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Overuse of groundwater is unsustainable

The world is depleting underground water reserves faster than they can be replenished due to over-exploitation, according to scientists in Canada and the Netherlands.

The researchers, from McGill University in Montreal and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, combined groundwater usage data from around the globe with computer models of underground water resources to come up with a measure of water usage relative to supply.

That measure shows the groundwater footprint – the area above ground that relies on water from underground sources – is about 3.5 times bigger than the aquifers themselves.

The research suggests about 1.7 billion people, mostly in Asia, are living in areas where underground water reserves and the ecosystems that rely on them are under threat, they said.

Over 99 percent of the world’s fresh and unfrozen water sits underground, and he suggests this huge reservoir that could be crucial for the world’s growing population, if managed properly.

The study, published in the journal Nature, found that 80 percent of the world’s aquifers are being used sustainably but this is offset by heavy over-exploitation in a few key areas.

Source: IOL

This phenomena is happening within South Africa as well. Government is trying to regulate the use of ground water in an attempt to halt ground water supplies from drying up.

The overuse of ground water affected Beaufort-west in 2011 when the boreholes that supplied the town with fresh water simply dried up. Closer to Cape Town, many wine farms have been forced to drill deeper borehole to reach water again.

There are however alternatives to using ground water and boreholes, these include water conservation, water recycling and rainwater harvesting.

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