NASA Maps Global Locations Where Freshwater Is Changing

A NASA team led by Matt Rodell of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland has conducted a study to map locations around the world where freshwater is changing in a bid to find out just why this is happening.


The study, which was recently published in the journal Nature, found that wetland areas are getting wetter while dry areas are getting drier, because of a wide range of factors that include natural cycles, climate change and human water management.


The team used 14 years of observations for the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft mission to track trends in freshwater in 34 places around the world, using satellite precipitation data from the Global Precipitation Climatology Project, irrigation maps and reports of activities relating to reservoir operations, mining and agriculture.


It was found that in some places a combination of human and natural pressures can result in complex scenarios, such as in the Xinjiang province in north-western China. At the start of this century, water declines took place in the province, which is about the size of Kansas. The team found that less rainfall was not to blame for the loss of 5.5 gigatons of terrestrial water storage each year.


Additions to surface water were also taking place because of climate change-induced glacier melt and the pumping of groundwater from coal mines, but these were more than offset by depletions as a result of heightened water consumption through irrigated cropland and river water evaporation from the desert floor.


“What we are witnessing is major hydrologic change. We see a distinctive pattern of the wet land areas of the world getting wetter – those are the high latitudes and the tropics – and the dry areas in between getting dryer. Embedded within the dry areas we see multiple hotspots resulting from groundwater depletion.


“The pattern of wet-getting-wetter, dry-getting-drier during the rest of the 21st century is predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change models, but we’ll need a much longer dataset to be able to definitively say whether climate change is responsible for the emergence of any similar pattern in the GRACE data,” co-author of the report Jay Famiglietti said.


Water scarcity is increasingly in the news these days and businesses around the world are perfectly placed to help make a difference in this regard by reducing their reliance upon mains water through commercial water conservation measures.


This could include water recycling strategies, where often discarded water from activities like irrigation, vehicle washing and toilet flushing can be used. The water is cleaned and then returned to rivers where it can then be reused for irrigation – and even as drinking water once it’s been properly treated.


Not only will you be helping to save the planet and protect this precious resource for future generations, but you could also save yourself up to 50 per cent on water costs… so it’s a win for your business as well.