declining.The Desert Sun has an extensive exposé on the struggle over water rights in the Southwest. It's well worth the read.
"Why is it possible to take water from a drought area, bottle it and sell it?" asked Linda Ivey, a Palm Desert real estate appraiser who said she wonders about the plant's use of water every time she drives past it on Interstate 10.
"It's hard to know how much is being taken," Ivey said. "We've got to protect what little water supply we have."