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U.S. Aquifers being drawn down

Groundwater Depletion in the United States (1900-2008) comprehensively evaluates long-term cumulative depletion volumes in 40 separate aquifers (distinct underground water storage areas) in the United States, bringing together reliable information from previous references and from new analyses.groundwater3


"Groundwater is one of the Nation's most important natural resources. It provides drinking water in both rural and urban communities. It supports irrigation and industry, sustains the flow of streams and rivers, and maintains ecosystems," said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS Director. "Because groundwater systems typically respond slowly to human actions, a long-term perspective is vital to manage this valuable resource in sustainable ways."


To outline the scale of groundwater depletion across the country, here are two startling facts drawn from the study's wealth of statistics. First, from 1900 to 2008, the Nation's aquifers, the natural stocks of water found under the land, decreased (were depleted) by more than twice the volume of water found in Lake Erie. Second, groundwater depletion in the U.S. in the years 2000-2008 can explain more than 2 percent of the observed global sea-level rise during that period.


Since 1950, the use of groundwater resources for agricultural, industrial, and municipal purposes has greatly expanded in the United States. When groundwater is withdrawn from subsurface storage faster than it is recharged by precipitation or other water sources, the result is groundwater depletion. The depletion of groundwater has many negative consequences, including land subsidence, reduced well yields, and diminished spring and stream flows.


While the rate of groundwater depletion across the country has increased markedly since about 1950, the maximum rates have occurred during the most recent period of the study (2000–2008), when the depletion rate averaged almost 25 cubic kilometers per year. For comparison, 9.2 cubic kilometers per year is the historical average calculated over the 1900–2008 timespan of the study.
One of the best known and most investigated aquifers in the U.S. is the High Plains (or Ogallala) aquifer. It underlies more than 170,000 square miles of the Nation's midsection and represents the principal source of water for irrigation and drinking in this major agricultural area. Substantial pumping of the High Plains aquifer for irrigation since the 1940s has resulted in large water-table declines that exceed 160 feet in places.


The study shows that, since 2000, depletion of the High Plains aquifer appears to be continuing at a high rate. The depletion during the last 8 years of record (2001–2008, inclusive) is about 32 percent of the cumulative depletion in this aquifer during the entire 20th century. The annual rate of depletion during this recent period averaged about 10.2 cubic kilometers, roughly 2 percent of the volume of water in Lake Erie.

SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

Working Together

Audubon Aquarium

Audubon Today
There are more than 500 Audubon societies and businesses in the United States today. Each of these groups is independent and separately incorporated, and each is free to establish its own programs. Audubon organizations vary greatly in their scope and missions— some remain small bird clubs, while others focus on state, national, or international bird conservation and environmental issues. Through a diversity of approaches, Audubon organizations today carry on the conservation ethic begun at the turn of the 20th Century and make up what we call today the Audubon Movement.

Audubon Lifestyles
Audubon Lifestyles accomplishes its goals by developing partnerships with individuals and businesses that embrace the same set of principles and ethics that we do. There is no single path towards a sustainable future -- quite the contrary. Each person must create their own path toward a sustainable future. By linking together individuals, businesses, universities, communities and not-for-profit organizations and creating a unified team approach based on The Principles of Sustainability, we can collectively accomplish more than anyone can accomplish alone. We believe that the most natural way to achieve success and to foster sustainability is by working to balance the triple bottom line of people, profit, and planet. We operate with the main purpose of benefiting society, while offering professional and sustainably based products and services. Proceeds from our programs and services are contributed to local, regional, national and international Audubon societies and other charitable organizations.

Learn more at: www.audubonlifestyles.com

The International Sustainability Council (ISC)
The International Sustainability Council (ISC) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing understanding of relationships among ecological, social and economic systems for the mutual benefit of people and the environment. This will be achieved by forging partnerships with governmental agencies, universities, businesses and not-for-profit organizations that will result in the development of an accepted set of Principles of Sustainability. In addition activities supported will be continuing research, education and the production of various forms of educational and literary works that will be used as the basis of the creation of sustainable demonstration projects that are connected to the various aspects of sustainable community planning, development and management.

Learn more at: www.thesustainabilitycouncil.org


Fast Facts

  • The Massachusetts Audubon Society, with over 100,000 members, cares for 33,000 acres of conservation land in 45 wildlife sanctuaries. The group works to protect Massachusetts for people and wildlife and promotes sound environmental policies. Founded in 1896, it has become the largest conservation organization in New England.
  • The Audubon Society of New York State, established in New York in 1897, was reincorporated in 1987. An international arm created in 1996 is known as Audubon International.
  • The Audubon Society of New York State, established in New York in 1897, was reincorporated in 1987. An international arm created in 1996 is known as Audubon International.
  • The Audubon Institute of Louisiana is host to nearly a dozen Audubon named museums and parks that are dedicated to nature which include the Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, Audubon Wilderness Park, Audubon Insectarium, Audubon Nature Institute Foundation.

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References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles
www.audubonlifestyles.com

The International Sustainability Council
www.thesustainabilitycouncil.org

Home Yard Waste Compost Guide
http://www.compostguide.com/

The US Environmental Protection Agency
www.epa.gov/compost

Landscape Lighting
A Consumer Guide to Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting
http://www.sitelights.com/

Solar Light Store
http://www.solarlightstore.com/

Saving Natural Resources
Natural Resources Defense Council
www.nrdc.org

Organic Farming
Organic Farming Research Foundation
www.ofrf.org

National Agricultural Library
www.nal.usda.gov

Local Government & the Environment
Project Vote Smart
www.votesmart.org

Audubon Today
Audubon International
www.auduboninternational.org

    

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