Jan 23, 2019

Study Predicts How Groundwater Supplies Will Respond to Weather Extremes

A new study found that only half of all groundwater supplies will fully replenish in the next 100 years

New study finds groundwater reserves are dwindling in the face of climate change
New study finds groundwater reserves are dwindling in the face of climate change

A new study by a team of international researchers and published in the journal Nature Climate Change found that only half of all groundwater supplies are likely to fully replenish within the next 100 years, leading to potential water supply shortages.

The research team used computer modeling of groundwater datasets to predict a timescale on how groundwater reserves may respond to climate change. The group found that an increase in extreme weather events, such as drought or high rainfall, may have a long-term impact on how quickly the groundwater table replenishes, reported Phys.org.

"The effect we are having now is going to have this really long lag-time in terms of climate change. There's a memory in the system—and the memory is very large in some places," said Mark Cuthbert, a researcher on the study from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences. "This could be described as an environmental time bomb because any climate change impacts on recharge occurring now, will only fully impact the base flow to rivers and wetlands a long time later.”

Particularly, the research team found that groundwater in arid areas took much longer to respond to changes in climate than in more humid areas. For examples, parts of the groundwater table below the Sahara Desert still is responding to climate change from 10,000 years ago, Cuthbert said. Overall, the team recommended immediate action to address damage to the groundwater table that could impact future generations.

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