Nationwide analysis shows depletion of groundwater widespread and worsening
SUBLETTE, Kansas – Just before 3 a.m., Jay Garetson’s phone buzzed on the bedside table. He picked it up and read the text: “Low Pressure Alert.”
He felt a jolt of stress and his chest tightened. He dreaded what that automated message probably meant: With the water table dropping, another well on his family’s farm was starting to suck air.
The Garetson family has been farming in the plains of southwestern Kansas for four generations, since 1902. Now they face a hard reality. The groundwater they depend on is disappearing. Their fields could wither. Their farm might not survive for the next generation.
For many states, the rainy season is over, and most of the Western United States is now locked into a fourth consecutive year of drought. The imminent dry summer is particularly foreboding for California, where more than 44% of land area is engulfed in an exceptional level of drought. This was the highest such share nationwide and the kind of water shortage seen only once a century.
According to a study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years.” The likelihood of such a drought is 12%, NASA scientists estimated. Continue reading