New study led by a British Columbia scientist reveals Earth’s hidden groundwater
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
Many Metro Vancouver residents, probably haven’t taken a second thought about the clean water that is readily available to them. Yet for millions around the world, finding a clean resource of refreshing H20 is harder than one would expect—and it’s rapidly becoming a bigger problem.
Over the past few years, scientists have speculated about the world’s water resources in a renewable matter. Time after time, they’ve never been able to come to conclusive estimates as to the size of the volume available.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Science School, the vast majority of water on the Earth’s surface at 96 per cent is the saline, or salt water, found in the oceans. The freshwater resources, such as groundwater and the rainwater that moves into rivers and lakes, provide people with the water they need every day to survive.
Water sitting on the surface of the Earth is easy to visualize. However, the water below the surface is extremely important to life, and there is much more freshwater stored in the ground than there is in on the surface.
Recently, Tom Gleeson of the University of Victoria, alongside an international group of hydrologists, has produced the first data-based estimate for the Earth’s groundwater volume. The study found that water around the world is being used up way too quickly.
When the Globe and Mail questioned Gleeson on why groundwater was so important, he replied: “The simplest answer is because over a third of humans drink groundwater every day, and we use it for irrigated agriculture around the world. It’s a hugely important, critical resource for both drinking water and for growing food.”
Their most significant finding was that reportedly less than six per cent of groundwater globally is renewable over the average human lifespan. Interestingly enough, the sheer amount of groundwater available, while not so renewable, is significantly bigger than the current volume of fresh water.
Measuring in at three times bigger, groundwater around the world is quickly becoming a coveted resource that is running out at the same pace. When taking a closer look, scientists have learnt that there’s a difference between young and old groundwater. Young groundwater, usually less than 50 years old and found closer to the surface, is the one in grave danger. Compared to old groundwater, it’s more useful and easily accessible. If no affirmative action takes place, young groundwater can become contaminated. Researchers hope to make a change in everyone’s outlook on water.
“B.C. has just recently passed a new Water Sustainability Act, which for the first time really regulates groundwater use in this province,” says Gleeson to the Globe and Mail.
“I hope it’s a call and a reminder that our young and active groundwater is a finite resource that needs to be managed and protected into the future.”