The media continues to cover the drought, and everyone agrees the problem is bad, really bad, on par with an apocalyptic event. Due to this drought, and how it has even endangered the very existence of the Colorado River, every farmer, rancher, water authority, and municipality has had to draw more and more water from groundwater. Because of this increasing demand on this limited resource, it has been found that:
From December 2004 to November 2013 the Colorado River Basin lost nearly 41 million acre feet (13.4 trillion gallons) of groundwater.
In a joint study between, NASA and the University of California, Irvine, it was found that the Colorado River basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet (17.3 trillion gallons) of freshwater, or almost twice the volume of Lake Mead. Of this fresh water more than 75 percent of the water loss came from groundwater. The results surprised even the scientists conducting the study.
“We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out,” said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study’s lead author. “This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.” This lack of knowledge of how much remains of our groundwater supply stems from the method in which the study was conducted, and how scientists are able to measure the water in the first place. The measurements come from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite, which measures changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin.
What will ultimately be done to ensure the water supply for the 40 million people in seven states that rely on the Colorado River? With such a huge loss of water can the Southwest recover anytime soon? The fact is that this study leaves us with many more questions than answers. With absolute certainty, now is the time for our public officials to take drastic measures to ensure the longevity of the entire region.