The global water supply is ‘in distress’ according to an article published in the Financial Times yesterday. The article references satellite observations by Nasa and the University of California.
Looking at 10 years of data from the twin grace satellites which measure groundwater reserves scientists observed that twenty one of the world’s thirty seven biggest aquifers are being depleted, with over a third experiencing ‘exceptionally high levels of stress’.
The groundwater supplies particularly in danger are the Arabian Aquifer System, the Indus Basin aquifer of India and Pakistan and the Murzaq-Djado Basin in northern Africa.
Unsurprisingly, considering recent reports, California’s Central Valley is also classed as ‘highly stressed’.
The biggest strain on these supplies is agriculture with the problem being most acute in regions where rain and snowfall cannot make up the difference.
However whilst scientists can determine whether a groundwater supply is being depleted they cannot say for certain how much water actually remains in aquifers, which are located beneath the earth’s surface. The only way to check would be to dig down and see for ourselves, however this is an expensive process. Soon though, we may have no choice, and could find ourselves drilling for water in the same way we now drill for oil.
What’s the solution? Well, as in the case of California the prospect of increased water recycling could be a viable option. A truly sustainable approach to how we treat our wastewater might be the solution, using new, innovative technology to produce clean drinking water from our wastewater. We at PWS are already working to ensure that where possible, water supplies are not depleted for agricultural purposes with many of our working treatment plants recycling wastewater for use in irrigation. Perhaps the next step is to take water recycling further with a focus on potable water.
The depletion of the world’s supply of water is a scary prospect, and how we treat our wastewater will no doubt become central to ensuring a clean and sustainable water supply for the future.