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.
What are we going to do once all the water is gone? Thanks to the worst drought in more than 1,000 years, the western third of the country is facing the greatest water crisis that the United States has ever seen. Lake Mead is now the lowest that it has ever been since the Hoover Dam was finished in the 1930s, mandatory water restrictions have already been implemented in the state of California, and there are already widespread reports of people stealing water in some of the worst hit areas. But this is just the beginning. Right now, in a desperate attempt to maintain somewhat “normal” levels of activity, water is being pumped out of the ground in the western half of the nation at an absolutely staggering pace. Once that irreplaceable groundwater is gone, that is when the real crisis will begin. If this multi-year drought stretches on and becomes the “megadrought” that a lot of scientists are now warning about, life as we know it in much of the country is going to be fundamentally transformed and millions of Americans may be forced to find somewhere else to live. Continue reading