Groundwater Depletion Threatens Food and Water Supply

A recent report by the New York Times analyzed the conditions of tens of thousands of aquifers that hold 90 percent of the groundwater used by towns, cities and states throughout the United States. It found that in the past decade, after 40 years of consistent decline, 40% of those aquifers were at all time lows.

In places as far flung as Phoenix, Arizona, New York City and its suburbs, and Charles County, Maryland, aquifers that supply the population with drinking water are drying up.  This threatens those regions’ ability to sustain their large populations. However, groundwater is drying up at a rapid rate and many farms have lost the ability to irrigate, threatening the production of food needed for millions to survive.

Throughout most of the nation there is little to no regulation on how this groundwater is used, much less how much should be preserved. Aquifers that took tens of thousands of years to fill are allowed to dry up in a few decades! Farmers desperate for water then turn to rainfall to make up for the decline in available groundwater. Global heating is also affecting rainfall, leading to inconsistent rains and droughts. All this leads farms and homeowners to try to use even more water, to fill pools, water lawns and use more water for irrigation, making the problem worse.

Warigia Bowman, a law professor and water expert at the University of Tulsa, put it bluntly: “From an objective standpoint, this is a crisis…There will be parts of the U.S. that run out of drinking water.”

The real estate developers and agricultural interests oppose any attempts at regulation that might cut into their profits. Whether in Florida or Arizona, the development and intensification of farming continues alongside real estate speculation and the construction of new buildings. Their mad pursuit of profit is destroying the very planet that we have to preserve in order to survive.

Sinkhole in Gainesville, Florida, caused in part by depleted aquifers.