NASA Satellites Reveal East Texas Is Running Out of Groundwater

nasagrace.jpg
NASA
Some 285 miles above the Earth's surface, a pair of NASA satellites can measure changes in groundwater levels at river-basin scale. And what they're telling us about Texas and much of the South is disturbing. The satellites are identifying hot spots that blanket East Texas and much of the Panhandle, where groundwater supplies may be depleted within decades.

Development and agriculture are draining aquifers that aren't being recharged because of persistent drought. Take a gander at the red spots on the map above and you'll notice entire regions of the state, measuring thousands of square miles, are at risk of running out. Given the increasing demands placed on groundwater and decreasing rainfall, perhaps this should not be surprising. What's stunning, though, is the fact that there is no real clearinghouse of large, river-basin level groundwater data. Much of what we can draw from is more granular.

That's what makes NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) so fascinating. It gives nationwide -- even worldwide -- snapshots of groundwater levels over the course of a decade. It would appear that the moisture is moving north, where record-breaking rainfall and floods are becoming more common, while the South only gets drier, according to a study in the journal Science.

GRACE doesn't really see these changes so much as it experiences them. Twin satellites orbiting within roughly 100 miles of each other are constantly measuring subtle changes in the distance between them. Those changes are influenced by gravity. Because water has more mass, it exerts more gravity and will alter the satellites' speed and their distance from one another. What they're detecting, essentially, are changes in the distribution of water and its mass beneath the surface in a way well-by-well measurements never could.

"[There is a] very dire situation that we face right now in the United States that, frankly, I don't think many people recognize," the paper's author, Jay Famiglietti, director of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling at the University of California, Irvine, told Scientific American. "I'm talking about the very rapid rates of groundwater depletion."



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71 comments
holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Looks like the map during the 1950s.

ebailey75057
ebailey75057

Build a National Water System - Build a network of pumping stations and water pipes across the nation.  When one area of the country experiences heavy rainfall and its rivers are flooded turn the pumps on and pump water to where its needed. We do it with oil, why can't we do the same with water?   Common sense to pump water where its abundent to where it is not.  just my 2 cents.

onetonload
onetonload

Hey. I'll take the advice of some guy sitting at his computer with his head up his ass over a person who is a scientist and studies this stuff for a living. I mean, being an idiot that looks like a Civil War re-creator IS the cool thing these days.

Obummer
Obummer

Yo as long as Sandra Fluke be get’in her free birf controls pills what diff’ do it make?

 

rain392
rain392

Around McKinney, Allen and Frisco, almost every former farm lot or empty piece of land has new construction going up or the land is finally converting from agriculture.  We are in areas of maroon on the map.   I'm not hearing anyone talking about how we will have enough water for all the new folks much less those who are here already.  Intelligent local governments keep this in the forefront of decision-making.  I wish you or the DMN would have a weekly column about water, ground water, gas drilling, mussels, the progress of the fantasy pipeline to lake Lavon due this fall etc.   


In addition, I am still puzzled why folks don't know that the Corp of Engineers sends a lot of Lake Lavon's water to the next lake keeping us lower than we would be normally.  Since North Texas is growing so quickly, I think mid to South Dallas should focus more on filling their lake from other sources and be more public about it.   If I am wrong, I am open to correction.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

I SUSPECT NASA SATELLITES ARE ALSO RUNNING OUT OF FUNDING AND POWER.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Question: How many naturally occurring lakes are there in Texas?
Answer: 1 (yea that's right one)

Texas Water Development Board estimates the Texas population will rise from 21 million in 2000 to 46 million by 2060. Texas Water Development Board expects demand for water to increase by 27 percent, from 17 million acre-feet in 2000 to 21.6 million acre-feet in 2060. At the same time, the amount of water that can be stored in the state’s existing reservoirs is expected to decrease by 18 percent, from 17.9 million to 14.6 million acre-feet, because of increased sediment in the reservoirs.

Susan Durham
Susan Durham

Surprise, surprise, TX. We all live in a desert.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Won't enforce water restrictions - Won't let folks xeriscape - Building a new golf course  
Don't worry, the metroplex is all over this issue.

Vanessa Kimmel
Vanessa Kimmel

The flippant responses here disgust me. Can none of you recall our farmers and ranchers losing their incomes? Our neighbors losing their homes to wildfires? Our lakes and streams becoming putrid with decaying fish? When you hear more complaints about dying Bermuda grass than dying livelihoods I think you're living with some serious first world problems.

Diana Ramirez
Diana Ramirez

Every city keeps talking about how they're on reserve but I still see people watering their sidewalks daily.

PersistentID2345
PersistentID2345

The current map (see link) shows a bit of difference with the lower percentiles concentrated more in central Texas than the above 1+ year old map depiction of problem areas all along the gulf coast extending into Louisiana.

http://drought.unl.edu/MonitoringTools/NASAGRACEDataAssimilation.aspx

The link also contains explanations of what the maps indicate but I am still unclear on what 'groundwater percentiles' signify.

director21
director21

It is way past time for people to start paying attention to what climate scientists have been telling us for a decade or more - that we cannot continue taking water for granted. Recently, the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, in conjunction with USGS, reported that a megadrought lasting 75-200 years is coming our way in only 8 years, and that it will turn everything between California and Texas into something resembling the Great Sands National Monument. The last megadrought was 1,000 years ago, and it caused widespread death and destruction. This one will devastate the agricultural belt that feeds much of the US and a large part of the world, especially the Third World, leading to global food shortages and skyrocketing food prices.

At about the same time another report I read stated that between now and 2100, the earth's temperature will rise by about 2-11 degrees Celsius, a level which will melt polar ice caps causing the earth to tilt on its axis, dilute seawater resulting in massive fish kills while disrupting weather patterns leading to even more crop devastation. It will probably result in about one third of the US along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts flooding, wiping out cities and forcing people to flee to higher ground. Such a temperature rise will be intolerable for human habitation on the planet.

Now, many people will read this and simply shrug it off. Others will scream "liberal" at the top of their lungs and deny the scientific facts that far exceed their own comprehension. As for me, I am already approaching the end of my life anyway, and I am so glad that I have the best part of it behind me, but I feel terrible for those much younger than myself who will have to endure a future with massive water shortages, dwindling food supplies and constant wars over available water and food.

For guys like muddystick below I hope you get to experience the full wrath of nature's fury up close and personal. That should wipe your sarcastic, arrogant, illiterate smile right off your face, especially as you watch it take a toll on those you love and hold dear.

muddystick
muddystick

I just checked my faucets.  Water is coming out of them like always.  So what's the problem?  It's a liberal conspiracy.  Besides, the North Pole is melting and that's just more water for us instead of for stupid polar bears.

Sheri LeNoir
Sheri LeNoir

Jason LeNoir Hey Nebraska....lookin' mighty nice up there....

Keith Martin
Keith Martin

it'll be alright, Perry will just ask for prayer session to make everything ok.

Crystal Diaz
Crystal Diaz

Hold on, the whiskey is ok right???? Right????!!!

Jon Jackson
Jon Jackson

It's okay. We Texans can afford to source out our water needs.

Kenneth W. Jordan
Kenneth W. Jordan

Shiner Texas is on one of 'em.... I hear it tastes but that's too complicated to explain why

derekdobbs
derekdobbs

T. Boone is already on top of this..

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@rain392 Not all of the water that flows through Lake Lavon belongs to the NTMWD.


Perhaps if the NTMWD had planned effectively and built new reservoirs in  a timely fashion, the NTMWD member cities would be in the situation that they are currently in.

Right now DWU sells treated water to the NTMWD member cities who in turn sell it to their customers for less than what DWU charges me for water.


rufuslevin
rufuslevin

@Sotiredofitall WELL, WE NEED A PLANNED PARENTHOOD FOR WATER THEN....JUST ABORT ANYTHING USING WATER THAT IS UNWANTED BY SOCIETY AND TREE HUGGERS.

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

IN THIS ECONOMY, EVERYONE HAS LOST THEIR INCOME....WAKE UP LIBBY

rufuslevin
rufuslevin

@Vanessa Kimmel KICK OUT OBAMA AND EVERYTHING WILL BE OK.

director21
director21

@Diana Ramirez Yeah, most people refuse to see the problem until it is too late. Don't worry. Reality will soon set it and they will finally get it when they and their families do not have water to drink.

muddystick
muddystick

@director21 Dear Director21, pull that stick out and relax.  You'll feel better.  BTW, get a great big glass of ice cold water and slowly, very slowly sip on it as you tap your toes in your diabetic shoes to Lawrence Welk's Biggest Hits.

waterlover
waterlover

@derekdobbs Yep; I can see it now...I just love the thought of being in a line to T. Boones' water pumps that stretched around the corner...with everybody being nice and courteous to each other because the security is carrying shiny nickel plated M16s...and the Dallas sun is baking everything to the tune of 100 degrees...yep, I bet T. Boone is on top of this...

TexMarine
TexMarine

@derekdobbs i thought T. Boone was told to piss off? He's laughing his ass off now.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@rufuslevinFinancial Services Modernization Act of 1999 - look it up  Both the Republican and Democrat mandarins were in on it.

director21
director21

@rufuslevin What an idiot! The economy is far better under Obama than it was under Bush, who got us into this present financial crisis  by starting two unfunded wars and giving tax breaks to the wealthy.

director21
director21

@muddystick @director21 I love it when Neanderthals have to resort to classless humor when they cannot use scientific facts to discuss a scientific problem. Thanks for playing.

joeinbost
joeinbost

@director21 @muddystick   This is what happens when you have a Room Temp IQ  and you  keep pushing the AC  Muddy   remember  Texas is not Ireland or Scotland  and the desire for  grassy looks is Unreal

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