Thursday, February 21, 2019

Groundwater Concerns Span Across the U.S.

Updated 3/1/2019:

CAST hosted three events in our nation's capital earlier this week to promote our newest paper, Aquifer Depletion and Potential Impacts on Long-term Irrigated Agricultural Productivity. 

The publication reviews the causes and consequences of groundwater depletion, with a focus on impacts to agriculture. This understanding can aid in developing effective policies and practices for groundwater development, use, and management.

At these events, the paper's task force chair, Dr. John Tracy, outlined some of the economic consequences we can expect to see when we deplete our aquifers--along with how mitigation practices will serve those most affected. The takeaway: water is local, and so are its issues. That means the solutions should be, too.

"Groundwater depletion is going to have to be addressed by understanding what the drivers are and what potential solutions are at a local to regional level," Tracy said.

See the full video of Dr. Tracy's talk and the panel discussion.

Check out photos from all three events.

Groundwater Issues Across the United States
Groundwater issues have recently speckled local news cycles across the nation with reports describing contaminated water affecting surrounding farms and communities and what some communities are doing about it. 

Here are some of those reports below: 
  • States such as Iowa and Wisconsin report PFAS, a chemical used in firefighting on military bases, is saturating large swaths of nearby groundwater. This has caused concern over the risk of contaminated drinking water in nearby public wells. 
  • In some areas, contaminated groundwater already devastated farm operations. A couple news outlets focused on a dairy farm in New Mexico that experienced groundwater contamination from a nearby United States Air Force base. The farmer stated the contaminated water destroyed his dairy farm by “poisoning” his cows and their milk.
  • On February 19, the Supreme Court decided it would agree to look at whether groundwater contamination violates the Clean Water Act. The act states that directly disposing pollutants into “navigable waters” is prohibited, but controversy looms over how "navigable waters" is defined.
Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Despite reports of contaminated groundwater, some states and municipalities are taking aquifer protection into their own hands: 
  • In Aptos, California, where salinated groundwater affects irrigation practices, a deeper well is being drilled as part of a $1.1 million pilot project to test supplying fresh groundwater to nearby areas. 
  • Florida is also drilling deeper (900 ft through layers of 30- to 50-billion-year-old rocks) in an effort to support the growing demand for a fresh water supply.
  • Champaign County, Illinois, lawmakers plan to advance a five-bill package aimed at protecting the Mahomet Aquifer as well as investigate a gas leak that contaminated water supplies in 2017.
  • Buda, Texas, seeks to pass a bill allowing them to access an aquifer located near another largely used aquifer, in hopes of keeping a steady water supply during times of drought.
  • Efforts are being made at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to neutralize solvents used to clean nuclear components during the Cold War from groundwater sources. It has been a long process, but reports suggest the tests have shown positive results in removing the solvents.

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