Overuse is draining and damaging aquifers nationwide

Overuse is draining and damaging aquifers nationwide

The New York Times reports:

Groundwater loss is hurting breadbasket states like Kansas, where the major aquifer beneath 2.6 million acres of land can no longer support industrial-scale agriculture. Corn yields have plummeted. If that decline were to spread, it could threaten America’s status as a food superpower.

Fifteen hundred miles to the east, in New York State, overpumping is threatening drinking-water wells on Long Island, birthplace of the modern American suburb and home to working class towns as well as the Hamptons and their beachfront mansions.

Around Phoenix, one of America’s fastest growing cities, the crisis is severe enough that the state has said there’s not enough groundwater in parts of the county to build new houses that rely on aquifers.

In other areas, including parts of Utah, California and Texas, so much water is being pumped up that it is causing roads to buckle, foundations to crack and fissures to open in the earth. And around the country, rivers that relied on groundwater have become streams or trickles or memories.

“There is no way to get that back,” Don Cline, the associate director for water resources at the United States Geological Survey, said of disappearing groundwater. “There’s almost no way to convey how important it is.”

But despite the importance, the view of the predicament has often been fragmented. Until now.

This analysis is based on tens of thousands of groundwater monitoring wells that dot the nation. The Times collected data for these wells, which are widely scattered and often poorly tracked, from dozens of federal, state and local jurisdictions.
That database reveals the scope of the crisis in many ways. Every year since 1940, for example, more wells have had falling water levels than rising levels. [Continue reading…]

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