Mar 26, 2019

Study Examines Consequences of Groundwater Depletion

The paper “Aquifer Depletion and Potential Impacts on Long-term Irrigated Agricultural Productivity” examines the causes of groundwater depletion in the U.S.

The paper “Aquifer Depletion and Potential Impacts on Long-term Irrigated Agricultural Productivity” examines the causes of groundwater depletion in the U.S.
The paper “Aquifer Depletion and Potential Impacts on Long-term Irrigated Agricultural Productivity” examines the causes of groundwater depletion in the U.S.

A paper by the Council of Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) examines the causes and consequences of groundwater depletion throughout the U.S. with a focus on how this will affect agriculture.

According to Phs.org, the paper, "Aquifer Depletion and Potential Impacts on Long-term Irrigated Agricultural Productivity," was co-authored by Dr. John Tracy, Texas A&M University's Texas Water Resources Institute director, College Station.

Tracy chaired a task force of university and government researchers exploring the long-term impact of aquifer depletion on U.S. agriculture, according to Phys.org. Their investigations and insights are reflected in the paper.

The paper highlights include: an overview of groundwater and its use in the U.S.; an outline of geographical areas impacted by groundwater use; consequences from depleting aquifers; mitigation efforts to reverse groundwater depletion; and a case study on the causes, consequences and mitigation of groundwater depletion.

"Fresh water remains a critical limiting resource around the world," said David Baltensperger, head of Texas A&M's soil and crop sciences department, to Phys.org. "This issue paper provides a great summary of issues surrounding depletion of our groundwater resources."

Large-scale depletion of groundwater within the U.S. began in the 1950s and tripled by the 1990s, with approximately 71% directed toward irrigating crops, according to Tracy.

"As the U.S. population increases, demands for more food production and water supplies will stress valuable water resources, especially in locations sensitive to droughts," Tracy told Phys.org.

The paper also said the U.S. aquifer system with the greatest long-term groundwater storage depletion is the Ogallala Aquifer in the Great Plains region, where groundwater levels have declined by more than 150 ft in some areas, according to Phys.org.

"The most obvious consequences of depleting groundwater resources are the loss of a long-term water supply and the increased costs of pumping groundwater as the water table declines further below the ground surface," Tracy said to Phys.org.

According to Phys.org, other consequences include reduced flow to surface water systems and ecosystems; loss of productivity of groundwater wells; subsidence of land and ground failures; and degradation of groundwater quality.

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