Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and
hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student,
Amanda Kullman, makes makes this connection here…

On November 30, 2012, National Geographic published a spread called “Water Grabbers: A Global Rush on Freshwater.” The expose addresses how global water consumption today is and will impact global food security, the environment and local cultures. In a specific article entitled “Grabbing Water From Future Generations,” Fred Pearce reports on the water industry abroad and how overpopulation has led to the depletion of the worldʼs most valuable resource: water. The article begins with an interview of an Indian man who no longer grows crops but instead farms water. To do so, he has drilled wells and inserted pumps to bring water to the surface so tanker trucks can come and fill up each day. The article then turns to address how draining aquifers is essentially turning water from the most abundant renewable resource into a non-renewable one. The aquifers are being emptied quicker than they can naturally recharge and in turn, places like India, Pakistan, China and even the United States are encountering water shortages. This article addresses both hydraulic and hydrologic issues with the drilling and pumping pertaining to the former and the distribution and movement pertaining to the latter. This article accurately represents water resources engineering facts as verified by an article entitled “Future Water Availability for Global Food Production” and a USGS production called “Groundwater Depletion.” Both sources address other locations in the world that are suffering from groundwater depletion and investigate how this issue can be overcome. The article does an excellent job of addressing the issue as well as the solution but fails to address how the water industry is effecting those who do not have the money to invest in it and cannot profit from the changes being made. Global wealth distribution is impacted by natural resources and people are impacted by water availability just as they are effected by things like the oil and gas industry.

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Figure 1 – In places like India, the ground water pumping industry is booming but having a negative effect on the environment. Source: “Grabbing Water From Future Generations”

Groundwater pumping is an industry that is vastly interconnected and has economic, environmental and global implications. On an economic level, groundwater pumping creates a division of wealth. Those who are capable of investing in the industry will see enormous gains. The ability to access abundant water resources in areas like the Middle East or India is something that all people are reliant on and those individuals who make this necessity a more accessible reality will see tremendous returns. Environmentally, this practice is a double edged sword. Bringing water to arid regions provides people with the ability to farm and increase domestic production. A specific example of this would be the wheat fields in Saudi Arabia (Karam). On the other hand, the rate at which water is withdrawn from aquifers can be detrimental to the landscape. It has the potential to lower the natural water table and reduce the amount of water that is readily available in lakes and rivers (Perlman). This is a global issue because water, which is the worldʼs most abundant natural resource, is being so abundantly consumed that it is creating water shortage and water quality issues across the globe. Places like Abu Dhabi now need to find ways to recharge aquifers because water is so scarce (Brook, Houqani, et al.). If aquifers continue to be depleted at a high rate, countries without coastlines could have great difficulty accessing water. In general, the cause-effect relationship of water scarcity is a never ending circle. As water becomes scarce, countries find new ways of extracting water (ie. tapping aquifers), which in turn has the potential to lead to water shortages due to over pumping. Nations that are dependent on aquifers as their main source of water need to address sustainability issues if they are to avoid future water crises.

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Figure 2 – Global map of groundwater depletion. 1000 on the scale is equal to one cubic kilometer of depletion per year. Source: http://blogs.agu.org/geospace/files/2010/09/Groundwaterdepletion-
map.jpg

As demonstrated, groundwater use is a hydraulic and a hydrologic issue that impacts local economies, the environment and the global community.

 

References

Rockström, J., M. Falkenmark, L. Karlberg, H. Hoff, S. Rost, and D. Gerten (2009), Future water availability for global food production: The potential of green water for increasing resilience to global change, Water Resour. Res., 45, W00A12, doi:10.1029/2007WR006767.

Perlman, Howard. United States. U.S. Geological Survey. Groundwater Depletion. U.S.
Department of the Interior, 2013. Print. <http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/
gwdepletion.html>.Brook, M.C., H. Al Houqani, et al. Abu Dhabi. Environment Agency. Groundwater

Resources: Development & Management in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United
Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Environment Agency, Print.
<https://www.ead.ae/Tacsoft/FileManager/Publications/reports/TERC/UAE
JAPAN 2006 Groundwater Resources Development and Manag….pdf>.

Karam , Souhail. “Saudi Arabia scraps wheat growing to save water .” Reuters. 08 Jan
2008: n. page. Print. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/08/
idUSL08699206>.

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