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Many of Earth’s groundwater basins run deficits

Consumption exceeds replenishment for majority of largest aquifers

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1:30pm, June 18, 2015

DRYING OUT  Twenty-one of Earth’s 37 largest aquifers are dwindling, satellite data show. Redder regions represent overstressed aquifers that lose more water each year than they take in.

Climate and human consumption are parching Earth’s groundwater basins at an alarming rate, a new study finds. Of Earth’s 37 biggest groundwater basins, 21 now lose more water annually than they take in, researchers report in a paper to be published in Water Resources Research.

That’s troubling, says study coauthor Sasha Richey, a hydrologist at Washington State University in Pullman. Groundwater quenches the thirst of about 2 billion people, provides irrigation for crops and helps keep wetlands wet.

“People need to think about groundwater as an important resource,” Richey says. “We’re not managing that resource adequately, or even at all, in most of the world.”

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